On December 28, 2017, protests broke out in Mashhad, Iran’s second most populous city, over economic hardships, corruption, and rising food and fuel prices. The demonstrations continued into the new year, morphing into political rallies and spreading within the first week to dozens of cities across the Islamic Republic. By January 5, 22 people had been killed and more than 1,000 protestors arrested. The protests were the largest challenge to the Iranian government since the 2009 Green Movement revolt. Iranian officials blamed the United States, as well as Britain and Saudi Arabia, for the recent protests. In a series of tweets, U.S. President Trump criticized the Iranian government and expressed his support for the protestors.
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
Trump has taken an increasingly aggressive stance towards Iran since coming into office. Under President Trump, the United States sanctioned 93 Iran-related entities and individuals for Tehran’s support for militant groups, missile proliferation and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East. In October, the President refused to recertify Iran’s compliance with obligations under the nuclear deal, saying it was not in the U.S.-national security interest. Trump wanted to give lawmakers a chance to fix what he perceived as flaws in the agreement. Congress had 60 days to re-impose sanctions lifted, but lawmakers allowed the window to pass without taking further action.
President Trump is set to rule on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement again on January 11, as required every three months by law. Trump must also decide on renewing the temporary waiver of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which must be done every 120 days. The following are excerpted reactions by U.S. leaders to the Iranian demonstrations.
The Trump Administration
U.S. President Donald Trump
The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.... pic.twitter.com/W8rKN9B6RT— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2017
Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2017
Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
“We support the right of the Iranian people to express themselves peacefully. Their voices deserve to be heard. We encourage all parties to protect this fundamental right to peaceful expression and to avoid any actions that contribute to censorship.”
― Dec. 31, 2017, in a statement
"With the new year, we also have a renewed appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world are not so fortunate. In recent days, we have watched widespread protests erupt in many Iranian cities. Years of mismanagement, corruption, and foreign adventurism have eroded the Iranian people’s trust in their leaders.
The Iranian regime spends its people’s wealth on spreading militancy and terror abroad, rather than ensuring prosperity at home. Prices for everyday staples and fuel are rising, while the Revolutionary Guard spend the nation’s wealth on foreign militant groups and enrich themselves in the process.
The Iranian people are angry at the rising tide of corruption in their daily lives. The people are tired of paying the price for their violent and corrupt rulers. As a result, we are now seeing an organic, popular uprising organized by brave Iranian citizens on the largest scale since 2009.
But the international community cannot sit silent as it did then. The United States supports the Iranian people, and we call on the regime to respect its citizens’ basic right to peacefully express their desire for change. America longs for the day when Iranians will take their rightful place alongside the free people of the world.
As the President said in October, “We stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regimes longest-suffering victims: its own people.” The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders, and the Iranian people long to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, and its cooperation with its neighbors."
"I think the ultimate end game would be that the citizens and the people of Iran are actually given basic human rights, and he’d certainly like to see them stop being a state sponsor of terror. I think that’s something the whole world would like to see."
"I think one of the big things — and I think even Hillary Clinton outlined this when she said that the Obama administration was too restrained of the 2009 protests and said that won’t happen again. And, for once, she’s right and we agree with her because President Trump is not going to sit by silently like President Obama did. And he certainly supports the Iranian people and wants to make that clear."
― Jan. 2, 2018, in a press briefing
The Trump Administration is deeply concerned by reports that the Iranian regime has imprisoned thousands of Iranian citizens in the past week for engaging in peaceful protests. Further reports that the regime has tortured or killed some of these demonstrators while in detention are even more disturbing. We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran’s leaders accountable for any violations. The protesters in Iran are expressing legitimate grievances, including demanding an end to their government's oppression, corruption, and waste of national resources on military adventurism. Iran's regime claims to support democracy, but when its own people express their aspirations for better lives and an end to injustice, it once again shows its true brutal nature. The United States calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran, including the victims of the most recent crackdown.
― Jan. 10, 2018, in a statement
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
QUESTION: You’ve said that you want to support, quote, elements in the country that will lead to a peaceful transition of government. That sounds like regime change.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think the Iranian people have suffered under this regime, the regime that has – it is a revolutionary government. They describe themselves as a revolutionary government. And the Iranian people have suffered under this regime. Very little good has happened for the Iranian people. Ever since this regime has taken power, they have suffered under economic sanctions because of this regime’s destabilizing activities in the region.
At some point, people will decide this is not how they want to live any longer, but we always support a peaceful transition of power. We do not support violent transitions of power, but we do support peaceful transitions of power, and we’ve seen those expressions in years past with the large demonstrations at the elections in 2009, the demonstrations that we see in the streets today. We are supportive of the Iranian people achieving their aspirations for a better quality of life, for greater freedom. We believe they deserve that, but it will be up to the Iranian people to manage that peaceful transition. We support that.
