Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman Condemns Repression of Iranian People

On Senate Floor, Delaware Senator calls Iran’s behavior a “blatant violation of international standards of human rights”

February 11, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) condemned the continued repression of the Iranian people on the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution, as protests and violence unfolded in the streets of Tehran.
 
In his statement, Kaufman expressed support for the people whose voices have been silenced by the government of Iran and condemned ongoing human rights violations, as well as suppression of free speech, free expression, free assembly and a free press.  He highlighted the Iranian government’s decision to restrict access to information, news, and modes of communication through the jamming of international broadcasting, disruptions to text-messaging service and restrictions on the Internet, and called on the government of Iran to bring its “unconscionable behavior” to an end.
 
“The people taking to the streets in Iran are some of the most courageous in the world, and Congress will continue to reiterate its support for their right to have their voices heard,” said Kaufman.  “We will not sit idly by as the government of Iran continues to deny its people essential freedoms and human rights.  And we will put the Iran – or any government which aims to silence its people – on notice that its behavior is unacceptable to the United States.”

Today, Kaufman joined Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sam Brownback (R-KS) in introducing bipartisan legislation which gives the President the ability to impose sanctions against those Iranians who have committed human rights abuses or acts of violence against civilians engaged in peaceful political activity. Also today, Kaufman joined Senator Casey and others in introducing a resolution denouncing the atmosphere of impunity in Iran for those who employ intimidation, harassment, or violence to restrict basic freedoms of speech, expression, assembly and the press.

Earlier this year, Kaufman, a passionate defender of press freedom and freedom of expression globally, co-authored the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE), which authorized funds for the development of technologies that will help the Iranian people evade electronic censorship and monitoring. He also introduced two resolutions – S.Res. 196 and S.Res.386 – which condemned Iranian restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Both resolutions and the VOICE Act passed the Senate unanimously.
 
Full remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Today I rise to express support for the people whose voices have been silenced by the government of Iran. For eight months, violence has been waged against peaceful protestors; free speech, free expression, and a free press have been suppressed; and access to information and news has been limited through the jamming of international broadcasting and restrictions on the Internet.  
 
According to a joint statement released by the United States and the EU on Monday, since the flawed Iranian election in June, there have been large scale detentions and mass trials of peaceful demonstrators; threatened executions of protestors; intimidation of family members of those detained; and the continued denial of peaceful expression, contrary to universal norms of human rights.
 
This statement was issued in advance of today’s protests in Iran marking the thirty-first anniversary of the Islamic revolution, in anticipation of widespread violence and additional arrests which are occurring as we speak.  These and other events in Iran represent blatant violations of international standards for human rights.  This is why I have come to the floor today – to condemn the repression of the Iranian people, and to call on the government of Iran to bring its unconscionable behavior to an end.      
    
On December 23, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the government of Iran for ongoing human rights abuses and for suppressing freedom of speech, assembly, expression, and the press.  This resolution, which I introduced along with Senators Lieberman, McCain, and others, reiterated the concerns that we also conveyed in the Victims of Iranian Censorship, or VOICE Act, which authorized funding for the development of technology to circumvent online censorship in Iran.
 
Despite these and other international expressions of solidarity with the Iranian people, the government of Iran has become even more brutal in recent weeks.  In a statement released on January 24, Human Rights Watch called the situation in Iran a "human rights disaster."  Protestors are not the only group which has been targeted.  The Iranian authorities have also launched an aggressive campaign against the press.  
 
On Monday, Iranian state media reported the arrest of seven individuals charged with espionage for alleged ties to the U.S.-funded Farsi-language radio station, Radio Farda.  These allegations and arrests coincide with a large-scale crackdown on independent media that has intensified in the past week.  In the lead-up to today’s demonstrations, Radio Farda broadcasts have been jammed, and there have been widespread service disruptions to the Internet and text message services.  These and other government efforts have impeded the free flow of information, news, and basic means of communication.
 
This is why I will join Senator Casey and others in introducing another resolution denouncing the atmosphere of impunity in Iran for those who employ intimidation, harassment, or violence to restrict basic freedoms of speech, expression, assembly, and the press.  I am also proud to co-sponsor legislation introduced today by Senators McCain, Lieberman, Casey, Bayh, Durbin, Gillibrand, Kyl, Collins, Graham, and Brownback which gives the President the ability to impose – at his discretion – sanctions against those Iranians who have committed human rights abuses or acts of violence against civilians engaged in peaceful political activity.
 
Unfortunately, the grave and deteriorating human rights situation is not the only concern of the international community with regard to Iran.  In a speech earlier today, the Iranian president declared Iran a “nuclear state” due to its ongoing enrichment program.  The UN has spoken in one voice – on three separate occasions – repudiating Iran’s ongoing enrichment of nuclear material in violation of its international obligations.  
 
As the UN considers a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, the U.S. has imposed a new round of unilateral sanctions.  Just yesterday, Treasury announced sanctions targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, for its involvement in spearheading Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.  As the IRGC continues to consolidate control over the Iranian economy – including the telecommunications sector – it is critical to ensure that the government of Iran is held to account for its ongoing violations of international law and activities which have made it a growing threat to global security.
 
The people taking to the streets in Iran are some of the most courageous in the world, and Congress will continue to reiterate its support for their right to have their voices heard.  We will not sit idly by as the government of Iran continues to deny its people essential freedoms and human rights.  And we will put the Iran – or any government which aims to silence its people – on notice that its behavior is unacceptable to the United States.
 
As President Obama stated in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers … to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.  It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.  And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.”    

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