Café owner in LA keeps memorial for women killed in Iran after vandalism: 'My heart is with them'

"I cannot be with them but my heart is with them," said the restaurant's owner.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Westwood café vandalized after putting up memorial standing with Iran
"Keep the memory of the people fighting in Iran alive," said the owner of the Persian Gulf Café in Westwood, who's also an Iranian dissident. "I cannot be with them but my heart is with them."

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A café in Westwood decided to decorate a special table to honor the six women killed by the Iranian Regime, but days later, the café's front door was shattered.

Roozbeh Farahanipour, owner of the Persian Gulf Café, is an Iranian dissident who escaped what he calls the repressive regime in Iran more than 20 years ago.

For weeks, Iranian-Americans have been marching through the streets in a show of international support for demonstrators facing a violent government crackdown in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of that country's morality police.

Farahanipour set up a makeshift memorial inside of his restaurant to honor Amini and other women killed protesting. After his café was vandalized, he believes Iranian regime sympathizers targeted his business.

"They can't even tolerate a little table with candles, roses and leaves here and vandalized my door. You have to see the footage ... they shot the door and the door broke down," he said.

Farahanipour said he didn't expect his business to be targeted for putting up a memorial given he lives in America.

"The people connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran, they are terrorists," he said. "A few weeks ago, you saw them attacking Salman Rushdie on the other side of the United States. He lost his eyes. That was sad, things happen. That's why the administration called the Islamic Republic of Iran a state of sponsored terrorism, and even in the country that's supposed to be home of the free and believe in the freedom of speech ... they cannot tolerate even one little table on the corner of the local cafe in America ... the leader of the free world."

The café owner said he's replacing the shattered door but as for the memorial, he says it remains in his family's restaurant in solidarity with those brave Iranians.

Over the weekend in L.A., home to the biggest population of Iranians outside of Iran, a throng of protesters formed a slow-moving procession along blocks of a closed downtown street.

They chanted for the fall of Iran's government and waved hundreds of Iranian flags that turned the horizon into an undulating wave of red, white and green.

Iran's nationwide antigovernment protest movement first focused on the country's mandatory hijab covering for women following Amiri's death on Sept. 16.

The demonstrations there have since transformed into the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement over disputed elections. In Tehran on Saturday, more antigovernment protests took place at several universities.

Iran's security forces have dispersed gatherings in that country with live ammunition and tear gas, killing over 200 people, including teenage girls, according to rights groups.

The Biden administration has said it condemns the brutality and repression against the citizens of Iran and that it will look for ways to impose more sanctions against the Iranian government if the violence continues.

Between chants, protesters in D.C. broke into song, singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom - all written after the revolution in 1979 brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison - "Baraye," meaning because of, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Iran protests. The artist of that song, Shervin Hajipour, was arrested shortly after posting the song to his Instagram in late September. It accrued more than 40 million views.

"Because of women, life, freedom," protesters sang, echoing a popular protest chant: "Azadi" - Freedom.

The movement in Iran is rooted in the same issues as in the U.S. and around the globe, said protester Samin Aayanifard, 28, who left Iran three years ago. "It's forced hijab in Iran and here in America, after 50 years, women's bodies are under control," said Aayanifard, who drove from East Lansing, Michigan to join the D.C. march. She referred to rollbacks of abortion laws in the United States. "It's about control over women's bodies."

Several weeks of Saturday solidarity rallies in the U.S. capital have drawn growing crowds.

"We're here for you," said Arezo Rashidian to the people of Iran. She's a Southern California health care professional and one of the organizers of Saturday's L.A. protests. "We're a voice. We will be your internet. We will be your media. We are here for regime change. We are here to say not to JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). The United States cannot make a deal with Iran. They are a threat to the world. We are here to be your voice."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.