US academics urge Biden to act in response to Iranian protest crackdown
More than 2,000 academics from hundreds of universities in the U.S. are urging President Joe Biden to act in response to a crackdown by the Iranian regime against protests at the country’s universities, calling on Biden to halt any negotiations with the regime.
'Iran has a rich history of student movements who have been at the forefront of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy, both under the dictatorship of the Shah and the current totalitarian theocracy,' they write. 'Under both regimes, university students have suffered significant casualties when security forces violently crushed their peaceful protests. We are writing to you to take urgent action to prevent such casualties and loss of life this time.'
The signatories on the letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, include more than 425 Iranian-American professors and 10 American Nobel laureates.
Demonstrations erupted in the Islamic republic after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She had been arrested by the Iranian morality police for not wearing a hijab correctly.
The Sharif University of Technology has emerged as one of the key hubs for the resultant nationwide protests that have shaken the regime. Authorities have been violently cracking down on the protests since early last month — which drew the condemnation of many in the international world, including President Biden. Crowds across the country have chanted 'Death to Khamenei!' and 'Death to the dictator!' referring to Iran's supreme leader.
In a statement, Biden said he was 'gravely concerned' about the violence by the Iranian authorities.
'For decades, Iran’s regime has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery,' he said.
He also touted efforts his administration is taking to make it easier for Iranians to access the internet, as well as moves to hold Iranian officials accountable for human rights abuses.
But the academics are calling for more, citing reports of hundreds of deaths and disappearances of 'thousands' of students who have been involved in the uprisings. Security forces have sought to quash dissent, killing at least 270 people and arresting some 14,000, according to rights groups. Demonstrations have continued even as the feared paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has warned young Iranians to stop.
The academics call Biden’s actions 'commendable' but insufficient.
'We urgently ask that you halt any and all negotiations with the Iranian regime, and prevent any sanctions relief under any pretext, directly or indirectly, until all violators of human rights in Iran are held accountable,' they say. 'We also ask you to recognize the universally accepted right of the Iranian people to self-defense as they seek to attain sovereignty and self-determination.'
A National Security Council spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration, with partners, is 'moving urgently through unilateral actions, multilateral measures, and UN mechanisms to hold Iran accountable for violence against its own population, particularly women and girls.'
They continued 'In the last week, the United States, the European Union, and Canada have sanctioned more Iranian officials for the ongoing crackdown. We have hosted a UN dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, welcomed the joint statement by women foreign ministers on events in Iran, and supported Germany’s recalibration of their Iran policy.'
Additionally, the spokesman highlighted the administration's call on Thursday to push for 'the immediate expulsion of the Islamic Republic from the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The U.S. Government will take action to ensure Iran is removed.'
The Biden administration had sought to engage in talks with Iran to re-enter the Iranian nuclear deal, from which the Trump administration had withdrawn. However, those talks have broken down. A top official recently said the U.S. will not 'waste time' on trying to revive talks with Iran in light of its crackdown on protests and its support of Russia.
'I think people have to understand that we’re not tying our hands because of ... this hope that someday maybe there'll be a deal,' U.S. envoy for Iran Rob Malley said. 'No, we are taking action. We're not waiting. We're taking the action that we think is consistent and necessary to promote our values and our national security interests.'
Fox News' Bradford Betz, Anders Hagstrom and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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