In support of the Iranian people, Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and more than 50 senators today introduced a bipartisan resolution calling on the government of Iran to respect universal human rights and hold free, fair and open elections later this week that meet international standards. Hoeven, Blumenthal and Graham recently returned from a senate mission to the Middle East, which they say highlighted the importance of the United States' supporting the people of the region in their struggle for democratic reforms.
The resolution comes following a history of corrupt elections and repression in the Iranian electoral system. Reports in recent weeks have detailed government harassment and the detention of journalists and dissidents, as well as censorship and limitations on public access to the Internet ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections later this week. As they did in a previous national election, the Iranian Council of Guardians, a group appointed in part by the country's lead cleric, has already disqualified more than 2,000 candidates. Distrust of the system has prompted nearly 40 prominent Iranian political prisoners and several domestic Iranian reform groups to call for a boycott of the upcoming election.
The senate resolution introduced today calls for an end to "arbitrary detention, torture, and other forms of harassment against media professionals, human rights defenders and activists, and opposition figures, and releasing all individuals detained for exercising universally recognized human rights; lifting legislative restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression; and allowing the Internet to remain free and open and allowing domestic and international media to operate freely." The resolution further calls on Iranian officials "to allow international election monitors to be present for the March 2, 2012, elections."
Iran last held national elections in June of 2009, which were widely condemned, both within the country and around the world, to be corrupt and manipulated by the government. The process was marred by disqualification of candidates based on their political views, the absence of credible international observers and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and association, including censorship, surveillance, and disruptions in telecommunications. The election results provoked large-scale peaceful protests throughout Iran, which the government responded to with intensified repression.
"Our resolution is a clear signal to the Iranian people that we support them and their democratic aspirations, as well as a declaration to the Iranian regime that the world is watching," Hoeven said. "We want to empower the people of Iran by supporting their efforts to promote human rights and democratic reforms within their country, including the right to a democratically elected government."
"The Iranian government has repeatedly, and often times violently, suppressed opposition to its current leadership. The people of Iran require and deserve free and fair elections. Instead, they are given the Orwellian farce we will witness on Friday. Without elections that are inclusive and consistent with international standards, the Iranian government will stand against the aspirations of its own people," Blumenthal said. "This resolution calls for democratic principles and monitors, and tells the Iranian people that the United States has not forgotten their struggle for freedom."
"The world has not forgotten how the Iranian regime hijacked the 2009 elections or the high price the Iranian people paid for protesting against their oppressive actions," said Graham. Fearful of a truly democratic process, Iranian thugs have already launched a brutal crackdown on anyone deemed a threat. Our resolution is a strong statement by the United States Senate that we stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in their demands for free and fair elections. I hope it will be of some comfort to the people of Iran to know we are watching and we are on their side."
"Like Egypt under Mubarak and Tunisia under Ben Ali, Iran today is a sham democracy -- a country in which elections take place, but where everyone knows that their votes do not really count because real power lies with an unaccountable, corrupt, and repressive regime," said Senator Lieberman. "It is tragic that, as people in countries across the Middle East are increasingly able to choose their leaders in elections that the world recognizes as free and fair, the people of Iran are being left behind. This resolution makes clear that the United States stands in solidarity with the people of Iran and supports their basic human rights, including the right to determine their destiny for themselves through elections that are free and fair."
In addition to Hoeven, Blumenthal, Lieberman and Graham, other cosponsors of the bill include Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), David Vitter (R-La.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Thune (R-S.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Today's resolution complements an earlier resolution introduced in December by Sens. Graham, Casey and Lieberman calling for prompt implementation of sanctions passed by Congress in the Defense Authorization bill. That resolution seeks to deter the Iranian regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, which would destabilize the region and pose a threat not just to the region but to the world. While the senators want to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions, they also want to affirm their support for the democratic aspirations and universal human rights of the Iranian people.