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Las Crucens rally to support protests

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_12706494?source=rss Las Crucens rally to support protests By Ashley Meeks / Las Cruces Sun-News Posted: 06/28/2009 12:00:00 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2009

      Las Crucens rally to support protests
      By Ashley Meeks / Las Cruces Sun-News
      Posted: 06/28/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

      LAS CRUCES -- About 50 supporters of protesters in Iran who have challenged presidential results there and have been the targets of a violent government response gathered in solidarity Saturday morning in downtown Las Cruces.

      Dressed in green, holding flags and signs urging "liberty, not death" and "count the votes, Kha menei" and enlarged pictures of violence from Iran, the supporters chanted slogans on Las Cruces Avenue and Church Street.

      Lloyd Covens, 47, held a sign displaying two pictures of Neda Agha Soltan, a 26-year-old student who was killed June 20 at a rally in Tehran, under the words "This is Islamic democracy."

      "We seem to think we're so far away from Iran, but all the issues are the same all over the world," said Covens, a Las Cruces solar-energy consultant. "I'm just a political junkie, and I feel bad about the tough situation we're in."

      El Paso real estate broker Jalal Dadras, 58, who moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1973, held the Iranian flag that was used until the 1979 revolution, and a sign reading "Free Iran."

      "I'm here today for the thousands of Nedas," Dadras said.

      Las Cruces nurse Raheegie Hutto, 53, a second-generation Lebanese-American, called the situation in Iran "outrageous."

      In opposition to what they see as a fraudulent election that re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi on June 12, protests in Iran have dwindled to scattered clashes as riot police and Basij militiamen put down the unrest using batons, tear gas, water cannons and, in at least 17 cases, live ammunition.

      Las Cruces couple Barbara and Rasool, who asked for their last name not to be used because it might endanger family members in Iran, said those fear tactics had already worked on some relatives. Barbara said family members had told her about a "bullet fee," thousands of dollars charged to families to retrieve a body of a loved one killed in the unrest.

      "Two weeks ago, they were really (complaining) about everything, and now (on the phone) it's just 'yes' and 'no,' " said Barbara, 55. She said that Rasool's brother had been tortured because of his participation in the movement against Su preme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and that many of his friends had been killed. "We hope it's the beginning of the end."

      The cleric-led regime in Iran appears to have quashed the protest movement that brought hundreds of thousands into the streets of Tehran and other cities in the greatest challenge to its authority in 30 years. No significant demonstrations have occurred in days, and the most significant signs of dissent are the cries of "God is great!" echoing from the rooftops, a technique dating from the days of protest against the U.S.-backed shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

      Rasool, 59, a doctoral civil engineering student at New Mexico State University who last visited Iran in March, said it was unfair to call Iranian protesters "hooligans," as some have done.

      Experts have said it was not yet certain that Ahmadinejad and his most powerful backer, Kha menei, would emerge from the unrest as strong as before.

      "In Iran, the only way to get your voice heard is to go to the street," Rasool said.

      Ashley Meeks may be reached at ameeks@...; 575-541-5462.

      The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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