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Opinion June 30, 2009 //  by  // Comments

STAFF EDITORIAL: Iranian protests display importance of free speech

Iran’s hard-line government has shown Americans just how lucky we are to have the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights.

In response to allegations that Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected by fraud, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ruled out a re-vote and sent out goons to quiet protestors in the street. Iranian senior hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, suggested protest leaders receive severe punishment or execution for expressing their opinions.

Khatami is not balking. Iran ranked No. 2 in the world in executions last year according to Amnesty International.

So far, the crackdown has worked well. Iranian supporters of Ahmadinejad’s opponent, Mir -Hossein Mousavi, have stayed out of the streets because they don’t want to be beaten or killed.

Some protestors have found other ways to show their support, shouting ‘God is great’ in various languages from the top of their homes. This chant was also practiced during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, causing concern among Ahmadinejad and the hard-line government’s supporters. Members of the Basij, Iran’s pro-government militia, have been trashing neighborhoods, raiding homes and beating residents in an attempt to stop the chanting, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.

The governments of many countries still don’t believe in voicing the people’s opinions. Those who live in these places must agree with one way of thinking or face grave consequences.

This once again reminds us of our First Amendment rights. The U.S. doesn’t use a pro-government militia to punish people who scream ‘God is great’ from their rooftops.

The U.S. government did not threaten people who protested the results of the 2000 election. Think about what would have happened if we had a government that punished Al Gore’s supporters for voicing their opinions.

We must accept that Iran is different from the U.S. Until Iranians revolt, chances for change in Iran’s policies on protests against its government are slim.


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