QUESTION: How do you help them facilitate that?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: I think by amplifying their voices. When they go to the street, we listen to why they are there, what are their concerns, and where there are legitimate concerns and we agree that their concerns are legitimate, we should support the expression of those. And that’s what the President has done, the White House, the Vice President, myself here at the State Department, through statements we’ve made, is to give their voice amplification. We know the regime listens to the world, and that’s why we’ve been working diligently with others in the world, including our European partners, to also amplify these voices within the country to say to the regime, you must address these concerns of these people and you should be address it by beginning a process of reform.
QUESTION: How does that factor into your decision on sanctions? Do you support waiving sanctions at this next certification?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, we’ve been very clear on our policy on Iran. The prior administration focused all of the Iranian policy around the nuclear deal, the JCPOA. Our policy is much broader. We look at the totality of Iran’s actions and behaviors. So the decisions around waiving sanctions relative to the nuclear agreement and decisions to take in terms of imposing additional sanctions on Iran that are unrelated to the nuclear agreement are – there’s a broad array when you talk about sanctions.
Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen, their support for destabilization efforts in Syria, the funding of militias, the sending of foreign fighters, arming terrorist organizations in the region, Lebanese Hizballah – that has to be dealt with. And our sanctions are targeted at Iran’s destabilizing activities within the region while still maintaining all our efforts to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons.
So there are sanctions regimes built around both of those efforts. And what the President has done with his policies, is he’s now looked at Iran in its totality and said Iran has to be held to account in both of these areas.
QUESTION: So it sounds like maybe, even if you certify on the nuclear issue, more non-nuclear sanctions could be coming.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: They will be coming. There were non-nuclear sanctions announced yesterday by the Treasury Department in response to Iran’s missile – ballistic missile development programs, which are in violation of earlier agreements.
QUESTION: And more to come?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: In all likelihood, unless Iran alters its behavior. And again, this is the objective of the sanctions, is to put enough pressure on these governments that they decide the price, the cost of what they’re doing, is too high.
QUESTION: Well, and also the Revolutionary Guard’s grip on the economy, right? And that’s really what you’re trying to --
SECRETARY TILLERSON: That’s a lot of what the demonstrations in the streets were about, is young people and others saying, “There’s too much of our economy and our wealth of our country going to support these destabilizing activities of the IRGC, as well as the IRGC’s involvement in our economy. We’re not seeing enough of the benefit. The elites are seeing the benefit.”
― Jan. 5, 2018, in an interview with CNN's Elise Labott
Department of State Spokesman Heather Nauert
We are following reports of multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country. Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran’s own people.
The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.
On June 14, 2017, Secretary Tillerson testified to Congress that he supports “those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.” The Secretary today repeats his deep support for the Iranian people.
― Dec. 29, 2017, in a statement
"Well, I think that many nations around the world are watching what is happening in Iran and watching it very closely. The United States is. Certainly our allies and partners are – France, Germany, the UK. You’ve heard a lot from them in recent days expressing their concerns, just like we’ve expressed our concerns about a crackdown on human rights. We are keeping an eye closely on that. That includes arresting people for peacefully protesting. ...
In addition to that, the government had claimed that the JCPOA was basically the elixir, the fix for its economic problems. We have not seen that fix made. We have seen the economy stagnant there; in some situations, for some families, it has become worse than it was before. Many people there will complain that their paychecks have not been made, that they’ve not gotten a paycheck, that their paychecks are late – all of that. So people have a right to be concerned about the government’s treatment of its citizenry, and so they’re speaking out, and they’re brave in doing so."
"We’re watching the situation very closely. We are expressing our support, as we have many occasions before, for the Iranian people, understanding that it is brave, that they are courageous in speaking out and speaking out publicly and forcefully. And these are folks who are the working class. You’re seeing this in many towns across the country, people going out at their own risk, at their own peril, speaking out about their concerns. And as Americans, we can all support the right of a freedom of expression, something we support, and they – we are watching them do just that."
"I think what the President is talking about is exactly what the Iranian people are saying, that they want change. They want the government to start taking care of them. We’ve heard from some of the protesters their concerns about that nation’s money being spent on exploits in other countries – Syria, Iran’s support for Hizballah, Iran’s support for weapons being sent around the world – as opposed to spending that money on its own people. So I think when the President calls for change, he’s calling for the Iranian Government to make changes for its own people and the same thing that the Iranian people are calling for."
