In just two weeks, February 11, supporters of the Iranian regime will celebrate the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. And while the celebrations will no doubt dominate the reports of the official news agency, hundreds of cell-phone cameras and thousands of Twitter messages will be covering massive demonstrations by the Iranian opposition.
These brave men and women are marching in the streets despite clear death threats from the cruel theocratic regime that rules Iran with an iron fist. Mohammad Najjar, Iran’s Interior Minister, has said on official television that opposition followers who demonstrate will be treated the same as if they were “engaged in terror and actions against national security,” which is punishable by death in Iran. The opposition demonstrators, he said, “are terrorists and it is clear how one must deal with them. I ordered the police to show no mercy.”
Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were hanged by the Iranian government. They the two latest victims murdered by the Iranian regime for standing up to their oppressors.
This brutal attitude of Iran’s top leaders extends to its other victims. The Iranian regime is one of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world. Open Doors, an organization that monitors persecution against Christians, reports that Iran’s record is second only to North Korea’s. Iran’s wave of arrests of Christians in 2009 may be an attempt by the Iranian government to distract attention from its internal problems, such as the demonstrations in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent elections last June.
According to the Open Doors report, most of those arrested faced mistreatment in prison. Once released, Christians’ court cases remain pending and the persecuted subject to sentencing at any time. The regime monitors and threatens those Christians it releases from prison. Believers face discrimination and can have difficulty finding and keeping jobs.
As Christians are persecuted, and as peaceful opposition demonstrators are beaten, jailed and even killed, whose side will our own elected officials take?
We cannot allow a brutal regime that has killed peaceful demonstrators, armed and trained Hizballah terrorists who have led operations against US forces in Iraq, and launched thousands of Katyusha rockets against Israel – which it has vowed to destroy – to conduct business-as-usual.
Whether directly or by proxy, Iran has made it perfectly clear it will use the weapons in its arsenal against Israel and the West. We should believe them.
The House of Representatives has acted. By a vote of 412-to-12, the House passed a measure instituting sanctions that would curtail shipments of refined petroleum products such as gasoline into Iran. Despite having some of the world’s largest oil reserves, the regime has not been able to build and maintain refining capabilities. Iran currently imports 40 percent of its gasoline.
The Senate sent a powerful signal to the Iranian regime by passing on a bipartisan vote a new comprehensive Iran sanctions bill on January 29.
Such a vote demonstrates to the people of Iran — peaceful Muslims and persecuted Christians alike — that the free world stands with those who seek a path of freedom and peace, and who reject the bitter, violent path down which this brutal regime is forcing its fellow citizens.
The problem, of course, is that sanctions have not yet worked against Iran, and the prospect of them working now is quite remote. How long they can be given, before other action is needed?