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Tens of thousands demonstrate in downtown LA against the Iranian government

Thousands gathered to protest for regime change in Iran during a rally outside Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of people gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday, calling for regime change in Iran and rallying in solidarity with the country’s female-led protest movement.

Protesters chanted, “Zan, zendegi, azadi,” or “Woman, life, freedom” — words that have become a rallying cry since the death in September of Mahsa Amini sparked an enduring protest movement. Amini, 22, died in detention after being arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her headscarf correctly.

Mona and Tamanna, two Iranian American sisters in their early 30s who declined to share their last name because they feared for their family in Iran, said they were inspired to be part of the chorus of voices around the world demanding change in Iran. They’d carpooled up to Los Angeles from Orange County with 15 family members in tow.

“I personally would love to see in my parents’ lifetime that the Iran they remember is restored,” Tamanna said.

“An Iran that was stolen from them,” Mona interjected.

Saturday’s demonstration coincided with the Feb. 11, 1979, when Iranians observe the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew Mohammed Reza Shaj Pahlavi’s pro-Western monarchy.

Sepehr Khosravi, left, and Nasrin Nav, right, in the center of a protest

Sepehr Khosravi, left, and Nasrin Nav, right, shout slogans against the Iranian government during a rally outside Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Held aloft in the wind, draped over shoulders and affixed to strollers, a sea of ​​pre-revolutionary Iranian flags filled Grand Park. The flags, which feature a lion and sun at the center instead of the stylized red symbol of the Islamic Republic, were banned after the revolution and have become an emblem of opposition to the theocratic government that has ruled since.

“There’s a powerful hope among all of us Iranians these days,” declared Pezhman Ghiassi, a 33-year-old hairstylist wearing beaded necklaces in the colors of the Iranian flag. Regime change feels closer with “every single second that passes by,” Ghiassi said.

Several demonstrators said they had traveled from Northern California to attend, with organizers saying others had come from as far as Arizona and Nebraska.

“Los Angeles stands with you in your fight for democracy and respect and dignity and human rights,” Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian told the crowd, saying he hoped the message would carry from Los Angeles to Tehran.

Hours into the program, the surprise appearance of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah, drew overwhelming excitement, with demonstrators cheering and filming as he waved and raised his arms to them in support.

Times staff writer Laura Nelson contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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