Over the last two weeks, thousands have poured into the streets of Iran to protest the September 16 death in custody of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman arrested for allegedly violating the government’s strict female dress code. POMED condemns the Iranian authorities’ violent response and stands in solidarity with the women—and all people—of Iran bravely demanding gender equality, greater social liberty, equal rights for Iranian Kurds and other minorities, and an end to state repression and authoritarian rule.
We commend the Biden administration’s strong statements of support for the protesters, the imposition of targeted sanctions on Iran’s morality police, and the easing of U.S. sanctions to allow Iranian citizens greater access to communications tools and the internet. We call on the U.S. government, in coordination with other governments, to take additional steps, such as:
- Supporting the establishment of an independent accountability mechanism to investigate the Iranian regime’s repeated human rights violations and to hold abusers to account;
- Imposing additional targeted human rights sanctions on Iranian institutions and individuals involved in human rights abuses during the protests;
- Working with civil society and technology experts to ensure that Iranian citizens have unfettered access to the internet and telecommunications tools they need in the face of state efforts to thwart connectivity;
- Supporting and advancing the voices of Iranian women-led civil society and protest movements, in line with the administration’s National Gender Strategy; and
- Using its leadership in the Freedom Online Coalition and Media Freedom Coalition to demand multilateral accountability for the Iranian regime’s threats and harm against journalists and to defend internet freedom.
Finally, we strongly encourage the Biden administration to apply similarly robust, principled rhetoric and action in response to repression of peaceful activism elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. Holding authoritarian governments that the United States considers “partners” to lower human rights standards than “adversaries” undercuts U.S. credibility, weakening U.S. efforts to support human rights inside Iran and around the world. We urge the United States to stand up consistently and vigorously for universal human rights and democratic freedoms everywhere.