Chicago activists construct 'Free Iran' message with thousands of flags on lakefront

If you have flown into O'Hare off the lake over the past few days and had a window seat, you may have noticed a big message on the field off Montrose Harbor.

It's written in flags — thousands of them — each one representing a heartbreaking reality for many Iranian citizens.

"We just want everyone to know we want a free Iran," said activist Saba Latifi, who is with the group The Ballad of Iran.

Two words — "FREE IRAN" — are written with 15,000 white flags, each one representing an Iranian citizen wrongly detained or killed by the current regime.

"They are students, activists, artists, athletes," said Latifi. "They just have one message, one need. They want to fight for justice and simple human rights that have been taken away from them."


Latifi said Iranians are being imprisoned and, in some cases, killed for peacefully demonstrating in favor of free elections and due process — claims echoed by international human rights groups in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested by what's known as the Morality Police for improperly wearing her hijab.

"When Mahsa Amini was killed by the Morality Police, it just started a spark and people started to be like, 'that's it. Enough is enough,'" said Latifi.

She and the hundreds of volunteers who spent three weeks setting up the demonstration want Chicagoans to know just how dire the need for regime change in Iran is.

"This is the first time in the world you see a revolution being led by women, and men willing to die for them, to fight with them, to stand for their rights. And it's about everyone: children, women, rich, poor," said Latifi.

The flags went up on Sunday and should be visible to some 200 airplanes per day.  The Chicago Park District is allowing the demonstration to stay up for two weeks.