"The Iranian regime is always going to come up with reasons to try to claim that other governments are responsible for some of their own problems at home, that other governments are responsible for their own people speaking out. This is not the first time that we’ve seen the Iranian people speak out, speak out about their concerns of their treatment under their regime. We saw that almost 10 years ago. We’re seeing it once again – the issues slightly different, but they remain the same."
"We are not going to tell the Iranian people what to do. But we do believe that if Iranian people are going to peacefully protest that they should be allowed to do so."
― Jan. 2, 2018, in a press briefing
We continue to monitor closely the protests and violence in Iran. The Iranian people have been expressing their desire for dignified treatment, an end to corruption, improved transparency, and increased economic opportunities. Protestors have also demanded that the regime stop diverting the nation’s wealth to fund military adventurism abroad. Unfortunately, the government continues to imprison and kill those who are brave enough to venture into the street. It is limiting the flow of information into Iran, restricting free speech, and attempting to prevent the outside world from observing its own repression.
We support these legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people, and call on the government to allow the free exchange of ideas and information. All of us should be able to enjoy the same basic economic and political freedoms, including the right to peaceful demonstration. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the deaths to date and the arrests of at least one thousand Iranians. We have ample authorities to hold accountable those who commit violence against protestors, contribute to censorship, or steal from the people of Iran. To the regime’s victims, we say: You will not be forgotten.
― Jan. 4, 2018, in a statement
State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook
“We are encouraging all nations around the world to publicly condemn the government violence and to support the legitimate, basic rights of those protesting.”
“We know that the IRGC plays a big role in the decisions and actions of the government.”
“It doesn’t matter what we do, they will blame us. For us, this is not a complicated question. We want to take a position with moral clarity and let the protesters know they’re not alone.”
“We are actively collecting all information on human-rights abuses in Iran against peaceful protesters.”
― Jan. 1, 2018, in an interview, according to the Wall Street Journal
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
"In the New Year, our hopes and prayers are with the millions of people who are suffering terribly from oppressive governments in North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and especially in Iran, where the long-repressed Iranian people are now finding their voice. The Iranian government is being tested by its own citizens. We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day."
― Dec. 31, 2017, in a statement
"It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government, especially when that government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth... All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause." pic.twitter.com/awCXxFmpjP— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) January 2, 2018
"In these first days of 2018, nowhere is the urgency of peace, security and freedom being more tested than in Iran. By the thousands, Iranian citizens are taking to the streets to protest the oppression of their own government. It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government, especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth. So we applaud the tremendous courage of the Iranian people.
The government of Iran is actively attempting to stop social media and other forms of communication that allow their citizens' voices to be heard. So we want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people. Here are some of the messages that they are chanting today: "All these brigades have come out to the streets, they've come out against the leader," "Political prisoners must be freed," "Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic," "Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, my life only for Iran," "Let go of Syria, think of us," "We will die, but we'll take Iran back," "Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, we are all together." And in reference to the Supreme Leader "Feel some shame, let go of the country."
Those are not my words. Those are not the words of the United States. Those are the words of the brave people of Iran. Now the Iranian dictatorship is trying to do what it always does, which is to say that the protests were designed by Iran's enemies. We all know that's complete nonsense. The demonstrations are completely spontaneous. They are virtually in every city in Iran. This is the precise picture of a long oppressed people rising up against their dictators.
The international community has a role to play on this. The freedoms that are enshrined in the United Nations charter are under attack in Iran. Dozens have already been killed. Hundreds have been arrested. If the Iranian dictatorship's history is any guide, we can expect more outrageous abuses in the days to come. The UN must speak out. In the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session, both here in New York, and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom loving people must stand with their cause. The international community made the mistake of failing to do that in 2009. We must not make that mistake again."
― Jan. 2, 2018, at a press briefing
"Tomorrow the UN Security Council will discuss the troubling and dangerous situation in Iran. The world has witnessed the horrors that have taken place in Syria, that began with a murderous regime denying its people's right to peacefully protest. We must not let that happen in Iran. This is a matter of fundamental human rights for the Iranian people, but it is also a matter of international peace and security. It will be telling if any country tries to deny the Security Council from even having this discussion, just as the Iranian regime tries to deny its own people the ability to have their voices heard."
― Jan. 4, 2018, in a statement
"Thank you, Mr. President, and Happy New Year to all of the members of the Security Council and the General Assembly. In the past week, what has happened on the ground throughout the nation of Iran is something the world must take note of. It is a spontaneous expression of fundamental human rights. The Iranian people are rising up in over 79 locations throughout the country. It is a powerful exhibition of brave people who have become so fed up with their oppressive government that they’re willing to risk their lives in protest.
The world should applaud their courage. The voices of the Iranian people should be heard. We have debated the proper role of human rights in the Security Council. Some of our colleagues believe that human rights have no place here. They believe human rights and fundamental freedoms are the business only of the governments that control them.
