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    Support Freedom for Iran

    A message from Witherspoon’s Vaughan Senior Fellow Robert P. George together with the current and former chairs of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

    January 4, 2018

    To the people of Iran:

    We are Americans each of whom has chaired the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.  Each of us has, moreover, publicly advocated for the freedom of prisoners of conscience and persecuted people of all faiths and beliefs in the Islamic Republic.

    In that capacity, we have pressed the United States government to give priority to the rights and freedoms of persecuted Iranians in America’s dealings with the regime in Tehran.

    Today we write to express solidarity and support for your courageous efforts to restore your Nation’s dignity and put an end to the abuses and deprivation which the people of Iran have suffered. We are inspired by your bravery. We stand with you and call on our own government and governments and peoples throughout the world to support you.

    Governments and business firms who are in sympathy with the people of Iran and their aspirations to national dignity and freedom can, for example, assist in thwarting censorship and the efforts of the Tehran regime to shut down social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, by which the Iranian people  can communicate with one another and with foreign journalists freely. Keeping open the corridors of communication through which information flows in all directions is vital. To that end, we call for robust funding by our government of technologies that will enable Iranians and others in closed societies safely and freely to access the internet and social media platforms.

    What’s more, human rights organizations, international journalists, as well as governments and their embassies can assist the cause of Iranian freedom and self-determination by documenting and publicizing human rights offenses—detentions, beatings, murders—committed by the Tehran authorities against peaceful protestors. It is important for the world and for the people of Iran to be apprised in a timely manner of offenses that the government will commit and, indeed, is already committing.

    A clear signal should be sent  that human rights issues—above all the regime’s treatment of dissidents—will be at the top of the agenda in any state-to-state negotiation, be it diplomatic or economic.

    When Iranians rose up against their oppressors in 2009, too few supported them in a sustained and meaningful way. Please be assured that in 2018 we are doing everything we can to ensure your freedoms.

    We pray that your courageous efforts will lead swiftly to the realization of your aspirations, which we heartily endorse, for a free, peaceful, and prosperous Iran.



    Elliott Abrams

    Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

    USCIRF Chair, 2000-2001


    Preeta Bansal

    CEO, Social Emergence Corporation and Visiting Scholar, MIT Media Lab

    USCIRF Chair, 2004-2005


    Felice D. Gaer

    Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

    USCIRF Chair, 2002-2003, 2006-2007, and 2008-2009


    Robert P. George

    McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University and Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow, Witherspoon Institute

    USCIRF Chairman, 2013-2014 and 2015-2016


    Leonard Leo

    Executive Vice President, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy

    USCIRF Chair, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012


    Daniel Mark

    Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University and Visiting Fellow, University of Notre Dame

    USCIRF Chairman, 2017-18


    Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

    Senior Analyst, Religion News Service

    USCIRF Chair, 2016-2017


    Katrina Lantos Swett

    President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

    USCIRF Chair, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015


    Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein

    Senior Fellow, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center on Religion, Peace and Foreign Policy and the Foreign Service School’s Center for Jewish Civilization

    USCIRF Chair, 1999-2000


    Michael K. Young

    President, Texas A&M University

    USCIRF Chair, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004


    (Affiliations are for purposes of identification.)



    Yuletide 2017 Book Recommendations

    The editors of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, have put together a list of recommended yuletide reading from the Institute’s staff. Read on for ideas of books you might like to read this Christmas season. Continue reading