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BROWNBACK: Calls for U.S. and EU to address human rights

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 10:49 am    Post subject: BROWNBACK: Calls for U.S. and EU to address human rights Reply with quote



Contact Brian Hart/Aaron Groote

June 16, 2005


Calls for U.S. and EU to address human rights and plight of women

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Sam Brownback decried Iran for human rights violations and second-class treatment of women and called on Iran to hold true and fair democratic elections. Brownback, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, called on the United States and the European Union to become more active in protecting human rights in Iran. Brownback delivered the following speech from the Senate floor tonight:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on an issue that is of great importance to me and an

issue that should be discussed more broadly by the United States and our European partners. I come to speak about the crisis in Iran– but the crisis I want to discuss today is not the nuclear crisis. The crisis is that of the human rights situation that faces millions of Iranians every day. While almost every Iranian feels the oppression of the regime, today I will focus on Iranian women who are victims at the hands of the regime by virtue of their gender.

I am mindful of the hardship faced by individuals living under authoritarian regimes or dictatorships. Across the board, Iran’s human rights record is dismal. The Iranian regime employs all of the levers of power to crush dissent, resorting in every form of persecution -- even so far as execution. No effort is spared to silence opposition.

In some ways Iran is a porous society, with information flowing in and out via the Internet, telephone, and even satellite broadcasting. My office has received e-mails and pictures from individuals in Iran, a far different mechanism for communication than can be found in other tyrannical regimes around the world. Despite the porous society, the regime continues to clamp down on independent media.

In the absence of any meaningful accountability, the government of Iran’s dismal rights record has actually worsened, according to the State Department’s latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Severe restrictions are placed on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. With respect to religion, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has concluded that, “the government of Iran engages in or tolerates systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.” Accordingly, the State Department has designated Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern” each year since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Tom Brokaw recently traveled to Iran and reported on women attempting to rebel against the Mullahs’ strict laws by wearing colorful head scarves. One of the women he interviewed, however, suggested that pink lipstick and a matching head scarf were pushing the outer limits for Iranian women. It is evident that, despite the porous borders, the Iranian Mullahs continue to oppress their people and women and children undoubtedly suffer the most.

Here are a few examples of the gender apartheid that currently exists in Iran that I received from the Alliance for Iranian Women:

The State Department has reported that, “The testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man in court. The blood money paid to the family of a female crime victim is half the sum paid for a man. A married woman must obtain written consent of her husband before traveling outside the country.”

In his book, Ayatollah Khomeini requires young girls to be married before they reach puberty.

A woman does not have the right to divorce her husband, but a man can divorce his wife any time he wishes and without her knowledge.

Men are allowed to marry four wives and have as many temporary wives as they want and may end the contract at any time. Temporary marriage is often viewed as the Islamic Republic’s way of sanctioning male promiscuity outside of marriage.

Mothers do not get custody of their children when husbands divorce them

A widow does not get the custody of her children after the death of her husband. The children will be given to the paternal grandparents or relatives and the mother has no right to visitation. If the husband has no family, the mullah of the community takes the custody of the child.

Daughters get half the inheritance than that of sons.

Iran is rated as a Tier 2 country in this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report. The report states, “Boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran to Gulf states, where they are ultimately forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or laborers. Afghan women and girls are trafficked to Iran for sexual exploitation, and for sexual and labor exploitation in the context of forced marriage.” It was also reported earlier this year that an 18-year handicapped girl, with the mental capacity of an 8-year old, received a death sentence after her parents forced her into prostitution.

Unfortunately, these stories are far too common. The international community has focused significant amounts of attention on the growing nuclear and terrorism threat that Iran poses to countries like Israel and the U.S. While this is an important focus of U.S. foreign policy, I remain concerned that it could be a short-sighted approach if not coupled with democracy and human rights promotion. If we are to focus simply on proliferation issues and not human rights and democracy, the procurement of such weapons will be left in the hands of tyrants. It is my belief that we should simultaneously build civil society, promote human rights and back the young generation of Iranians who are disillusioned and want change through a referendum.

The country’s security and intelligence services are pervasive. As a result, a small circle of clerics – headed by the Supreme Leader – maintains a virtual monopoly of power in Iran. In the face of this abusive regime, courageous individuals and groups do seek change, often at great personal risk.

I have come to the Senate floor just days before the Iranian presidential elections. These elections hold no hope of change for the people. They are elections that will be boycotted in protest and they are elections that have been manipulated by the Supreme Leader and Council of Guardians. Just last week women in Iran staged a sit-in to protest the disqualification of women from running in the elections. The people of Iran want change. That change will not come through elections, but it will come through strong international support for the very people that protest and boycott the elections.

Iran has a young and vibrant base that, with the support of the international community, could promote major change in Iran and in the region. I would encourage the Iranian-American community to unite and build a strong coalition to further the promotion of democracy and fundamental respect for human rights in Iran. I would encourage members of this body to continuously speak up on behalf of the oppressed in Iran and voice strong support for the people who so desperately want to see democracy flourish.

Sam Brownback
United States Senator - Kansas
303 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-6521

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