As Protests Shake Iranian Regime, Iranian Americans Demand Meeting With Biden Admin

Iranians protesting water shortages in Nov. 2021 / Getty Images
November 30, 2021

Amid a wave of protests in Iran over mass water shortages that has shaken the Iranian regime, an Iranian-American group is petitioning the Biden State Department for an immediate sit-down about ways to hold the regime accountable for its violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

The National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), a nonpartisan organization of Iranian Americans that promotes human rights in Iran, says the latest mass protests—and the Iranian regime's violent crackdown—represent a watershed moment in the Iranian people's efforts to depose the hardline clerical regime. The government has already shot at protesters on the street and shut down the country's internet to stop the spread of information and prevent the rise of more protests.

NUFDI says it has tried on multiple occasions to meet with U.S.-Iran envoy Robert Malley but that those overtures have been rebuffed. The group warned the Biden administration in recent weeks that ongoing protests were likely to boil over and prompt a violent response from Iran's hardline government. The Biden administration "ignored those warnings," according to a letter sent on Monday by NUFDI to the State Department and White House and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Pressure is now mounting on the Biden administration to address Iran's mass human rights abuses just a day after it restarted diplomatic talks with the regime aimed at securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord. Those talks have led activists and Republicans in Congress to accuse the administration of prioritizing the nuclear deal ahead of human rights and democracy for the Iranian people. Groups like NUFDI are pressing for additional sanctions on the Iranian government, but such sanctions are unlikely to happen as the Biden administration negotiates with Iran. The United States has already waived some sanctions on Tehran to cajole the Islamist regime back to the bargaining table, and the State Department has said it is prepared to unwind every sanction that was applied by the Trump administration. Iran should be forced to address human rights during its talks with the United States, and if it does not, American should walk away from negotiations, NUFDI says.

"We, and countless others even from inside Iran, have written before to warn you of impending bloodshed caused by a regime crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Thus far, you have ignored those warnings. Now is the time to act," NUFDI wrote in its letter. "First, we call on you to hold an immediate roundtable of Iranian-Americans including pro-democracy activists, dissidents, and experts to discuss the unfolding situation in Iran and how the United States can help. Thus far our multiple attempts to meet with Mr. Malley have been unsuccessful."

NUFDI says that under the Biden administration's leadership, "Iran has been reduced to a mere nuclear file. The ongoing crimes against humanity and the Iranian people's widespread campaign for freedom have been roundly ignored." The group is demanding the administration "enforce all current human rights-related sanctions" and immediately investigate the Iranian regime's violent crackdown on protesters, which most recently has included firing on citizens in Isfahan and shutting down the internet to stop the flow of information.

The Biden administration should restart efforts launched by the Trump administration aimed at increasing the Iranian people's access to internet so that they can report the regime's ongoing crimes, according to NUFDI.

The group also urges the Biden administration to avoid a repeat of the Obama administration's much-criticized decision to refrain from backing protesters when in 2009 they threatened to topple the ruling regime, a time known as the Green Revolution. NUFDI also says that promoting human rights should not conflict with the administration's bid to ink a new nuclear deal.

"After the Obama administration ignored the Iranian people's pleas for solidarity in 2009, many of your former colleagues have since expressed regret at the bloodshed their inaction helped cause," the letter states. "As the regime opens fire on peaceful protesters in Isfahan, we hope you will not have the same regrets."

Iranian Americans for Liberty, a fellow advocacy group, last week also raised the human rights issue and called on the Biden administration to take a more active role in supporting protesters.

Asked about the ongoing protests, a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon that the department is "closely following" events and blamed the Iranian government for mismanaging the country's economy.

"Years of government neglect and mismanagement of water resources have exacerbated the worst drought Iran has faced in at least 50 years," the spokesman said. "The Iranian people have a right to freely voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable."