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Iranian Students Calling for Show of Support for Protesters

Media reports from Iran during the past two weeks have made Najme Khatami cry. But the news also has caused her to clinch her fist in solidarity with protesters who are risking their lives-and sometimes being killed-because they are speaking out against the government of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khatami, who is studying English at Old Dominion University, has a mother and father and four siblings in Tehran. The family, she says, thinks it's time for Iranians to rise up against "30 years of dictatorship that we don't want anymore."

This young woman has joined forces with ODU student Artin Sharolli, the American-born son of Iranian parents and who has grandparents and other family members living in Tehran, to pursue ways that the university community and perhaps Hampton Roads at large can show support for the protests.

Khatami and Sharolli, who is studying business, have met with ODU President John Broderick and contacted Dean of Students Geneva Walker-Johnson to discuss a possible march or a memorial service for the protesters who have been killed.

"If you organize an event, I hope you will invite me," Broderick told Khatami. She promised she would.

News reports on Wednesday, June 24, listed the death toll for protesters at 19, but Khatami said she has been in regular contact with family and friends in Iran and she feels certain even more have been killed since the disputed presidential election June 12. She encouraged Americans to use the Internet to find information about the protests because "the government makes it impossible in Iran for news reporters to do their job."

"I think President Obama could support us much better," Khatami said. "But I am much more interested in getting the American people's support than politicians' support. In this country, the people's voice is heard. I want Americans to come and walk with me to show they know what is going on in my country and support our opposition. After 9/11, Iranians went out into the streets with candles to show what they felt for Americans."

Khatami said young people in her country are "going out into the streets to have their voices heard and they are getting killed. I, on the other hand, am in a safe place and enjoying my studies. I can tell you, many young Iranians would like to be in my shoes."

Anyone interested in helping to organize or participating in an event supporting the Iranian protesters can contact Khatami at nkhat002@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: June 25, 2009

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