San Francisco demonstration shows support for Iranian protesters

Chanting and waving flags, the Iranian American community of Northern California held a protest and candlelight vigil in San Francisco's Union Square to show solidarity with the people of Iran as they enter their fifth week of protests.

These uprisings were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was beaten and killed in police custody after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating hijab laws.

"The whole society is like a powder keg ready to burst," said organizer Nasrin Saifi. "And Mahsa’s death was that igniter that started all the uprising."

At the vigil, pictures were displayed of some of those who have been killed in recent protests, many of them were young people. There have been several other protests in the Bay Area in opposition to the crackdown in Iran.

Demonstrators also wanted to raise awareness about a deadly fire at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran that broke out Saturday. This is where many political prisoners and journalists are held. Iran-state media said 4 people were killed, but protesters say the number is undoubtedly higher.

Sheila Neinavaie said news of the fire was "very sad and very emotional." She was once a prisoner there. Neinavaie was locked up in Evin prison when she was just 15-years-old. She said she was caught reading a newspaper that was not approved by the government.

"All my teenage years, the best time of my life I was in prison. And I lost all my friends," she said.

Neinavaie said she witnessed prisoners get hung, and blames government forces for this fire. 

Iran state media said the fire happened during a prison riot and security officials blamed prisoners for starting it. But Neinavaie said they would have been in their cells because it was dark. 

"The regime usually wants to get rid of the problem, they don’t want to solve it," said Neinavaie. "So it’s the easiest way to kill all the prisoners and all the people and by suppression make them quiet."