The Iranian Cafe: A Memoir of Women’s Rights

Persian cafe in L.A. keeps memorial honoring Iranian women killed in protests despite vandalism

By Andrew Chung

Updated on: September 26, 2017 / 5:30 PM / CBS News

The Iranian cafe in Los Angeles is where demonstrators took over a street to rally peacefully about women’s rights and the government’s crackdown. The cafe burned down in 2015.


The cafe, owned by Iranian immigrant Leila Khazaei, is a quiet place where many of the women who gathered here in the early 1990s to demand that Iranian president Mohammad Khatami’s government end the violence and intimidation faced by women are remembered.

The cafe was attacked in 2015 but later repaired and is now open again.

Here is the story:


There have been three big moments in the past decade for Iranian women.

The first was in 2001 when a young woman named Zahra Kazemi went on a hunger strike to protest the compulsory veiling of women in Iran. She died two days later, becoming the first Iranian to die on U.S. soil since 1979.

Then in 2009, four students at a university in Tehran were arrested for protesting against the mandatory hijab. They were tortured for three days and later had their tongues cut out and were blindfolded.

Finally more than a year ago, on August 10, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets, demanding change. The demonstrations were peaceful and nonviolent — until the government launched a brutal crackdown to end the “coup.” Many demonstrators were killed.

The events of that day are still a vivid memory for many in Iran.

Kazemi’s mother was not surprised by the attack on Leila Khazaei’s cafe in downtown L.A.

A woman named Mehrbani, the mother of a young man who was wounded in the attack, visited the cafe with other women.

“I told them that Leila’s death should make all Iranians proud because it was the first time that a person had died for women’s rights. I told them to show the world what we were fighting for,” she said.

A man who said he

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