A group of unarmed Iranians staged a protest aboard a Lufthansa jet at the Brussels airport Thursday, refusing to leave the plane and calling for the return of the monarchy in Iran, officials said. Christina Zia, who said her father called her on his cell phone from the plane, said they were supporters of the late shah and wanted to draw attention to Iranís problems.
"There are no weapons. This is nothing dangerous. They only want the world to see the problems, to see that Iran is not what the world sees today," said Zia, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Germany. The group had a letter for NATO and refused to leave the plane until they are allowed to hand it over to the alliance, Zia said, adding that she did not know its contents.
According to activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, the group is chanting, "We are the messengers of peace. We are against global terrorism. We will remove the malignant terrorist regime of the Mullahs..."
WORD TRAVELS FAST: Another report:
U.S. Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, who is in phone contact with [London activist Frood] Fouladvand, told World Net Daily the protesters want an internationally monitored referendum that would enable the Iranian people to choose their next form of government.
..."This is the first of a series of confrontations with the European Union," Zand-Bonazzi said. "They will always be peaceful and respectful, but the leaders of Europe have to back down now. [The mullahs] may say they are after the U.S. and Israel, but they are after a secular and democratic lifestyle, which includes Europe," Zand-Bonazzi said.
The protesters have been verbally abused by Belgian authorities and accused of hijacking, according to Zand-Bonazzi. She maintains, however, the activists are doing nothing but singing Iranian freedom anthems and asking to speak to the U.K., French and German representatives of the European Union.
I marvel at the speed at which news travels — and its breadth. Banafsheh has me on an e-mailing list; from her I received the original bulletin two hours ago, a forward of the Daily article at about ten after three. From there, I started up Internet Explorer, went straight to Google News and using search string "Fouladvand," immediately connected to the article's webpage. Ten years ago, an evening news broadcast might have mentioned the incident if open program time allowed for it. Today's revolutions go live.
IT GOES ON: Over thirteen hours:
"We want the European countries, also the United States and Russia to stop helping the Iranian regime," the group's spokesman, who identified himself only as Ira, told The Associated Press in a call from the aircraft. ..."We want these leaders to stop supporting terrorist regimes any longer ... to get rid of this Islamic regime or any kind of radical brutal religious movement from Iran," said Ira, who said he was an American national and a psychiatrist from New York.
...As night fell, the airport shut down as no other incoming flights were scheduled. Belgian Iranians came to the terminal, holding banners and flags.
A discussion board for Daneshjoo, the Iranian student democracy movement, shows near unanimous support. One fellow is peturbed that an Iranian in the airport terminal was demanding Islam be excised from Iran, though after twenty-six years of theocracy one can hardly be surprised by an allergy to the religion. Whatever the shortcomings of these protesters — their event has gone off rather pell-mell — they've pierced the wall silencing Iran. For so long many of us have only heard of Iranians' disgust with Tehran's mullahs, affection for the West and desire for freedom secondhand; it's likely most in the free world know little about the struggle. The few score holed up in that jetliner remind us that 70 million people are prisoners in their own country.
FINI: The protesters have been removed from the plane. Authorities are not certain whether Iranian nationals in the group will be "repatriated," although we undoubtedly know the wisdom — and mercy — in not doing so.