President George W. Bush says that democracy makes possible the freedom people need to live in dignity:
“That dignity is honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance.”
Pro-democracy Iranians would seem to agree. According to news accounts, about two-thousand people recently took to the streets of Tehran to demand greater freedom. Observers say the demonstration shows that many Iranians desperately seek change. That may be especially true of Iranian women. The New York Times newspaper reports that Iran’s parliament recently blocked proposals to expand the inheritance rights of women and to adopt the United Nations convention barring discrimination against women. There have been recent reports of women in Tehran and other parts of the country being arrested for wearing clothes deemed insufficiently “Islamic.” Moreover, Iranian members of parliament have reportedly called for segregating men and women at universities and for other limitations on women’s activities.
Iranian women are not the only target of government repression. The international group Reporters Without Borders says that “[t]hreats to press freedom have increased since the hijacking of last February’s parliamentary elections. . . . Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi has launched a new effort to silence the press.” Tactics include closing newspapers, blocking Internet access, blacklisting journalists, and imprisoning writers and editors.
As President Bush has put it, “tired, discredited autocrats are trying to hold back the democratic will of [the] rising generation” in Iran. The U.S., says Mr. Bush, has a message for the Iranian people: “We hear your voice. . .and we stand with you in your desire to be free.”