For the last three weeks, thousands of protesters in more than 30 different provinces throughout Iran have come out to protest against the corruption, negligence and lack of freedoms from a leadership that has rendered their lives unbearable. Their peaceful protests have been met by the regime’s thugs, beating, shooting and imprisoning them. Sadly, U.S. and Western news outlets have not covered these widespread rallies, though the painful videos and images of people suffering at the hands of Tehran are littered on social media.
It’s time for America’s Jews to speak out and speak loudly in support of innocent citizens in Iran seeking true freedom by regime change in their country. We in the American Jewish community, who have always proudly supported freedom movements from Russia to Poland to South Africa, must also stand with the people of Iran demanding an end to the oppressive rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While my own family fled more than 40 years ago to escape Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s policy of violent anti-Semitism, my heart breaks to see thousands of peace-loving citizens suffering at the hands of a heartless mullah regime that has left them hungry, impoverished and without hope for a better future. Despite the regime’s leaders proclaiming their vile genocidal intentions for Jews for decades, the majority of people in Iran do not share their views.
As an Iranian American journalist in contact with other journalists and activists in Iran, they relay messages that the people are fed up with corruption, tyranny, a lack of basic freedoms and the lack of economic opportunities from the current radical Islamic regime. They have taken to the streets in all major cities, and even in smaller towns and areas, to protest the situation and encourage the ouster of their oppressive dictatorship. The evil Iranian regime has cracked down by randomly beating them, killing them, arresting them. Images of the unmerciful brutality against the people of Iran with the use of live ammunition this past week circulated by protesters on social-media platforms are chilling. Moreover, for the past several weeks, the Internet has been shut down in various provinces to prevent protesters from exposing the regime’s heinous brutality and random killings of citizens on the streets.
The American Jewish community in the last 60-plus years has been very vocal in speaking out not only against anti-Semitism in the world, but against the evils of hate, war and lack of freedoms for non-Jews as well. I call on the American Jewish community, which has long been strong proponents of social causes, equality and freedom movements, to support the people of Iran fighting to get rid of an oppressive regime.
During the Cold War, was it not American Jewry that was among the most vocal against the tyranny of the former Soviet Union towards Jews and opponents of the Soviet Communist regime? Were American Jews not among those who voiced loud support and stood with Polish Solidarity union activists during their protest against the Communist Polish regime? Were American Jews not among the many that stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and his freedom movement against the apartheid system in South Africa? Did Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and other American Jewish activists not march arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of the civil-rights movement? Even today, many Jewish congregations have taken on the cause of tikkun olam—from volunteerism in their own neighborhoods to helping parts of poverty-stricken Africa.
Therefore, it is imperative that this long and proud tradition of support must continue and be carried forward by American Jews for the plight of average Iranian citizens seeking greater freedoms in their country and better economic opportunities, despite the repression they have faced from their oppressive radical Islamic regime. We cannot and must not remain silent and on the sidelines while innocent men, women and even children are beaten and slaughtered in the streets of Iranian cities just for speaking out against a corrupt government that has done nothing to improve their lives, instead spending their country’s wealth on funding terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
Supporting protesters in the streets of Iran who want the ouster of the oppressive Ayatollah regime is not merely to the ultimate benefit of America and Israel’s security; more importantly, it is the right and moral thing to do. After all, do we as Jews not read the Torah every year in the book of Deuteronomy (Shoftim) that states “justice, justice shall you pursue”? As a people who for millennia have faced unspeakable violence, hatred, injustice, pogroms and even genocide, we have always spoken out in every part of the globe in support of those who were downtrodden and oppressed.
Our support of the peace-loving people of Iran would be no different and is essential at this juncture in time. How much longer can we stand idle and not speak up while the regime in Iran not only slaughters and imprisons its own citizens, but whose leaders constantly deny the Holocaust and call for a second annihilation against all Jews worldwide?
We American Jews—Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, conservative and liberal, secular and religious—have a duty to speak with one voice for freedom and in support of those innocents in Iran who want to liberate their own country from a repressive regime. We Jews must today recall the gift of freedom of the ancient Persian king, Cyrus the Great. He granted us freedom from the bondage of Babylonian captivity 2,700 years ago, and, in turn, we must now stand with his descendants, who are seeking international support to free themselves from the yoke of radical Islamic bondage and oppression.
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning internationally published Iranian American journalist based in Southern California.