Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 produced the current Islamic republic, university students in the country have been on the frontlines of speaking out against the repressive measures of the Ayatollahs’ government. This week an exhibit at Georgetown University’s Law Center is showcasing portraits of Iranian students who have taken action and suffered for the cause of justice and human rights. The last 30 years of Iranian history are marked with injustices, especially against the liberties of speech and education, including, for example, the Cultural Revolution of 1980–82 that shut down Iranian universities, the mass political executions of 1988, the student protests and 18th of Tir disaster in 1999, and the post-election protests and violence of 2009.
Simply because they speak critically of the Iranian government, students continue to suffer countless abuses. For baseless charges such as organizing illegal gatherings, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, acting against national security, and enmity toward God, dormitories have been raided and burned, and students have been arrested or barred from university studies. Students are tried and convicted without being given the right to an attorney; moreover, thousands have been interrogated, beaten, or killed. As Americans, we must sympathize with those who speak and work for freedom, and further we should ask what our own Administration is doing to advance the cause of liberty in Iran. Shamefully, the answer is “not enough.”
Since the rigged re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad June 2009 the Obama Administration has had the opportunity to assist Iran’s Green Movement in its efforts to develop free democracy in Iran; however, the White House has not provided substantial support to the movement. Nor has the Obama Administration declared regime change in Iran official U.S. policy, despite the regime’s numerous sinister dealings with regard to nuclear development, human rights violations, and sponsoring terrorism.
The United States can and should do more to advance the pro-democracy movement in Iran. Efforts to provide uncensored communications should be expanded to facilitate communication between Iranian dissidents, enhance their ability to mobilize supporters, and improve their access to media outside Iran. Illegal activities, terrorist financing, and human rights violations by the Iranian government should be communicated to the Iranian people, in order to foment discontent with the oppressive regime and to build support for democratic reform.
The U.S. must not stand idle and let such atrocities continue. Providing material assistance and funding for communications would instill the confidence needed for creating substantial change. If the U.S. fails to act, it will have squandered an opportunity to bring reform to a government that has inflicted profound abuse for far too long.
Frederick Roth is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm