U.S. President Joe Biden has called on Iranian leaders to end the violence against their own citizens who have taken part in antiestablishment protests in past weeks triggered by the death of a young woman following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.
Women “should be able to wear in God’s name what they want to wear,” he said on October 14 during a speech in California. “Iran has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights.”
Biden said he was “stunned” by the mass protests in Iran, which has seen its biggest wave of demonstrations in years following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Many have taken to the streets in the past four weeks, chanting, “Death to the dictator!” while calling for women’s rights and freedom.
“I want you to know that we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran,” Biden said.
“It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. It awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted for a long, long time,” Biden said in his remarks.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the courage of anti-government protesters in Iran as he met on October 14 in Washington with activists originally from the country.
The protesters have shown “remarkable displays of courage throughout Iran as women, young people, and many others continue to stand up for the fundamental rights that continue to be denied them by the Iranian regime,” Blinken said as he opened a meeting with activists at the State Department.
Participants in the meeting included the actress Nazanin Boniadi, writer Roya Hakakian, and gender equality activist Sherry Hakimi.
“In the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death and the spontaneous demonstration of outrage that this has produced, I think we are seeing something that is quite remarkable throughout the country, led primarily by women and young people,” Blinken said.
Human rights organizations have said at least 201 people have been killed in a crackdown by security forces.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has accused the United States of whipping up the protests to destabilize Iran.
“If that’s the case, if they genuinely believe that, they fundamentally — fundamentally — do not understand their own people,” Blinken said.
Blinken was joined by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rob Malley, the U.S. envoy to Iran who has led months of talks in a bid to restore a 2015 nuclear accord.
Hakakian said the group urged the United States to halt the talks.
“Our suggestion unanimously was to stop the nuclear talks until the violence stops. And I think everybody heard us loud and clear,” she told National Public Radio after the meeting.