Iranian leaders continue to violate the rights of the Iranian people. In the wake of protests following last June's disputed presidential election, dozens of Iranian journalists, writers and bloggers remain in prison.
Sixteen international free expression groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Pen, and Freedom House, have circulated a petition, signed by more than 3,500 prominent writers, journalists and press freedom leaders, urging the immediate release of imprisoned Iranian journalists and conveying outrage at the treatment they have been accorded by the Iranian regime.
Journalists are not the only victims of unjust imprisonment. More than a month after he was arrested, Jafar Panahi, a renowned Iranian film director, is still being held in Evin prison.
Student activists are also suffering at the hands of the regime. Two are members of the prominent student organization, the Office for the Consolidation of Unity. Bahareh Hedayat was arrested in December. She is being held in Evin prison and has been charged with a series of crimes against national security, including insulting the Supreme Leader and talking to foreign media organizations.
The European Student Union has nominated her to receive the Student Peace Prize for her "extraordinary courage and persistent defense of students' right to freedom of speech and expression." Another is student leader Milad Asadi, who has also been held for over 4 months in Evin. Amnesty International believes he is a prisoner of conscience, "held solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."
In his Nowruz message to Iran's leaders and people in March, President Barack Obama said the Iranian government has raised a clenched fist in response to the extended hand offered it by the U.S. over the past year.
"The aspirations of the Iranian people were also met with a clenched fist," said Mr. Obama. The U.S. is committed to standing up for rights that should be universal to all human beings, he said, and looks forward to the day when Iranians can exercise their universal rights "to speak freely, to assemble without fear ... and to express your views without facing retribution."