Key U.S. lawmakers are rebuking Iran for its human rights record in the aftermath of the death of a young woman while held in captivity by the country’s morality police for failing to properly cover her hair with a hijab.
The lawmakers rebuffed claims by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in his speech Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly that Tehran supports human rights.
Raisi did not mention the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, and the protests that have erupted over her death, but rather assailed what he characterized as oppression, injustice and human rights violations in Western countries, including the United States.
Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen told VOA’s Persian Service, “What’s happening in Iran, generally, is an outrageous treatment of its people. And then you have this, these attacks on Iranian women … a woman who was killed for not conforming” to a religious edict “with respect to her hair in a veil.”
“It’s just another example of the atrocious human rights record in Iran,” Van Hollen said.
Senator Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Raisi, in claiming that Tehran supports human rights, “lives in a parallel, alternative universe” detached from reality.
“The death of this young 22-year-old woman by the morality police in Iran is an example that that is not about human rights,” he said. “It’s not about human rights when Iranian women cannot fully enjoy their place in Iranian society. It’s not about human rights when you use your money not to help feed the people, but to arm different groups who create acts of terrorism.”
Republican Senator Rob Portman said he thought it was “a strange time” for Raisi to claim that Iran supports human rights in the wake of Amini’s death.
“So, the facts are the facts, and the people in Iran know what’s going on,” Portman said.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said, “Iran pretends like it’s a democracy, but it isn’t. They don’t have rights. And there’s only so long the people will put up with their desire to be free and to express their opinion to be crushed like it has in Iran.”
“I worry about what’s going to happen to these protesters,” he added. “They’re speaking up. The kind of repression we’ve seen in the past has been brutal. But I’m proud of anybody in this world who speaks up for … their dignity.”
In his speech at the U.N., Raisi condemned abuses by Canada against Indigenous people, the United States for its treatment of migrants and Israel for its relations with Palestinians, while saying nothing of abuses in his own country.
“Human rights belong to all but are unfortunately trampled upon by other governments,” Raisi said. “We believe any oppressive action is a threat to world peace and stability. America cannot stand that some countries are able to stand on their own two feet.”