Rep. Keith Ellison has been vocal in recent weeks about the plight of the people of Iran, many of whom are taking to the streets demanding increased freedoms under a totalitarian government. In December, Ellison introduced a bill imposing stricter sanctions on Iran, and now he’s urging Minnesotans to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran.
“This crackdown in Iran is not only in violation of Iran’s international obligations but also a violation of Iran’s own Constitution,” Ellison told the Minnesota Independent. “The United States should demonstrate strong support for the universal human rights to which all Iranians are entitled by working with the international community to continue to press for accountability for Iran’s human rights abuses.”
To that end, Ellison has introduced the Stand with the Iranian People Act (SWIPA). An important part of that bill would prohibit the United States from contracting with businesses that provide censorship or surveillance tools to the Iranian government.
With massive protests captured on YouTube and organized through Twitter, access to communications is critical, the Minneapolis Democrat said.
In an email to his colleagues in the House, Ellison said the bill “targets human rights abusers within the Iranian government and eliminates US government funding for companies that supply Iran with cyber spying and internet censorship technology.”
Ellison told MnIndy that standing with the Iranian people is crucial as they demand rights. “To me it’s a continued human rights issue, a civil rights issue,” he said. “The protests are going to transform their government. And it’s a struggle that’s fraught with danger.”
The Unites States has imposed sanctions on Iran. Ellison’s bill would allow nongovernmental organizations from the United States to provide support for the people while maintaining strong sanctions against the regime and the Revolutionary Guard.
“The Revolutionary Guard is responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering. They have executed gays, for instance. They have executed anyone who speaks out.”
And Ellison says Americans – and Minnesotans – need to speak out as well.
“The regime needs to know the American people are against them.”
To get the word out, Ellison says, “Support SWIPA, hold teach-ins, write about the protests on blogs. Show solidarity with the people of Iran.”
As Iranians marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, protests met with massive state crackdowns. Ellison said he stands with those protesters.
“We are witnessing a brave struggle by the Iranian people to demand their basic rights,” he said. “I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran who are demanding their right to freedom of expression, assembly, and conscience.”