The United States does not share that belief. Human rights are not the gift of governments. They are the inalienable right of the people themselves.
Freedom and human dignity cannot be separated from peace and security. When the rights of the people are denied, the people rightly resist. If the concerns are not acknowledged, then peace and security are inevitably threatened. We have seen that repeatedly throughout human history. The case of Syria provides a horrible recent testament to this fact.
And what is happening in the towns and cities across Iran right now bears out this fundamental truth. The Iranian regime’s contempt for the rights of its people has been widely documented for many years. The people of Iran have finally had enough, and they are showing it by taking to the streets.
The Iranian people understand the nature of their regime. They understand that their lack of voice in their government has allowed the regime to ignore them. And it has allowed the regime to spread conflict and instability far and wide.
If you listen to the slogans they chant in the street, this understanding comes through loud and clear. The United Nations reports that the Iranian regime spends at least $6 billion every year propping up the murderous Assad regime in Syria. The people of Iran know this. And so they are telling their government, “Let go of Syria.” “Think of us.”
The Iranian regime spends millions on militias in Iraq each year. It gives millions more each year to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including sending them ballistic missiles to fire at other countries. Meanwhile, the average Iranian family is 15 percent poorer today than it was 10 years ago. So the Iranian people demand, “think of us.”
The regime gives low interest loans to the elite and well-connected. It rewards construction contracts to corrupt Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp-affiliated firms. They construct buildings that skimp on safety. Thousands of these buildings collapsed during an earthquake. Hundreds died. And the Iranian people chant, “think of us.”
Today the people of Iran are speaking to their government, and their message is undeniable: Stop the support for terrorism. Stop giving billions of our money to killers and dictators. Stop taking our wealth and spending it on foreign fighters and proxy wars. Think of us.
Freedom loving nations worldwide have spread support for the cause of the Iranian people. Canada. Norway. The United Kingdom. Israel. France. Sweden. The European Union. We honor and appreciate all of these statements of support for universal human rights. But we must do more. The Iranian regime is cutting off internet access in an attempt to shut down communication among the protestors. They are attempting to silence the voice of the Iranian people. We cannot allow that to happen.
Every UN Member State is sovereign, but Member States cannot use sovereignty as a shield when they categorically deny their people human rights and fundamental freedoms. I call on all of my colleagues to join me in amplifying the message of the Iranian people. And I call on the Government of Iran to stop censoring the voice of the people and to restore the access to the internet. Because in the end, the Iranian people will determine their own destiny.
And let there be no doubt whatsoever: the United States stands unapologetically with those in Iran who seek freedom for themselves, prosperity for their families, and dignity for their nation. We will not be quiet. No dishonest attempt to call the protestors, “puppets of foreign powers,” will change that. The Iranian people know the truth. And we know the truth.
They are acting of their own will, on their own behalf, for their own future. Nothing will stop Americans from standing in solidarity with them. In 2009, the world stood by passively while the hopes of the Iranian people were crushed by their government. In 2018, we will not be silent.
Once again, the people of Iran are rising up. They are asking for something that no government can legitimately deny them: their human rights and fundamental freedoms. They are calling out, “Think of us.”
If the founding principles of this institution mean anything, we will not only hear their cry, we will finally answer it. The Iranian regime is now on notice. The world will be watching what you do."
― Jan. 5, 2018, at an emergency UN Security Council briefing on Iran
Vice President Mike Pence
(2/2)...The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not and we will not let them down. #IranProtests— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 1, 2018
.@POTUS & I stand w/ peaceful protestors in Iran who are speaking out for freedom & we condemn the arrests of innocents. The time has come for the regime in Tehran to end terrorist activities, corruption, & their disregard for human rights. #IranProtests https://t.co/PcZMk07RcB— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) December 30, 2017
"Eight-and-a-half years ago, Americans watched the people of Iran rise up to claim their birthright of freedom. In the “Green Revolution,” millions of courageous young men and women filled the streets of Tehran and Tabriz, Qazvin and Karaj, and what seemed like every city and village in between. They denounced a fraudulent election, and as the days went on, they began to demand that the unelected ayatollahs end their decades of repression and release their iron-fisted grip on Iran and her people.
Those brave protesters looked to the leader of the free world for support. But as I saw first hand as a member of Congress, the president of the United States stayed silent.
In the wake of the demonstrations and the regime’s brutal attempts to suppress them, President Barack Obama repeatedly failed to express America’s solidarity with the Iranian protesters. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I recognized the lack of action for what it was: an abdication of American leadership.
