June 18, 2011|By Eloísa Ruano González, Orlando Sentinel
They stood in the same spot two years ago, shortly after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, who became a symbol of the protest movement after she was shot in a clash between pro-government militia and demonstrators.
The activists’ signs were similar. They read, “No more dictatorship in Iran” and “Democracy for Iran.” Their demands were the same: release reporters and demonstrators who were imprisoned, end torture and executions and remove Ahmadinejad, who they say committed voter fraud in that June election.
The group, most of whom were born in Iran, refuses to give up on their fight for human rights.
“The demands haven’t been met. As long as they haven’t been met, we will have to be their [Iranians] voices,” said Amir Ladan, an activist and writer from Orlando.
Ladan, who was born in Iran and was held prisoner there after the revolution in 1979, took part in numerous demonstrations in 2009. He participated in a three-day hunger strike in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York. In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council named a special investigator on Iran.
Ladan, who brought his wife and granddaughter to Saturday’s demonstration, said those in the U.S. have a “responsibility” to be a voice for the Iranians because “we’re a free society.”
It’s been a challenge not to be discouraged seeing Ahmadinejad in power, particularly after the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, Avazpour said. “You always want to see results for your hard work,” Avazpour said. “So many people are refugees because they can’t go back…It’s heartbreaking.”
However, she added, the Spring Awakening also serves as a reminder that citizens prevail over a repressive government. “One thing that keeps us going is that there is no dictatorship that will always stay in power,” Avazpour said.
“Getting your freedom is not going to be easy. It’s not going to be free,” she said.
Tunisia forced out its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years. Egyptians followed, ending the nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
Avazpour helped launch the Florida for Human Rights in Iran, which organized the demonstration. About 75 other organizations worldwide were planning similar events this month.
The demonstrations will show those in Iran that the world is still listening, said Cyrus Dowlatshahi, who participated in the demonstrations on Saturday and 2009.
“The cause is not dead,” he said.