A chance to stand tall against Iran on human rights

When I was incarcerated in Iran’s Evin prison last year on a trumped-up charge of espionage, I was fortunate that my case received a great deal of international attention. I was not aware of the extent of this attention until the day my interrogator allowed me to lift my blindfold to see a pile of news articles on a desk in front of me. As he read aloud the names of journalism and human rights organizations, Iranian-American groups and others that had been calling for my freedom, I realized he was trying to scare me into thinking that this outcry was bad for me. But suddenly I no longer felt so alone. Friends and strangers were standing with me, and I didn’t have to face my captors by myself anymore. I believe the pressure from this international support eventually persuaded Iranian authorities to free me one year ago this week.

Why should those who are free to speak out voice support for Iranians struggling to make their voices heard? Because people everywhere — even those who hold different ideas about what it means to be free — share many basic values, such as the right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of religion; because many ordinary Iranians want a more democratic government that respects human rights; and because what happens in Iran will affect the region and what happens in the region will affect the world.

As the international community focuses on Iran’s nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. …

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