The United States has long stood with those who yearn for freedom and a brighter future, and yet the president declined to stand with a proud people who sought to escape from under the heavy weight of a dictatorship, issuing only a delayed response condemning the regime’s violence. At the same time, the United States was failing to confront the leading state sponsor of terrorism — a mistake that endangered the safety and security of the American people and our allies.
The last administration’s refusal to act ultimately emboldened Iran’s tyrannical rulers to crack down on the dissent. The Green Revolution was ruthlessly put down, and the deadly silence on the streets of Iran matched the deafening silence from the White House. To this day, many Iranians blame the United States for abandoning them in their hour of need.
Today, the Iranian people are once again rising up to demand freedom and opportunity, and under President Trump, the United States is standing with them. This time, we will not be silent.
Months before the protests started in Iran, the president predicted that the days of the Iranian regime were numbered. Speaking at the United Nations in September, he said, “The good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.” Much like another president who made similar predictions about the Soviet Union, the president was mocked.
These words now ring truer than ever. Where his predecessor stayed silent in 2009, Trump swiftly offered the Iranian people America’s unwavering support. He has also committed to provide assistance in the days ahead.
More broadly, the president declined to certify the previous administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, which flooded the regime’s coffers with tens of billions of dollars in cash — money that it could use to repress its own people and support terrorism across the wider world. We have already issued new sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the president is weighing additional actions to punish the regime for its belligerent behavior and assault on its own citizens.
The United States has spoken clearly and unequivocally. Unfortunately, many of our European partners, as well as the United Nations, have thus far failed to forcefully speak out on the growing crisis in Iran. It’s time for them to stand up. The suppression of the Green Revolution in 2009 shows the disastrous price of silence. The president and I call on leaders of freedom-loving nations across the world to condemn Iran’s unelected dictators and defend the Iranian people’s unalienable right to chart their own future and determine their own destiny.
The president has said that “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever,” and our administration will continue to support the protesters in their calls for freedom and demand that Iran’s leaders cease their dangerous and destabilizing actions at home and abroad.
We stand with the proud people of Iran because it is right, and because the regime in Tehran threatens the peace and security of the world. That is the essence of American leadership, and as the people of Iran now know, the United States is leading on the world stage for freedom once again."
― Jan. 3, 2018, in a Washington Post op-ed
Under @POTUS Trump, the people of Iran are not alone. The American people stand with them. And if they will just continue to show the courage of their convictions and reach out and embrace a free and democratic future, America and the world will be with them. #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/RmtM8QgRlY— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 3, 2018
The Obama Administration
Former Secretary of State John Kerry
With humility about how little we know about what's happening inside Iran, this much is clear: it's an Iranian moment and not anyone else's. But the rights of people to protest peacefully and voice their aspirations are universal and governments everywhere should respect that.— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) December 31, 2017
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The Iranian people, especially the young, are protesting for the freedom and future they deserve. I hope their government responds peacefully and supports their hopes.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 31, 2017
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen
"Many of us have spoken for years about the oppression that occurs in the Middle East by many, many governments, and certainly, we have great disagreements with Iran who still supports terrorism, obviously oppresses their own people. They're struggling right now with the growth in their economy that they were promised once the sanctions were lifted and so I think that's the real struggle.
What isn't very clear to me at this point is how much of a backlash this will create from those who are -- who really run that government -- the Supreme Leader as well as the IRGC, and how hard they'll come down on their people.
We certainly should be on guard for human rights violations. And I think we should be supportive of more freedoms in that country."
― Dec. 31, 2017, on ABC's This Week
House Resolution 676: Supporting Iran Protests
House Resolution 676
Supporting the rights of the people of Iran to free expression, condemning the Iranian regime for its crackdown on legitimate protests, and for other purposes.
