Congress Supports Protesters, Condemns Government

January 9, 2018

On January 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in support of Iranians “engaged in legitimate and peaceful protests.” It also condemned the government’s human rights abuses and urged the Trump Administration to sanction those responsible for violations. Republicans and Democrats supported the resolution in a 415-2 vote. More than 20 people have been killed and more than 3,000 have reportedly been arrested since demonstrations erupted on December 28, 2017. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets to protest rising prices and government corruption. The following is the full text of the legislation, a floor statement by the author of House Resolution 676, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and Iran's response. 


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.


House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman 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.”


Iranian Reaction

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi

"The interventionist resolution passed by the U.S. Congress is rejected, and is completely reprehensible and unacceptable." 

"Actions such as the adoption of this resolution as well as the hostile comments and moves by that country's government against the noble Iranian nation, which emanate from U.S. rulers' acquisitive and domineering nature, have always been known to wise Iranian people, and are undoubtedly a failed policy." 

"Such repeated, theatrical and politically-tainted resolutions show the nature of the meddlesome U.S. regime, which the great Iranian nation has witnessed time and again over the past decade." 

"On the one hand, the U.S. government, in a hypocritical move and by chanting utterly false slogans, claims to be supporting the Iranian people, and on the other hand, taunts the civilized Iranian nation by imposing unfair sanctions, barring Iranian nationals from entering the country, and showing other malicious behaviours." 

"But U.S. authorities need to learn once more that the ever-glorious Iranian nation is keeping a close watch on such policies, double standards and hostile approaches [adopted by Washington] against their country, and if need be, will respond to such injudicious actions in due time." 

― Jan. 10, 2018, in a statement