President George W. Bush says that in the twenty–first century, the world faces a struggle between "freedom and extreme radicalism." Iran's clerical regime has made no secret of its commitment to an extremist agenda. And the Iranian people continue to suffer as a result.
In recent days, Iranian police launched a campaign in major cities against women wearing clothing deemed "un-Islamic." Hundreds of Iranian women have been arrested for exposing strands of hair under their headscarves or for wearing their required coats either too short or too tight. The current crackdown is said to be the most severe since the dress code was imposed after the Islamic revolution in 1979.
To make matters worse, Iran's Supreme Court recently overturned the murder convictions of six members of the Basiji force, a vigilante group that enforces compliance with a hard-line version of Islamic law. In 2002, on the outskirts of the city of Kerman, the men stoned or drowned five people they considered "morally corrupt."
Among the victims was a young couple, who were either engaged or already married. They had committed the offense of walking together in public. According to Iran's Supreme Court, Iran's Islamic penal code allows such killings if the perpetrators believe their targets are promoting moral corruption. A lawyer for one of the victims' families, Nemat Ahmadi, says this ruling "means any person can take the law into his or her own hands."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the way to stop the injustice caused by extremism is to support "those who within their own indigenous circumstances are trying to bring about freer societies." Around the world, she says, she hears the same answer to key questions:
"Do you want to be able to worship as you wish, in line with your conscience not in line with the dictates of the state? People will say yes. Do you want to be free from the arbitrary, secret knock of the state at your door on any given evening? People will say yes. . .It's not a cultural issue; it is a human issue to want to have control of your own life."
As for the Iranian people, Secretary of State Rice says the United States wants for them "what we want for people all over the world, which is to have the ability to express themselves, to choose their leaders, to have women prosper."