«Aachen is committed to peace»


Published in “Aachener Nachrichten”, November 8, 2009
(Translator’s note: I apologize for the probably weird translation. “Aachener Nachrichten” is a local newspaper of a rather small town, and this kind of journalism does not read smooth even in German. But it is an honest and affectionate message, which I hope I was able convey.)

Aachener Nachrichten_091108Aachen. Wind and rain are hitting the faces of the protesters who are just arriving on the market place. The wind is freezing their faces, the soaked pants are sticking to their ankles. But neither the nasty autumn weather, nor anything else would prevent the demonstrators to raise their voices last Saturday – the tape that seals their lips is just a symbol.

In their home country Iran, the situation is different. Since president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presumable electoral fraud, demonstrations have been quelled violently, the most recent instance happened on 4th November, the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran. Torture, rape, show trials and executions are the issues of which the human rights activists accuse the regime.

The silent march through the streets of the city center, followed by a rally on the market, was organized by several Iranian organizations from Aachen, Bonn, Dusseldorf and Cologne. Many of the Iranians living in Germany once were forced to flee from the regime of the Shah prior to his downfall in 1979.

However, even in the Islamic Republic that was proclaimed after that, minorities were expelled. In their “new” home countries they are now forced to witness new violence and oppression against their fellow countrymen. The demands are the same in Aachen as in Tehran: Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly for Iran.

On their arrival at the market, the demonstrators (150 according to the police) are greeted by Iranian folk songs and remove the tape from their lips. “Stay alive for a while”, they ask Ayatollah Khamenei, whose death had recently been rumoring. “Try to stay alive to witness the spring and the green resurrectin of this nation. Stay alive to see the day when the people will judge you, but according to the new constitution will not sentence you to death.”

They explicitly distance themselves from the hostilities of Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad against the “sham enemies” USA and Israel.

Otmar Steinbicker, chairman of the “Aachener Friedenspreis” (Aachen peace award) calls on the government in Berlin to assume their responsibilities against the “barabaric terror of an inhumane dictatorship”: “We urge our Federal Government to address the human rights abuses in Iran more forcefully, much more forecefully than they have done in the past.”

It is suggested to launch a common appeal of all factions of the Aachen City Council to the Federal Chancellor and Karlspreis-awardee Angela Merkel. Mayor Hilde Scheidt (Green Party) agrees: “Aachen is committed to peace.”

The Iranians gathering in front of the city hall are unified by rage, but also by hope – hope for the violence in their homeland to come to an end. Some protesters are crying. As the songs are fading away, the rain has stopped.


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