COLUMN: Freedom for Iranians
On Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate the contributions of the civil rights icon whose famous “I have a dream” speech reminded Americans that ours strives to be a nation where no one is judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Through Martin Luther King’s work to realize the aims of America’s Founding, he has become a worldwide symbol of peaceful protest against injustice.
An important reminder, not just for Americans, but for the entire world, comes from Reverend King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail that, “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” In the U.S., we are so grateful to enjoy our God-given rights of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and so many others that are embodied in the Constitution.
Recently, the world has borne witness to a major expression of the common desire of humanity to realize greater freedom and human rights during the days-long anti-government demonstrations that spread like wildfire across Iran. As they did during the Green Movement in 2009, Iranians are again expressing their deep frustration at the country’s isolation, corruption, and oppressive theocracy. The demonstrations have revealed not only frustration with high unemployment and economic stagnation, but also the repression imposed by the harsh regime of the Ayatollah Khamenei.
Despite Iran’s lagging economy, its government has directed billions in spending to assist the evil Assad regime in Syria as well as international terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s own Revolutionary Guard Corps is designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization.
In Iran, the human rights of political opponents of the regime are routinely violated, as the government’s response to the demonstrations has shown. During the recent demonstrations, 21 people have been killed, and hundreds have been arrested.
I joined the House of Representatives to send a message of support for the rights of the Iranian people. Last week, the House overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution stating that we stand “with the people of Iran that are engaged in legitimate and peaceful protests against an oppressive, corrupt regime” and we called “on all democratic governments and institutions to clearly support the Iranian people’s right to live in a free society.”
The recent protests that have rocked the regime of the Ayotollah Khameini have recalled the great movements of citizens in totalitarian states to achieve freedom. We remember the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in China in 1989, as well as the many protests in Eastern European countries of the Soviet bloc.
America’s Founders and Martin Luther King stood for the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” On behalf of the people of Iran and the oppressed peoples of the world, we stand in solidarity for a day when, in the words of Reverend King, “justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”