Whereas, on December 28, 2017, popular protests against the Iranian regime began in the city of Mashad and rapidly spread throughout the country, in the most significant anti-government protests in Iran since June 2009;
Whereas the protesters have expressed numerous economic grievances, including the regime’s widespread corruption and the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ control of the country’s economy;
Whereas protesters have decried the regime’s costly, destabilizing activities abroad, including its support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the murderous Assad regime in Syria;
Whereas reports indicate that more than 1,000 Iranians have been arrested and almost two dozen killed in connection with the protests;
Whereas the Iranian regime has shut down mobile internet access and has blocked and pressured companies to cut off social media applications used by activists to organize and publicize the protests;
Whereas Congress has provided authority to license the provision of communications technology to Iran to improve the ability of the Iranian people to speak freely;
Whereas, on January 1, 2018, regime officials threatened to crack down, with Brigadier General Esmaeil Kowsari of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps stating, “If this situation continues, the officials will definitely make some decisions and at that point this business will be finished.”;
Whereas Congress has provided authority to designate and sanction elements of the Iranian regime involved in significant corruption and serious human rights abuses;
Whereas Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Basij militia have been sanctioned by the United States for planning and carrying out serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, including for the cruel and prolonged torture of political dissidents;
Whereas the regime has routinely violated the human rights of Iranian citizens, including ongoing, systematic, and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of opinion and expression, including the continuing closures of media outlets, arrests of journalists, and the censorship of expression in online forums such as blogs and websites;
Whereas the Department of State’s 2016 Human Rights Report on Iran noted “severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, association, speech, religion, and press. Other human rights problems included abuse of due process combined with use of capital punishment for crimes that do not meet the requirements of due process, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.”;
Whereas, on December 29, 2017, the Department of State strongly condemned the arrest of peaceful protesters and noted that “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”;
Whereas, on January 1, 2018, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, stated that “The UK is watching events in Iran closely. We believe that there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this.”;
Whereas, on January 2, 2018, the French Foreign Ministry stated that “French authorities are closely monitoring the situation in Iran. Demonstrating freely is a fundamental right. The same is true for the free movement of information. France expresses its concern over the large number of victims and arrests.”;
Whereas, on January 1, 2018, a spokesman for the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “We call on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights” and “We are encouraged by the Iranian people who are bravely exercising their basic right to protest peacefully. Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of the Iranians, including freedom of expression.”;
Whereas Iran is a member of the United Nations, voted for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other international human rights treaties; and
Whereas, in violation of these and other international obligations, Iranian regime officials continue to violate the fundamental human rights of the Iranian people: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) stands with the people of Iran that are engaged in legitimate and peaceful protests against an oppressive, corrupt regime;
(2) condemns the Iranian regime’s serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, significant corruption, and destabilizing activities abroad;
(3) notes the statements of support for the protestors from key allies and calls on all democratic governments and institutions to clearly support the Iranian people’s right to live in a free society;
(4) demands that the Iranian regime abide by its international obligations with respect to human rights and civil liberties, including freedoms of assembly, speech, and press;
(5) urges the Administration to use targeted sanctions and work to convene emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian regime and establish a mechanism by which the Security Council can monitor such violations;
(6) encourages the Administration to expedite the license of communications technology to Iran to improve the ability of the Iranian people to speak freely;
(7) calls on companies to reject requests by the regime to cut off the Iranian people from social media and other communications platforms;
(8) respects the proud history and rich culture of the Iranian nation and fully supports efforts by the people of Iran to promote the establishment of basic freedoms that build the foundation for the emergence of a freely elected, open, and democratic political system; and
(9) urges the President and the Secretary of State to work with the international community to ensure that violations of human rights are part of all formal and informal multilateral or bilateral discussions with and regarding Iran.
― Passed Jan. 9, 2018
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
The fight against the Iranian regime is the world’s fight. The long-oppressed Iranian people are right to raise their voices against the regime. We must support their quest to chart their own future and determine their own destiny. https://t.co/KDG2TVEvPW— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 5, 2018
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA)
"Today we stand with the people of Iran, who are engaged in legitimate protests against an oppressive, corrupt regime.
This is a great people. It was the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, who is credited with drafting the first declaration of human rights – the Cyrus Cylinder.
This was a document meant to protect other cultures, and it secured a special place in the history of civilization. His humanitarian values of freedom for all people, respect for culture and religious diversity, and recognition of the fact that it is better to be loved than be feared – these are remarkable attributes for any ruler.
Indeed, we who live in free societies owe a great debt to the Iranian people. They are the heirs to the Persian culture. Cyrus’ values and ideas for governance inspired the European Enlightenment leaders and our own Founding Fathers, who wove these same ideals into the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson owned two copies of the “Cyropedia,” a book of histories by the Greek historian Xenophon that told the story of this great king.
It is amazing that Iranians at this moment enjoy far fewer rights than their forefathers did. Cyrus was lauded for the protections he offered religious and ethnic minorities. The regime in Iran has steadily increased its discriminatory practices and repression of the country’s ethnic and religious minority populations – from Azerbaijanis to Baluchs, from the Kurds and the Arabs to the Baha’is and Christians and Zoroastrians. Iranian authorities routinely deny its citizens the most basic human rights through harassment, intimidation, detention and violence.
The young Persians and minorities who have suffered in the prison system in Iran can tell you just how horrible that violence can be. The Iranian regime violates its own international obligations routinely. We must help bring attention to the oppressiveness of the Iranian regime, and the young people who yearn for human rights and the true, celebrated culture of the Persian people.
As this resolution makes clear, the United States House of Representatives fully supports those who have taken to the streets in Iran to exercise the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly. We join them in the hope that their bravery will build the foundation for the emergence of a freely elected, open and democratic political system in Iran.
