Senate speaks out against repression

The U.S. Senate recently added its voice to the many voices calling for the Iranian government to respect the undeniable and universal rights of its people.

We approved Senate Resolution 73, calling for an end to repression in Iran and for international action to support the Iranian people. I was proud to sponsor this bipartisan legislation, along with Sen. Ron Kirk of Illinois, Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.

Our resolution condemned continuing violent repression on the part of the Iranian government and reaffirmed our nation’s commitment to universal freedoms. It expressed our support for the Iranian people in their peaceful calls for reform; called on the Iranian government to release those detained because of their religion, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or political belief; called on the United Nations to establish an independent human rights monitor for Iran; and reaffirmed the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic elections.

It amplified and strengthened the message that I and 23 other senators sent earlier this month in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to work with the United Nations Human Rights Commission to establish a human rights monitor for Iran.

Recent events in Iran have continued a pattern of abuse, repression and violation of civil and human rights that is all too familiar.

The people of Iran have rightly seen recent events in the Muslim world, including the removal of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, as confirmation of the power of nonviolent protest. Just as they did in the aftermath of flawed elections in 2009, the people of Iran have sought to speak out against the corruption and repression in their government.

If justice is to be done, the government of Iran must allow these protests, hear the grievances of the people and reform a regime whose autocratic nature is in no way concealed by the facade of representative democracy that the regime has constructed. Instead, the Iranian government has quashed protest, cut off access to the Internet and other means of communication, and placed opposition leaders under house arrest. Members of the ruling regime have called for the execution of opposition leaders and for violent repression of dissent.

The world has seen in just a few short weeks the dramatic power of nonviolent protest. We have seen that ultimately, dictatorship will lose its iron grip. I believe we are all confident that the march of time and progress will restore to the people of Iran the rights their government denies them.

But today, as the Iranian people bear the brunt of autocracy and as dissenters face the threat of violent repression, it is important for all those who believe in universal rights to speak out against that repression and violence, to let the people of Iran know that they do not face these threats alone, and to declare that we are in support of their attempts to determine the course of their nation. That’s why it was so important to approve this important resolution.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.