2010 Democracy Award Remarks of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

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Honoring Iran’s Green Movement with the 2010 Democracy Award

Thank you Judy for your kind introduction, and thank you to the entire N.E.D. for your efforts on behalf of freedom worldwide.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here today to join you in honoring Iranian civil society for their courage against the Iranian regime’s brutal oppression.

In the discussions about the Iranian regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons program or its state-sponsorship of terrorism, the terror that the leaders in Tehran inflict on their citizens is often ignored.

We need NED and events like these to highlight the plight of the Iranian people—particularly, when the United Nations Human Rights Council fails to condemn the regime’s brutality and, instead, Iran is elected by acclamation to the UN Conference on the Status of Women.

A regime that stones women to death is selected to sit on the UN Conference on the Status of Women.

This is a Kafkaesque scenario.
So I stand here today in solidarity with the Iranian people and with all who support and defend universal human rights and democracy.

The thugs in power in Tehran practice torture, flogging, amputation, and murder.

The regime conducts systematic, official discrimination against women, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, dissident Muslims, and others.

All seven members of the national Baha’i leadership in Iran remain in prison – where they have been held unjustly for two years – and are on trial for trumped-up charges that potentially carry the death penalty.

Gay people are hanged from cranes, even as their very existence in Iran is denied by Ahmadinejad.

Since last June’s sham “elections”, the regime has intensified its repression, increasing restrictions on freedom of religion, expression, association, assembly, and the press.

Thousands of protestors, dissidents, and journalists have been arbitrarily detained or killed, with innocent people reportedly shot on the streets, and the Stalinesque show-trials continue.

Even Iranians who succeed in fleeing the country are reportedly still in danger, as agents of the Iranian regime threaten them with death if they continue to speak out and protest human rights violations by Tehran.

Despite this repression, the people of Iran continue to put their lives on the line in pursuit of freedom, and the United States and other responsible nations must stand with them!

We must aid those seeking freedom for Iran, including through more robust funding for Iran democracy programs and by fully implementing existing U.S. sanctions, and imposing new ones, targeting the regime’s vulnerabilities.

I have introduced H.R. 4649, the bipartisan Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act, which was introduced in the Senate by John McCain and Joe Lieberman.

This legislation requires the President to designate and sanction those who violate the human rights of Iranians, and both houses of Congress should pass this bill without delay.

In the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, words that are salient to any discussion on the situation of human rights in Iran under the brutal regime:

“We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

With these words in mind, we must take sides – and act together in support of the people of Iran.