It is a moral imperative to support those who risk their lives demanding the freedoms that people in free societies enjoy every day. That’s why this resolution calls on all democratic governments and institutions, worldwide, to join us in clearly supporting the Iranian people’s right to live in a free society.
We all face a clear choice: stand with the protestors – who demand the basic rights and opportunities enjoyed in free societies – or stand with their oppressors – who steal the wealth of a great nation to enrich themselves and to fund violence abroad.
Supporting the people of Iran is also a strategic imperative. These brave men and women are standing up against the Revolutionary Guards’ violent intervention in Syria and Lebanon. We must join them in demanding an end to the single greatest source of instability in the Middle East.
In standing with the Iranian people, we must explain that they are not the target of our sanctions. U.S. sanctions target the oppressive, destabilizing regime, not the people of Iran.
That’s why – as this resolution makes clear – Congress has provided authority to license communications technology that improves the ability of the Iranian people to speak freely. Today, we call on the agencies involved to expedite those licenses. U.S. international broadcasting must also turn up the volume of its efforts in Iran, conveying a message of hope and support that includes this debate, today, in the American people’s House. Iranians must know that they are not alone in their struggle for freedom.
We also call on companies to reject requests by the regime to cut off the Iranian people from social media. These technologies are at their best when they are used to empower people and undermine the efforts of oppressive regimes.
There is more that we can do. I welcome Chairman McCaul and Congressman Deutch’s introduction of bipartisan legislation that will give the administration greater leverage to target those responsible for ordering and carrying out human rights abuses in Iran. This includes the regime’s practice of holding Americans and other foreigners hostage. Many of the regime’s hostages are people of Iranian descent who came to visit family members and loved ones.
I am also working to introduce legislation that has the same goal as those who have bravely taken to the streets in Iran – to push the corrupt Revolutionary Guards out of the Iranian economy. In doing so, it seeks to deny the Guards the funds they use to hold power over the Iranian people while destabilizing Syria and Lebanon.
Mr. Speaker, Congress and the administration have a great opportunity. We must work together on an approach to Iran that empowers the Iranian people and targets the corrupt regime, which oppresses a great people. We cannot be quiet. With the passage of this resolution, we state that America stands with the Iranian people."
― Jan. 9, 2018, remarks at a vote for a House resolution supporting Iran protests
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Watching events in Iran with great concern over violence against and arrest of peaceful protestors. We stand with the people in Iran and their right to peacefully assemble, petition their government and choose their leaders in a democratic process free from fraud and interference— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 31, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
The Iranian people should have the right to protest without fear of intimidation & violence from their own government. #IranProtest— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 3, 2018
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
I call on the Govt of Iran to respect the right of its citizens to peacefully protest. I also urge the Trump Administration to explore options for sending signals of support to the Iranian people. #backtowork pic.twitter.com/eyQ1tXubpB— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) January 2, 2018
“As protests in Iran continue, I support the legitimate desires of the Iranian people for dignity and fundamental freedoms, economic opportunity, and a government that is responsive to its citizens. The ability to peacefully protest is a universal right, and I applaud the courage and commitment of Iran’s citizens across the country who have taken to the streets to call for reform despite the risks of violence and government-directed repression.
I extend my condolences to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives in pursuit of change and freedom.
I call on the Government of Iran to respect the right of its citizens to peacefully protest. The most effective government response is to acknowledge the economic grievances and concerns expressed by the protestors and to immediately take steps to respond, such as ending the entrenched system of corruption and halting programs of state-sponsored terrorism that deprive the vast majority of Iran’s people of government resources and economic opportunities.
The world is closely watching how Iranian officials respond to the legitimate calls of Iran’s citizens for reform. If the response is violence, repression, and imprisonment, the United States has tools to target human rights abusers – these include sanctions authorized in the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
I also urge the Administration to explore options for sending signals of support to the Iranian people. A good start would be immediately removing Iran from the travel ban.”
― Jan. 2, 2018, in a statement
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
As 2017 ends, we see people asserting themselves around the globe, demanding human rights and equality. Hong Kong, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, Honduras. Same energy in US—marches, citizen activism, strong electoral turnout. My wish for 2018: Resistance becomes Renewal!— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) December 31, 2017
Big step US could take to support democracy movement in Iran: Drop the Iranian travel ban.— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) January 1, 2018
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Inspiring to see ordinary people in #IranProtest exercise their fundamental right to protest their govt, especially one whose brutality has ruined so many lives. All over the world I applaud those peacefully advocating for basic rights & demanding accountability from their govt.— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) January 1, 2018
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
The Iranian people are bravely and peacefully taking to the streets to reject an oppressive regime that denies their basic human rights.— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) January 2, 2018
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
The coming days will be noteworthy as we wait to see if hardliners in #Iran use the #IranProtests as an excuse to promote even more aggressive policies toward the West and tighten their grip further on the country and its economy.— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) January 3, 2018
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)
“Even after the billions in sanctions relief they secured through the nuclear deal, the ayatollahs still can't provide for the basic needs of their own people-perhaps because they've funneled so much of that money into their campaign of regional aggression in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The protests in Mashhad show that a regime driven by such a hateful ideology cannot maintain broad popular support forever, and we should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives to speak out against it."
