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Iranians protest in New York ... because they can

Iranian expatriates gathered Wednesday outside the U.N. building to protest the appearance of their disputed president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While many were U.S.-based, others made the trip from Iran especially for the occasion of the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering, which brings more than 100 heads of state and government together to air issues ranging from nuclear proliferation and international terrorism to climate change and global poverty. Other Iranians who traveled internationally to join the protest included several based in Europe, some from Asia and a sizable contingent from Canada.

Most said they came to exercise the rights their compatriots back in Iran were denied — to protest and voice their opinions without fear of harassment, imprisonment or worse. All had a message for their president.

Ladan, from Paris, France, who declined to give her last name to protect friends and relatives in Iran, said she was most concerned about the outcome of the June election and violations of human rights in her home country:

"The Iranian people were given a very limited choice in the election," she said. "They didn't even get the chance to choose between the limited selection that they had.

"I'm happy that I'm here to be able to voice my concerns freely and without being harassed or imprisoned and tortured.

"If I could say something to Ahmadinejad today, I would say that you are going to go down in history as a dictator and your end is near."

Zahra, from Montreal, said: "I'm happy that the American government has given Ahmadinejad a visa. He should not be considered as our president... I want the Iranian government to hold another election and if Ahmadinejad has real supporters, as he says he has, he would win."

She continued: "I want him to put aside his love for power and resign."

Hassan, from Toronto, dressed like a Grim Reaper ("Scary Movie" mask and all) for the occasion, and gave the reason behind his costume as this: "I want to show the world that Ahmadinejad is fake and I want to humiliate him."

He continued: "The Iranian people deserve a president who is much more qualified. I am ashamed of my president. and I want to tell him to wake up — you're not a hero."

Nasrin, from Quebec, said: "I'm here today to demand democracy and show my hatred towards the regime that is nothing less than a dictatorship. I didn't have any problem with Ahmadinejad when he first got elected but after what happened this year I don't consider him as my president. This is a chance to voice our disgust towards this president. I want to tell him to resign. He doesn't have the support of the people."

Photographs by a GlobalPost correspondent.

Amir Hussain Ahmadi and Hassan Alizadeh, from Rasht, Iran, say they are biking around the world to give a message of peace from the Iranian people.)

Banners featuring photographs of the leader of the opposition "Green Movement," Mir-Hussain Mousavi, and Neda Agha-Sultan, killed during protests in Tehran in June, featured prominently at the protest.

A contingent of Japan-based Iranians carried this banner. The farsi reads, "Iranians based in Japan."

The authorities erected barricades outside of the U.N. building to keep protesters and tourists alike moving in an orderly fashion.

An Iranian woman covering her face so as not to be recognized and shouting slogans, such as: "Ahmadinejad has to go," "We will be victorious," and "We want freedom, and we want it now."

Some banners took up the entire width of Second Avenue.