Tree at Saskatoon's River Landing becomes memorial to those killed in protests in Iran
A group of Iranian Canadians in Saskatoon are memorializing people who have died during protests in Iran by hanging pictures of them from a tree at River Landing, as the number of casulaties from the protests continues to grow.
In November, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the crackdown on protests in Iran had resulted in more than 300 deaths since September.
Now, that number is about 500, said Saskatoon's Amir Abolhassani, and includes people of all ages.
"Every two or three weeks we just gather around this tree and we add pictures," Abolhassani said of the hundreds of photos that now hang at River Landing.
He took a deep breath before stifling his sobs.
"And it's very sad."
The memorial is an attempt to bring awareness to the deaths of those protesting the Iranian government, Abolhassani said. He and his group in Saskatoon are calling it the Sarv Tree for Mahsa.
Sarv, he said, is the Persian word for a cypress tree, which is a symbol of freedom and resistance. The name also honours Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody in September sparked mass protests in the country.
Amini was accused of failing to wear her hijab properly and was arrested by the regime's so-called morality police. Her family says she was beaten to death.
Iranian authorities have not provided an official count of those killed or detained, but according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest, at least 516 protesters have been killed and more than 19,000 people have been arrested.
At least four people have already been executed following protests, and reports from activists and human rights groups suggest many more are at high risk of execution or lengthy prison sentences.
Abolhassani said he hopes people stop at the tree to scan the QR codes attached to it, which will let them learn more about the situation in Iran.
"I see my brothers and my sisters in these people. I wish I could be there, I wish I could be doing more, I wish — but this is the least that we can do," Abolhassani said.
"Look at the Iranians who are trying to bring peace to the region," he said. "Look at Iranians giving their blood for freedom."
This First Person article is written by Tait Gamble, who lives near Williams Lake, B.C. For more information about First Person stories, see the FAQ.
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