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In recent days, thousands of protestors have flooded the streets of Iranian cities and towns to oppose the country’s Islamic fundamentalist regime and to call for more political, social, and economic freedom. But the clerical regime is encouraging vigilante assaults against the protestors. The vigilantes, along with plain-clothes paramilitary forces, have charged into the crowds and assaulted demonstrators using batons, chains, and knives.

As U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker made clear, the use of violence by the Tehran regime against peaceful demonstrators is a brutal violation of basic rights:

"The demonstrations that you saw in Iran are a response to Iranian policies. It is the people of Iran speaking out, expressing themselves, and we always encourage peaceful expression as a right [of] all human beings -- a right of these people to pursue freedom in their own country."

The New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, has called on the government of Iran to end violent attacks on students who have been peacefully demonstrating for freedom. In an open letter to Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Human Rights Watch called for an independent commission to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. "Iran's leaders have not taken any real steps to halt these vicious attacks on protestors," said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "The government," she said, "should disband all of these vigilante groups."

The United States agrees. Iranians, like all people, have a right to determine their own destiny without fear of intimidation, violence, or imprisonment. The Iranian protesters are peacefully calling attention to the destructive policies of the Tehran clerical regime and seeking freedom and democracy. They deserve support and encouragement.