― Dec. 28, 2017, in a statement
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
"Well, it tells us that the Obama approach of relieving sanctions, hoping the regime would moderate, has failed. The people are not getting the benefit of sanctions relief. They're more upset with their oppressors than ever. The money from sanction relief has gone into rebuilding the Iranian military, and they're destabilizing the Mideast."
"If I were Trump I'd do the exact opposite of Obama. Obama said, "I don't want to get involved, I don't want mess up the chance of getting a deal with Iran." Well, the deal with Iran hasn't worked. The money didn't go to benefit the people, it went to benefit the Ayatollah and his henchmen.
The Iranian people are not our enemy. The Ayatollah is the enemy of the world. Here's what I would do if I was President Trump. I would explain what I-- what a better deal would look like. It's not enough to watch. President Trump is tweeting-- very sympathetically to the Iranian people. But you just can't tweet here. You have to lay out a plan.
And if I were President Trump I'd lay out a plan as to how I would engage the regime. I would tell the Europeans and the Congress and the world that America's going to withdraw from this agreement unless it's a better deal, and I'd lay out what a better deal would look like. And I would stand with the Iranian people the entire time."
― Dec. 31, 2017, on CBS's Face the Nation
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
Today, I introduced a resolution on the #IranProtests with @SenatorCardin. We support the right of Iranians to have their voices heard and condemn the regime for its long history of human rights abuses. Read more: https://t.co/vonwt4Rm10— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 4, 2018
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
“This is a pivotal moment for the future of Iran. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution, which affords an opportunity for the United States Senate to formally declare its support for the citizens of Iran in their pursuit for freedom against the repressive, tyrannical Iranian regime. The Iranians protesting in the streets and standing up to the brutal forces of the regime recognize their government has prioritized the export of terror throughout the Middle East over the welfare of its citizens. Chants of, ‘we don’t want an Islamic Republic,’ and ‘not Gaza, not Lebanon,’ reverberate throughout the nation. This organic uprising is nothing less than a vote of no confidence in the Islamic Republic, its leaders, and its foreign policy.
The Iranian people want their country back.
America is in a position to lead not only by vocally standing with the Iranian people, but also by taking swift, decisive action to re-impose sanctions targeting the regime. The mullahs have shut down social media throughout Iran, revealing their acute fear of the power of truth; the U.S. must ensure those who have facilitated the censorship of Iranian people, a sanctionable act under U.S. law, are held accountable.
The Trump Administration has rightfully withheld certification of Iran’s compliance to the nuclear deal, expressly stating that U.S. sanctions relief is not appropriate or proportional to the measures taken by Iran to terminate its nuclear weapons program. Yet, the U.S. has continued to grant relief from sanctions, the same relief that lines the coffers of the Ayatollah and is used by the Central Bank of Iran to sow domestic instability and subsidize terror. In the upcoming weeks, the Administration will issue a series of determinations on whether to continue waiving statutory sanctions. These decisions will have a direct impact on the people of Iran. If the U.S. continues to issue waivers, America runs the risk of bearing responsibility for Iran’s mayhem and malign activity carried out with the dollars we provide. It is my hope we stand shoulder to shoulder with the protestors and pursue a strategy to advance the will of the people."
― Jan. 5, 2018, in a statement
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
#IranProtest result of regime that spent billions of $ to prop up Hezbollah, Assad & Huthi missiles instead of prosperity for own people— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 2, 2018
Will you join me in standing with the Iranian people against the brutal regime that oppresses them and threatens America and our allies? https://t.co/eIb3MT6Roj— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 5, 2018
Any regime that goes to such great lengths to silence its citizens cannot claim that it exists to support them #IranProtests— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 5, 2018
As the #IranProtests continue, we strongly support the Iranian people's right to peacefully speak out against the dictatorial regime's corruption and political repression. Demonstrators want freedom to provide for their families and their futures.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 5, 2018
Click here for a timeline on the protests.
Click here for Iranian officials' reactions to the protests.
Mattisan Rowan, a program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace, contributed to this report.