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Iran must stop repression, nuclear-weapons pursuit

Today, throughout America, individuals and groups are uniting to demonstrate their opposition to the human-rights abuses and nuclear-weapons ambition of the current Iranian regime.

Today, throughout America, individuals and groups are uniting to demonstrate their opposition to the human-rights abuses and nuclear-weapons ambition of the current Iranian regime. In New York City, for example, representatives of Jewish and Iranian communities will be joined by labor, human-rights, and other organizations that are appalled by the Iranian government’s unacceptable and dangerous behavior. In Minnesota we call on people of all faiths and beliefs to speak out, with one voice, against the repressive regime in Tehran.

Does anyone seriously argue that the Iranian government’s treatment of its own people is not making Iran an international pariah? Since the disputed June 2009 presidential elections, the Iranian regime has proven through murder, rape and brutal beatings that it will not tolerate political dissent.

For many, the recent history of Iranian oppression in the wake of the June elections is well known. Following state-sponsored election fraud, Iranian security forces and their allies in the feared Basij militia violently broke up pro-democracy rallies, stormed university campuses, and beat, imprisoned and murdered Iranian civilians who dared protest. Moreover, the government expelled foreign journalists from the country and obstructed Internet traffic in a fruitless attempt to hide their crimes from the world.

Within five weeks of the election, according to various human-rights organizations, Iranian security forces killed as many as 249 protestors. Iranian officials also admitted detaining at least 4,000 protesters for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression and association in June 2009. 

Amplifies an already dismal record
This post-election repression amplifies the Iranian government’s longstanding and well-documented record as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Since the 1979 revolution, thousands of Iranian citizens have been executed. Some estimates put this number at 20,000 or higher.

According to Amnesty International, Iran holds the distinction of being one of the last countries in the world that continues to execute juvenile offenders. The execution of members of the Iranian GLBT community is another example of Iran’s violent intolerance. Human-rights groups and observers have also documented the frequent torture, including rape, of political prisoners in Iran.

Members of the Baha’i faith also face daily brutal repression. Jews, while a recognized religious minority, are subject to surveillance and lack many of the rights of other Iranian citizens. Other groups targeted by the government include labor activists, human- and women’s-rights activists, students, journalists, bloggers, and those who promote cultural rights for Iran’s ethnic and linguistic minorities. Lastly, since 2008, it has been reported that more than 1 million Iranians (mostly women) have been detained for violating the state dress code.

Internationally, Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is a threat to the entire world, notably including the United States, Arab states, our European allies, Turkey and Israel. Moreover, Iran is pursuing its weapons program in defiance of its nonproliferation obligations and numerous U.N. declarations and resolutions.  Iran’s support of Hezbollah and Hamas, two widely recognized terrorist groups, destabilizes the Middle East and facilitates the killing of innocents.

Yesterday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York, as protesters decried his presence.

Today we stand with others around the world and call on Iran to support basic human rights such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We demand the immediate cessation of human-rights abuses, the release of innocent peaceful demonstrators from prisons, and protection for minority communities. We demand the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, the woman killed during the Iranian presidential election protests caught on camera, and the many other victims of recent protest crackdowns.

In addition, Iran must comply and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.N. Security Council resolutions, including an end to all uranium enrichment in Iran. 

Finally, we call on Iran’s leaders to end their incitement of violence and support for terrorism.

Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Pirouz Irani is a member of Minnesota Iranian-Americans for Democracy in Iran. Pirouz Irani is a pseudonym; the author fears for the safety of his family members who still reside in Iran.