RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (JTA) — A Jewish-led protest at a famous Rio de Janeiro beach called for the respect of human rights in Iran.
Six thousand paper hands marked with the number 1,000 — said to represent the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust — were planted in the sand of Ipanema beach overnight on May 15-16. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has denied the Holocaust, as well as the current religious persecution against the Bahai community and the public policy against homosexuals in Iran.
The paper hands were placed near Farme de Amoedo Street, an openly gay-friendly spot at Rio’s elegant beach. The silent protest urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to talk about human rights in his meeting with Ahmadinejad in Teheran over the weekend.
"Mr. President, don’t forget to talk about human rights in Iran," read a banner next to the paper hands.
"The nuclear issue is not isolated from the Iranian political life; it is part of a context of authoritarianism and violence," said Michel Gherman, a Hillel activist and member of the religious intolerance combat commission. "Lula can’t forget who Ahmadinejad is. The Iranian president fights the religious diversity, and his policy is exactly the opposite of the one we have in Brazil regarding tolerance."
Lula has been a close friend of Ahmadinejad and consistently has defended Iran’s right to enrich uranium. The mediation, which reportedly has led to Iran agreeing to a nuclear fuel swap in Turkey, is seen as the last chance for Iran to avoid new economic sanctions.