Persian cafe in LA keeps memorial honoring Iranian women killed in protests despite vandalism

While Roozbeh Farahanipour was testifying last week in support of Los Angeles County showing solidarity with Iranian women and girls protesting their country’s brutal regime, his wife found their Persian cafe in Westwood vandalized.

His wife, the shop’s pastry chef, showed up to open the Persian Gulf early Oct. 18, but instead found the glass front door shattered, Farahanipour said. He said the attack, which he believes was carried out by sympathizers or actors of the Islamic Republic, came just days after he shared images on Instagram of a new memorial at the cafe honoring Iranian women recently killed during ongoing protests, and the display was featured on different national news outlets.

But Farahanipour says he remains steadfast in his support of protesters in Iran and across the United States calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s decades-long authoritarian hold over his homeland, undeterred by the recent vandalism.

“Compared to what’s happening to the people in Iran, that’s nothing,” Farahanipour said. “Until this regime ends power, no one’s going to see the peace.”

Demonstrations in Iran have swept the country after a young woman died last month while in the custody of the nation’s morality police. The government has responded with a violent crackdown, killing more than 200 people — many women and children — and arresting thousands more, according to human rights groups estimates.

But Farahanipour said he has no plans to remove the cafe’s display that honors the women killed in the recent unrest, their images shown on a table alongside roses, candles and an Iranian flag. Included in the memorial is a photo of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, whose in-custody death sparked widespread protests, after she was arrested and accused of not wearing her hijab correctly.

“I will leave the table here,” Farahanipour said. “For me, that’s nothing new. I’ve been getting these types of things for, almost, my entire life.”

Farahanipour was jailed and beaten in Iran for his role in the 1999 student protests, before seeking political asylum in the US While he is no longer leading protests in the streets, the 51-year-old Farahanipour said he continues to advocate for democracy in Iran and against the Iranian government — and believes spreading awareness and talking with customers is an important way he can do that.

“Life is continuing, no one died” [in the attack on the cafe], the West LA Chamber of Commerce president said. “The people in Iran, they died in the street for no reason. … We can keep the movement in Iran on [people’s] minds and support the movement.”

Farahanipour said he reported the broken glass door to the police online. An LAPD spokesperson said a detective will investigate any reports made online, but could not give an update.

Farahanipour said he hopes they can replace the door soon, but it could take more than two weeks. For now, Farahanipour is paying for the business’ opening to be boarded up every night, then reopened in the morning. But he said that task is a small price compared to what he sees happening across Iran, more than 8,000 miles away from his cafe.

“It’s really, really hard watching, many times it’s brought tears to my eyes,” Farahanipour said. “To see people just get shot for no reason on the streets of Tehran… I’m speechless.”

He remains hopeful that these deaths will not be in vain, and will keep supporting his people from now on.

“The people in the streets are hoping for a better life,” Farahanipour said. “This is the biggest chance they have in 43 years to get rid of the regime.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.