Brazilians Take to the Streets Against Iran President’s Visit

Protest against Iran president in São Paulo, Brazil About 1,500 people took part this Sunday afternoon, November 15, in São Paulo, southeastern Brazil, in a protest against the visit to Brazil of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scheduled for November 23. The demonstration occurred in Arcos square and reunited several social movements and religious groups.

Besides São Paulo, other nine Brazilian capitals also had demonstrations against the Iran leader's visit. They happened in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais), Cuiabá (Mato Grosso), Curitiba (Paraná), Goiânia (Goiás), Manaus (Amazonas), Boa Vista (Roraima), Belém (Pará), Rio Branco (Acre) and Porto Velho (Rondônia).

The protests were called  by the Front for Freedom in Iran, a just-created organization that brings together pacifist, anti-racist and human rights organizations. Jewish groups and evangelical and afro-Brazilian leaders also participated.

According to FLI, the protests are against Teheran's fundamentalist regime and Ahmadinejad's policies, "which oppress women, homosexuals and political dissidents." 

One of the event's organizers in São Paulo, Boris Ber, president of the São Paulo State Israelite Federation, told reporters that the demonstration was not against the people of Iran, but a protest against its president "who deliberately denies the Holocaust" and defends the end of the state of Israel.

"Someone who denies history and someone who does not talk about the future, as Shimon Peres [president of Israel, who just visited Brazil], does not add up anything to Brazil," said Ber, emphasizing that even a strictly commercial relation with Iran would not represent a big deal to Brazil.

Another criticism of the protesters on Ahmadinejad's visit to Brazil is his statement that there is no homosexuality in his country. According to attorney Eduardo Piza Gomes de Melo, a member of the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Edson Néris Institute, Ahmadinejad " institutionalized  homophobia", making homosexuality into a crime in Iran and punishing it with the death penalty.

"In a country with 70 million inhabitants, that means that he ignores the existence from 5 to 7 million who are gay and lesbians.  And, moreover, he exercises violence and brutal repression against the free sexual orientation of people," Melo argued.

"As chief of state, Ahmadinejad has the right to come to Brazil, to visit president Lula and to do business. What he cannot do is to  use these international trips to make threats to any country", said babalorixá (a candomblé priest) Francisco de Osun, president of the Afro Religious Institute Ilé Asé Iyá Osun.

For bishop Carlos de Castro, president of the São Paulo State Pastors Board, the president of Iran is "a despot" and president Lula, although receiving him in Brazil, should keep a position of distance and of "disagreement with Ahmadinejad's declarations".

"Since Brazil is growing and getting itself among the world's largest nations,  we cannot allow intolerance and discrimination," the bishop commented.

ABr

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