Nothing is as powerful as the truth.
That’s why repressive regimes actively suppress free speech and assembly of their citizens. It’s also why America’s Founding Fathers enshrined these basic rights into our nation’s founding documents.
On Dec. 28, 2017, protesters in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad, took to the streets to voice their concerns over their country’s economic distress and rising food prices. These protests quickly grew, spreading to dozens of cities across Iran.
Iran’s leaders cannot dismiss concerns about the rising price of goods and increasing unemployment in their country. The Iranian regime received a generous influx of cash in 2015 as part of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal. Iran’s citizens believed these payments would give their economy a much-needed boost.
The truth is that Iran’s government would rather fund terrorist groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas, than meet the basic domestic needs of its people.
Now, as citizens push back and call for change, the regime’s brutality is on display. In attempt to squash the protests, the government has restricted use of internet applications commonly used to communicate and share news.
The government has even at times resorted to using gunfire to disperse crowds. To date, more than 20 protesters have died and more than 450 have been arrested. Additionally, there are news reports of brutal treatment of protesters who have been imprisoned.
Given the regime’s crackdown, the future of these protests is uncertain. While it is unlikely the deep concerns of the Iranian people will be resolved quickly, we do know they will not easily be silenced. The average age of the protesters is 25, meaning the next generation of Iranians long for change.
We’ve seen anti-government protests in Iran before. In 2009, Iranians questioned then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection. The regime took the same actions, which led to thousands imprisoned and hundreds dead.
As the world watched this violence break out, the Iranian people looked to America for support, but our government largely stayed silent.
Thankfully, this administration has chosen a different approach. President Donald Trump has already taken vital first steps, vocalizing support from the executive branch and even implementing new sanctions on five entities who are subsidiaries to the regime’s defense ministry. More sanctions could follow as a direct result of the treatment of these protesters.
I believe the people of Iran deserve bipartisan American support in their pursuit of reforms and a democratic government.
I recently introduced a House resolution that formally stands with the citizens of Iran and calls for a peaceful outcome to the demonstrations. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a Senate version of this resolution that has bipartisan support.
The House is expected to pass legislation this week that supports the rights of Iranians to free expression.
At this critical time, it is vital to lend our support to the Iranian people and their pursuit of freedom. As protests continue, we, as Americans, need to join together and say one thing to the brave citizens of Iran: We stand with you.