In the Middle East, the use of military force against peaceful protesters by governments determined to cling to power has rightly captured the attention and the condemnation of the world. But attention must also be paid to another regime that continues to brutally repress its people -- the government of Iran, which two years ago led the way in employing bullets and batons as a response to calls for democracy and freedom.
Some examples of such repression: three years have now passed since Iranian security forces arrested and imprisoned seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i community. The five men and two women were tried in grossly unfair judicial proceedings and convicted on trumped up charges of espionage. Recently, the judiciary reinstated a 20-year prison sentence for the seven -- imposed only because they belong to a religious minority which has long been despised and grossly discriminated against by the government.
In recent testimony before the U.S. Congress, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner cited other egregious human rights violations by the Iranian government, including an alarming spike in executions, particularly of ethnic minorities; and of political prisoners held with violent criminals in terrible conditions. He also spotlighted the plight of courageous civil society activists:
"One is distinguished labor leader, Mansour Osanloo, who was arrested in 2007. He suffers from a heart condition, and they repeatedly deny him medical care. A student leader, Bahareh Hedayat, who was arrested in 2009, for the fifth time in four years, for being a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a women's movement to change laws that discriminate against women – she faces further charges for sending a public letter describing the conditions in prison."
"The list goes on and on," said Assistant Secretary of State Posner. But ultimately, he said, "Governments, like the Iranian government, that try to suppress their people are fighting a losing battle:"
"It's a young population that sees what's going on in the rest of the world and in the region and is increasingly impatient with the kind of autocratic policies this government employs."
The United States, said Mr. Posner, will continue to speak out about human rights conditions in Iran, and amplify the voices of the many young Iranians who, despite brutal resistance, "are determined to change their destiny."