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IRAN: Flag stirs debate at U.S. protests against Iran election results

June 18, 2009 | 11:00 am

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The appearance of the pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flag at U.S. rallies is stirring tension between Iranian expatriates who come out to express solidarity with protests at home against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When supporters of Iran’s deposed shah bring out the flag at demonstrations in the Los Angeles area, younger protesters wearing green T-shirts and arm bands in support of presidential challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi often move across the street.

Like the country's current flag, the former one contains horizontal bands of green, white and red. But the emblem in the middle contains a lion, sun and sword, rather than the four crescents and sword introduced by the Islamic regime in 1980.

Invitations to a candlelight vigil today in Los Angeles, which were posted on Facebook and other sites, contained the following warning: "no flags allowed -- if anyone brings any flag they will be asked to leave."

"This flag doesn’t mean monarchy," protested Parvaneh Jinchi, who attended a Tuesday demonstration outside the Federal Building in Westwood. "It is our (national) flag."

Although Jinchi said she would be happy to see a constitutional monarchy restored in Iran, other demonstrators carrying the flag said they would prefer a secular democracy with no royal figurehead.

Younger protesters, however, said they did not want to give Iran’s rulers any excuse to accuse Mousavi of links to a movement that seeks to overthrow the current regime.

Organizers of a demonstration near a popular shopping mall in Irvine pleaded with protesters Wednesday to put the flags away.

"We are here to support the people who are fighting for their freedom in Iran," said Sara, a UCI student, "not to support any regime."

-- Alexandra Zavis and Paloma Esquivel in Los Angeles

More on Iran's presidential election and its aftermath.

Photo: Protesters wave the pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flag at a demonstration in Irvine against the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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