Statement No. 15
Hundreds of Iranians hold rally in front of Vatican to protest Khatami's presence

Hundreds of Iranians residing in Italy staged a rally this morning in front of the Vatican City to protest Khatami's presence there.

Chanting "Down with Khatami, Hail to Rajavi," "Khatami is a terrorist," and "mullahs are the enemies of Islam," the Iranians stressed that Khatami's presence in the Vatican and his meeting with Pope will give freer rein to the clerical dictatorship to suppress the religious minorities, including Christians.

The rally continued into the afternoon.

A number of the protesters, in symbolic prison garbs and representing 120,000 executed political prisoners, were among the crowd. A number of families of the martyrs and political prisoners were also present.

Italians on the scene expressed their support and solidarity with the protesters.

The gathering today was held despite the fact that in an unprecedented measure, the Police prevented the people from getting close to the Vatican City and arrested all Iranians in streets around the Vatican. Yesterday, dozens of Iranians were arrested in Rome and Florence.

Facing stiff Police action, the protesters chanted "Down with Khatami" as mullahs' President was entering the Vatican. As he was leaving, chants of "Down with Khatami" again echoed in and around the Vatican. Dozens of reporters covered the demonstration.

The successful demonstrations in the past three days in different parts of Rome and Florence against Khatami's presence and hurling paint-filled eggs at him as well as other protest actions, despite restrictions imposed by the Police, demonstrate palpably that the illegitimate clerical regime is devoid of any popular base among the Iranian people and that diplomatic and trade ties with this regime cannot be justified as they run counter to the highest interests of the Iranian people.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
March 11, 1999

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