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Bipartisan senators advance measure to support Iranian protesters

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan resolution reaffirming U.S. support for Iranian protesters and calling on the Biden administration to impose additional sanctions on Iranian officials and entities responsible for repressing the protests.

Mass protests have taken place across Iran for nearly three months after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who detained her for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab.

Tehran has attempted to suppress the protests, which have grown into calls for the downfall of the government, with hundreds believed to have been killed and thousands others arrested.

“It is my hope that Congressional approval of this bipartisan, bicameral resolution will help amplify the voices of the hundreds of thousands of women and men of Iran who are protesting against the brutality of one of the world’s most repressive regimes,” Sen. Bob Mendendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the committee, said in a statement.

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The Biden administration has levied sanctions against some Iranian officials, but the resolution calls for additional sanctions against officials and entities responsible for the protests’ repression.

The resolution also urges the private sector to work with the administration to ensure protesters have access to technology to circumvent government surveillance, a key tool citizens have used to organize the demonstrations.

After Iran’s government cut internet access for most of the country in the days after protests broke out, the Treasury Department announced exceptions to Iranian sanctions for companies to provide more online services in the county.

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The resolution also calls for the international community to condemn Tehran’s repression as the U.S. and its allies struggle to support the protesters.

“Many brave Iranians fighting for their basic human rights are brutally murdered or taken to prison, where they endure harrowing torture until they are executed,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who co-sponsored the resolution. “While the Iranian regime announced they abolished their ‘Morality Police,’ this is only a façade to distract us from what the protesters really want — to free Iran of the oppression altogether. The United States must stand by them until they secure victory.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member, introduced an identical version of the resolution with two other lawmakers from both parties.

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