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Demonstrators flood Westwood to back anti-regime protests in Iran: 'Least we can do to show we’re with them'

Demonstrators flood Westwood to back anti-regime protests in Iran: 'Least we can do to show we’re with them'
A large group of demonstrators marched Sunday in West Los Angeles, home to a large Iranian expatriate community, to show support for anti-regime protests in Iran. (Alene Tchekmedyian / Los Angeles Times)

Since Kevin Hoor emigrated from Iran a decade ago, he said the price of groceries, housing and gas in his home country has sharply increased. Young people there are facing a dearth of economic opportunities and many residents are living in poverty.

"People cannot live over there — it's not habitable," said Hoor, a 38-year-old Encino resident. "You cannot afford your basic needs, like food, like housing."

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Hoor was one of about 2,000 demonstrators who descended on Westwood on Sunday afternoon to show support for anti-regime protests that erupted in Iran late last month.

Some waved or wrapped their bodies with Iranian flags, while others held up signs that read "Free Iran." They chanted in Persian and in English as they marched past the federal building on Wilshire and through surrounding neighborhoods in West Los Angeles, home to a large Iranian expatriate community commonly referred to as "Tehrangeles."

The uprising in Iran began Dec. 28 in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city, and spread quickly to more than 30 other cities, showing the deep frustration among working-class Iranians coping with high unemployment, rising prices and official corruption.

"They're suffering from poverty, absolute poverty, that exists in Iran because of the not appropriate policies of the government," Hoor said. "We are living in a very different, very safe country — we cannot feel their suffering. This is the least we can do to show we're with them."

Demonstrators gathered at the federal building about 1 p.m. Los Angeles police had expected a crowd of about 2,000, and officers at the event said it appeared about that many people showed up. Some protesters followed the group with plastic bags, picking up trash as officers guided traffic.

Also demonstrating was Nanaz Baghai, a doctor who said she left Iran in 1976 and was studying medicine at USC during the revolution. She said she was marching Sunday for women's rights and education for all in Iran, and against government corruption.

"We're going to do everything in our power to help democracy," she said.

Times staff writer Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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