Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rep. Pitts: Standing with the people of Iran

A timely op-ed by U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts as events unfold in Iran.

Standing with the People of Iran

By Congressman Joe Pitts

The events unfolding right now in Iran are extraordinary. In the face of a repressive regime, and even violent crackdowns, the Iranian people have gathered in the hundreds of thousands to let their will be known and demand a right to a voice in their government.

Like all people, they desire freedom.

From news reports in the first days of the peaceful protests, we know that several people were killed either by Iranian security forces, or their shadowy surrogate, the Basij militia. Additional reports of violence against students and other civilians are difficult to confirm. Iranian authorities have shut down foreign media outlets and prevented them from covering the events as they unfold. Fortunately, the power of technology has allowed images and video of the marches to get through to the outside world.

These images and videos have depicted a people who yearn for freedom from a stifling and increasingly belligerent regime.

The U.S. government must stand up against the sham elections, the vote rigging, and violence against civilians taking place in Iran. We cannot sit back and watch as their people are beaten and killed by militia thugs.

The greatest moments in United States history have not come from standing idly by as tyrants and thugs oppress their own people. The greatest moments have come when our leaders have stood in steadfast support of those who seek freedom.

When John F. Kennedy spoke in Berlin in 1963 and said "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner!" (I am a Berliner) and when President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" it gave hope to the people living in the Soviet Union who desired freedom. And it made it known worldwide that the United States everywhere and always stands with those people who seek freedom.

The silence from the White House on this issue has been deafening. The President's measured and cautious words have done little to reassure the Iranian people that the United States stands behind their cause. He has indicated he does not want to alienate the Ayatollah by appearing to meddle in internal Iranian affairs.

A statement in support of the peaceful protesters who are risking their lives on the streets of Tehran is no more meddling in the affairs of Iran than President Reagan's demand at the Berlin Wall meddled in the affairs of the Soviet Union. This is an extraordinary moment in Iranian history, and the lack of support from the leadership of the United States has been embarrassing.

This is the same Iran that continues in open defiance of the international community in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. This is the same Iran, and the same President, that has spoken of wiping Israel off the map and denied the existence of the Holocaust. Indeed, one can imagine why fair-minded Iranians may have tired of this kind of behavior by their President.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group in the House has chosen to speak out and fill the void.

On Friday, the House passed H.Res. 560, a resolution sponsored by Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman.

The resolution states that the House of Representatives: "expresses its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law; condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections."

By a vote of 405 to 1, the House voted to support the Iranian people. I still hope the President chooses to do so as well.

At stake is not only the freedom and basic rights of the Iranian people, but the position of the United States in the world as a defender and supporter of freedom and human rights.

Rep. Joe Pitts is a Republican who represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District in parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster counties. For more on Pitts, visit his Congressional Web site at

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