Miami Valley business owners lend voice to protests against government regime in Iran

OAKWOOD — Protests against the government regime in Iran can be heard even in the Miami Valley, where owners of a boutique in Oakwood have joined the chorus of those asking for international help to push back against that government.

The chorus has grown louder of late in the wake of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team 1-0 victory over the Iranian national team this week.

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Bahar Omrani and her husband Reza, Iranian-Americans who own Bahar & Reza Couture House, also are calling for Americans to be more vocal and supportive on social media for the cause of democracy in that Middle East country.

“People inside Iran, they want to be heard, because they get more tortured, beaten and killed when there is no international pressure on the government,” Bahar Omrani told News Center 7′s Haley Kosik on Wednesday. “We need the international help and support to watch what is happening.”

The world caught a glimpse of what’s happening at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, when government supporters tried to drown out protesters at the stadium in Doha, the Associated Press reported. Some fans backing the protest movement said the government supports sought to intimidate them by shoving camera phones in their faces.

Shortly after the U.S. win, the AP reported, scuffles erupted between Iranian protesters holding up portraits of outspoken former soccer player Ali Karimi, an icon of the movement, and a journalist from Iranian state-run media who was trying to film them.

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Some people told the AP the U.S.-Iran match exposed divisions between those still committed to supporting Iran’s national team and others who reject the players as tools of the government. The Iranian players in Qatar declined to comment or made vague statements about the protests in Iran, which were sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, while in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

The Iranian players sang along to their national anthem before kickoff, which they also did against Wales. The players remained silent when the anthem played during Iran’s World Cup opener against England in what some interpreted as a show of support for the protest movement.

Bahar and Reza Omrani came to the United States more than 40 years ago to escape the kind of environment that is in Iran now.

“I have a relative that is in prison right now. We are so worried for his concern,” Bahar said. “Forty-three years ago when woman in Iran had freedom, they could do everything they wanted.”

>> PHOTOS: Miami Valley business owners lend voice to protests against government regime in Iran

She said then, Iranians “had all type of freedoms like rest of the world. They would never imagine in their life that one day, a girl would be shot or would be killed because of her hair or hijab was not proper on her hair.”

Glenn Duerr, professor of international studies at Cedarville University, said Iran’s history of human rights abuses came to head when the young woman was killed.

“But it really is a significant time because Iran remained one of the most autocratic countries on the planet and the death of a young person has sparked a lot of outreach,” Duerr said.

The Omrani’s know well how important outreach is to the cause of freedom.

“What is very important is if we have freedom and democracy here, it means we have to watch it and care for it,” she said.