x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Khamenei is denying the voice of millions, says Iranian protester

Expatriates hold peaceful candlelit vigil in Dubai but no longer allowed to protest in front of Iranian Consulate.

Peaceful protestors hold a candlelit vigil on the beach in front of Jumeirah Beach Residences.
Peaceful protestors hold a candlelit vigil on the beach in front of Jumeirah Beach Residences.

DUBAI // With their candles flickering in the warm evening breeze, the Iranians stood united in a shared wish for their message to be heard despite their silence. The crowd had already heard Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declare a "definitive victory" for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in a sermon yesterday.

But they made it clear that they would not accept the results of the country's recent elections - even as Dubai Police arrived and told them that public gatherings of more than 10 people were not allowed. Although they were forced to blow out their candles and disperse, the protesters said too much was at stake to simply quit. "What [Ayatollah Khamenei] said was a surprise in some respects. He is denying the voices of all the people, millions, who have been against these results. He is completely ignoring them," said Mohammed, 37, who lives in Dubai and requested that his family name not be used.

"It has left us extremely frustrated because people are going to the streets to do something about it and they are being ignored." The candelight vigil, which lasted just over an hour on the beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence yesterday, was just the latest demonstration by the group, which has gathered in front of the Iranian consulate for the past five days. Ayatollah Khamenei said the vote had not been rigged, and that the "Islamic establishment would never manipulate votes and commit treason". "How can 11 million votes be replaced or changed?" he said, referring to Mr Ahmadinejad's margin of victory. Yet many of those in Dubai claimed their relatives back home had witnessed fraud at the polling stations.

"Members of my family were observers during the elections, and when the ballot boxes were sealed, a few people suddenly seized the boxes and no one knows what happened to them," said one demonstrator, too afraid to reveal her name. "They beat up my family." She told of another incident in which a ballot box was removed from the room and replaced. "They had replaced all the initial votes with new ones for Ahmadinejad," she said.

"Their mistake was that they forgot to fold the votes, and that's how people knew." "There was definitely cheating involved in these elections," she added. "And we are saying, we don't want a recount of the votes, but a re-election in the presence of international observers." Determined to ensure the election would not be forgotten, the demonstrators in Dubai plan to continue to protest. "We are going to keep fighting this for as long as it takes," said Azin. "This is for the next generation, and it is important to secure their future."

Yet they are somewhat limited in where they can gather to voice their solidarity and support for their compatriots in Iran. "We're now no longer allowed to gather in front of the consulate, we were not well received at the Iranian mosque, we can't gather at the Iranian club because it is part of the Iranian government, so this is why we're on the beach," said Aria, 26. nsamaha@thenational.ae