I was waiting for my bus in downtown Vancouver the other night when an unconventional gathering grabbed my attention.
It was in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the favoured venue for those protesting poverty, pot laws, the Olympics, etc.
But this was more vigil than protest, and the hundreds of people standing silently, many holding lit candles, projected a quiet power altogether lacking in the usual shrill productions that take place in that space.
It was the eighth of 10 nights of silent protest against the Iranian government’s crackdown on the forces of change in that country, I discovered.
The people in this crowd were mostly Iranian, overwhelmingly young and dressed in black to honour protesters killed by the Iranian government. Small groups both stood and sat, quietly talking. Some held candles, others signs in Farsi. Some wore green wrist bands in support of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Moussavi.
At the top of the art gallery steps was a screen flashing images of defiance, transmitted out of Iran via cellphone.
Some of the photos showed streets in Iran filled with people, each of them showing courage in the face of a government determined to cling to power — courage that was inspiring these Vancouverites to take a stand for their homeland.
One young lady I talked to said most of her family remained in Iran. When I asked if she was able to stay in touch with them, she said the Iranian government was interfering with phone and email and shutting down many of the websites making it possible to do so, such as Facebook.
The next big protest in Iran – one that opposition leaders were urging people to attend – was going to take place in a couple of days, she told me.
Liberal MP Bob Rae spoke words of encouragement at the vigil and somebody handed me a Communist Party of Canada pamphlet, but this was no political event; it was a human event.
The tired, dogmatic and increasingly desperate old men who now rule Iran are out of step with both the new world and the core tenets of the religion they profess to follow.
Their subjects who are filling the streets of Iran and calling out from the rooftops are predominantly young and full of energy, with time and history on their side. They are thirsty for freedom and tired of living under the boot of a government that manipulates elections, tries to control every facet of life and clashes with the international community at every opportunity.
Thanks to the technological revolution that has given rise to cellphone cameras and social media such as Twitter, the world is watching this people revolution closely.
Let’s pray that it ends peacefully and that its outcome does justice to the Iranians who are rising up in their own country – and the millions of others around the world who are in solidarity with them.
James Kwantes is a former Advocate editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.