Human Rights,  Iran

Death in Tehran

If you missed the PBS Frontline documentary Tuesday night on the events surrounding the death of Neda Soltan, you can watch it here.

And I agree with those who say President Obama ought to speak out more loudly and clearly about the ongoing brutal repression of dissent in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

When the demonstrations started in Iran after the rigged election in June, I thought Obama was wise to moderate his comments so as not to give the regime any excuse to shift the focus to American “interference.” But I think events have gone far beyond the point where the regime could successfully make that an issue.

I appreciated Obama’s oblique reference to Neda when he spoke about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize:

[T]his award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity; for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard, even in the face of beatings and bullets…

But a mention by name, with specific details, would have been much more powerful.

Then there was Obama’s rather weak plea to the Iranian government to respect universal rights on the occasion of the latest demonstrations earlier this month.

According to Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, paying vastly more attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions that to its suppression of human rights and democracy is a mistake which harms the people of Iran.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is at the lowest level of popularity one can imagine,” Ms. Ebadi said. “If the West focuses exclusively on the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad can tell his people that the West is against Iran’s national interest and rally people to his cause. But if the West presses also on its human rights record, he will find himself in a position where his popular base is getting weaker and weaker by the day.”

I hope Obama takes to heart the message from these demonstrators in Tehran earlier this month: “Obama, are you with us or with them?”

I don’t think there’s any doubt whom, in his heart, he is with. But he needs to make it clear enough that no one in Iran or anywhere else has to ask the question.

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