'I am really hopeful:' Iranian-Canadians push for defence of protesters
Toronto resident and former student activist in Iran said he will continue to raise his voice and pressure the international community to act in defence of Iranian people.
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The protests in Iran are a source of both hope and fear for Salman Sima.
"I am really hopeful because the people and university students have finally stood up to fight for an independent country and their freedom," said Sima.
The Toronto resident was himself a student activist in Iran and was imprisoned several times before seeking asylum in Canada in 2011.
"But I am also worried about the violence of police and military against peaceful protesters," he said.
At least 21 people have died in the protests that broke out across the country last week, the largest demonstrations in Iran since the 2009 election. Hundreds of people have also been arrested and detained, according to The Associated Press.
Sima said Iranian-Canadians like himself will continue to raise their voices and pressure the international community to act in defence of the Iranian people. A public protest is being organized in Toronto this coming weekend.
While protesters say they're rallying against the country's weakening economy and the rising cost of living, top Iranian officials have dismissed the claim and instead warned of "enemies" meddling with the country's internal affairs. President Hassan Rouhani said there'll be a crackdown on "lawbreakers," and a top judge has said some protesters could face the death penalty.
In a statement to Metro, the Toronto-based Iranian-Canadian Congress expressed support for the people's right to peaceful demonstration but warned of some political groups exploiting the opportunity to "justify anti-Iranian policies."
"The policies of sanctions and aggression have only hurt ordinary Iranians by negatively impacting the Iranian economy," reads part of the statement. "The people of Iran have demonstrated to the world that they want to engage constructively with the international community and that they reject isolation, violence and war."
As the demonstrations gain momentum inside the country, they're also attracting support from international leaders. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that "the people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.”
Global Affairs Canada released a short statement over the weekend saying the country is closely monitoring the situation and is encouraged by the Iranian people's will to defend their rights.
"We call on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights," reads part of the statement. “Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of Iranians, including the right to freedom of expression.”
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