WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a resolution Wednesday expressing solidarity with people in Iran who have been risking imprisonment and even death to protest against the country’s theocracy.
The 420-1 vote marked the latest round of international condemnation against Iran’s government, which has engaged in a brutal crackdown of its citizenry since the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
“It is vital that we in the U.S. House of Representatives, a body that is among the greatest symbols of freedom and democracy around the world, stand with one voice to affirm our support for the brave Iranian people,” Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., said during floor debate Wednesday.
The resolution was first introduced in the last Congress by several Republican and Democratic lawmakers and was revived earlier this month — reflecting a rare point of consensus for an increasingly divided Congress. Its passage came days after the U.S., Europe and the United Kingdom imposed a series of fresh sanctions on dozens of Iranian officials and organizations, including the country’s special military and police forces, for their violent clampdown.
Activists say at least 16 people have been sentenced to death in closed-door hearings over charges linked to the protests. Death sentences in Iran are typically carried out by hanging.
At least 517 protesters have been killed and over 19,200 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not provided an official count of those killed or detained.
The protests began in mid-September when 22-year-old Amini died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. Women have been at the vanguard of the protests, with many publicly stripping off the compulsory Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, in defiance of the government.
The protests mark one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 revolution — and the reaction from the government has been severe. Security forces have used live ammunition, birdshot, tear gas, and batons to disperse protesters, according to rights groups.
“We want the Iranian people to know that we see you. We know the risk you’re taking and the danger that you face,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., ranking chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the House floor. “Stay strong.”
He added, “Stay strong as freedom will always win over tyranny.”