The United States condemns the closing of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights and urges Iranian authorities to allow this and similar civil society organizations to operate free of oppression.
On December 21, Iranian authorities closed down the civil society organization of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi just prior to a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ms. Ebadi is a renowned human rights defender and is both the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Prize in its 102-year-old history.
Moreover, on December 29th Iranian authorities confiscated Ms. Ebadi’s personal documents and computer from her private office. And on January 1st, protestors chanted death threats and spray painted slogans on Ms. Ebadi's home.
"These events," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a written statement, "are part of an increasingly hostile campaign of harassment against human rights activists inside Iran."
The United States is also deeply concerned by the continued detention of internationally known Iranian HIV/AIDS physicians Dr. Arash Alaei and Dr. Kamiar Alaei. December 22 marked 6 months since the physicians were arbitrarily arrested by Iranian authorities and detained in Tehran's Evin Prison. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has the obligation to afford due process rights to anyone detained.
The Alaei brothers have dedicated more than 20 years of their medical careers to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. In recognition of their pioneering medical work, in November 2006 the Alaei brothers were participants in the first professional exchange program for Iranians in almost 3 decades, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This program was followed by dozens of similar exchange programs with Iran.
While such interactions with Iran are new, these exchange programs have existed for 50 years and have brought citizens from over 165 countries to the United States, with the purpose of promoting people-to-people connections and increasing mutual understanding. Some of the world's most accomplished scientists, doctors, artists and professors are alumni of educational and cultural exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. government.
The actions of the Iranian Government against Ms. Shirin Ebadi, Dr. Arash Alaei, Dr. Kamiar Alaei, and other innocent citizens who have been intimidated or wrongfully detained by authorities only serve to further tarnish Iran's international stature. With our friends and allies around the world, we stand by the brave people of Iran who are trying peacefully to exercise their universal human rights.