The Iranian-American Community in Los Angeles

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

Tarek Fatah. (Jae C. Hong / Los Angeles Times)

At the corner of North Spring Street and South San Pedro, across from a parking lot filled with Chinese restaurants and liquor stores that serve Chinese takeout, a storefront with a faded poster for the L.A. Marathon still on the side bears a large red heart with an arrow pointing toward the finish line. It’s the sign of the Iranian expatriate community that has maintained a permanent presence since 1979, serving coffee and food to the Iranian residents of the area.

A few feet from the heart is a handwritten sign of red, white and green painted on a black board, with a photo of a young woman in a hijab and a face paint of the Iranian flag. The woman’s name? Tarek Fatah. She was one of the 28 women killed in Iran by pro-government protesters in 2009.

Last year, her story was the subject of an Iranian documentary, “Iranian Women in Los Angeles.” That documentary won the Best Documentary Short Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and was also recognized by the L.A. Times and Outpost TV as some of the best videos of 2018. The documentary’s director was the Iranian-born Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who had also made the “Green Sea” short film about the 2009 protests.

As the documentary’s subject, Tarek’s death had resonance for Panahi. “She was one of the very few survivors of the protests,” he said. “She had the courage to step out, to stand up and raise her voice. All of us were in some way proud to be Iranian. After that documentary, many in the Iranian-American community felt a sense of pride.”

After the documentary aired, Panahi found himself in a conflict between doing something

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