At New York City’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Where is My Vote- New York kick started its planned protests surrounding the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the 63rd United Nations General Assembly with Iran Alive, an art installation featuring a short film projected on a 300-person human screen.
Apart from Iranians from across North America, the evening saw notables like Roxana Saberi, an Iranian- American journalist detained by the administration on 8th April on accounts of espionage but subsequently released, and Mehtab Saharkhiz, son of Isa Saharkhiz, a renowned journalist and human rights activist arrested in Tehran on 4th July.
(Photo Courtesy: Trevre Andrews. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
President Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the General Assembly tomorrow afternoon, a first to the international community after his controversial inaugration on 5th August 2009. An address in which, as Mohammad Bazzi, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, reckons in the Global Post, “his message will be crafted to improve his standing in the Muslim world and bolster his reputation as a Third World hero.”
Ali Bahari, an Iranian engineer at Perkins Eastman since 2004 cautioned that with the President so strongly in focus, one must not “loose sight that it is the system that needs to be held accountable. “
The President might be the face of this mess, but the Guardian Council, Sepāh and the Ayatollah cannot be ignored,” he said.
Where is My Vote is a grassroots initiative under the Voices For Iran, a broader coalition of Iranian human rights and solidarity organizations. Unlike protests against President Ahmadinejad’s visit in past years which have been fixated on the Iranian nuclear technology program, Voices for Iran prioritizes the well-being and rights of Iranian citizens, much compromised after the June 12, 2009 Iranian elections as the administration sought to control the thousands of Iranians that took to the streets protesting alleged electoral fraud.
Voices for Iran asserts itself as a “new generation of human rights advocates inspired by the brave men and women in the streets of Esfahan, Tehran, Tabriz and Shiraz. “ Polya, a dentist practicing in Lower Manhattan since 2001, calls such an aggregation of intent as “moving beyond the dichotomy of diasporic existence.”
“Yes, at night we sit behind our computer screens and we cry with them. Yet we are thousands of miles away and have to switch back to our regular lives here where nothing has changed much, if at all,” he said.
“It is an incredible moment to be in Iran. Even if not being in the forefront, but just to be witness to it would have been an honor. Most of the people here wish they were there,” he added.
“But it is still amazing the feedback we have gotten from Iranian people. I can hardly overstate how important it is that when they look outside, they feel we are with them in this,” he quipped.