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Public Statements

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Iran

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

PROMOTING DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN

Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. President, included in the omnibus bill is a provision I authored permitting the use of fiscal year 2003 foreign operations funds to support the advancement of democracy and human rights in Iran. While I believe that Iran rightly belongs in the Axis of Evil, I also recognize that the people of Iran, those residing in the country and abroad, are growing increasingly weary of the repression imposed upon them by Iran's ruling clerics.

We all know how these clerics came to power, and today, many Americans appreciate the demographic changes underway in that country. To put it simply, with each new birth in Iran, the popularity and control of the regime is further undermined. An estimated 50 percent of Iran's 70 million people were born after our compatriots were held hostage for 444 days. The call of the clerics is falling on increasingly deaf ears, and Iran's youth are already in the streets demanding good governance, accountability, and economic opportunity from Iranian hardliners.

The ingredients for political and economic change in Iran already exist. Our task must be to consider how best to support these efforts. I propose worthwhile endeavors include funding for Iranian newscasts, publication of Iranian political journals, development of websites, and dissemination of information on democracy, the concepts of nonviolent struggle, and secularism.

As I am familiar with democracy programs that have been implemented in other parts of the world, including the former Yugoslavia and Burma, I am well aware of the challenges posed in funding democracy and human rights programs in Iran. But I am confident that it can be done.

I will have more to say on this topic at a later date, but I appreciate the attention of my colleagues on this important issue.
Let me close by thanking Jennifer Chartrand for her five years of service with the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. Jennifer left earlier this year to work with the Defense Subcommittee, and she will be missed. In addition to managing her accounts in a professional and effective manner, Jennifer deserves special recognition for helping the people of Burma in their struggle for democracy and human rights. As this is a cause close to my heart, I am particularly grateful for all her hard work on this issue. I wish Jennifer all the best in her new position, and I look forward to continue to work with her in her new capacity.

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