US must speak ‘clearly’ in support of people’s rights to protest amid Iran’s crackdown

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday, expressed support for protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini amid Tehran’s crackdown on peaceful protests.

Blinken commented on the «extraordinary courage» of women in Iran who have been «standing up, speaking up, speaking out for their basic rights.» He also praised the US and Iranian men’s soccer teams for their performance in the World Cup, which has become a political flashpoint amid protests after the US team defeated Iran on Tuesday.

Blinken said the United States has sanctioned those who try to suppress the Iranian people’s ability to speak and has worked to ensure that Iranians have the necessary technology to communicate with each other.

«For the most part, we’re trying to do what we can to make it clear that we support what the Iranians are asking for, demanding on the streets that they be heard, that they can make their views known peacefully and we don’t have this terrible crackdown that we’re looking at,» Blinken said.

Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in September just days after being detained by morality police in Tehran for allegedly not fully covering her hair and defying the country’s strict dress codes. Her death has sparked outrage across the country.

Asked if the United States can take further action in response to the bloody crackdown on protests in Iran that has led to the deaths of women, Blinken stressed that the protests are about Iranians and not any other country, before criticizing the regime for blaming other countries for «somehow being responsible for instigating what is happening.»

“That is not the case at all, and misunderstanding your own people is the core of the problem they are facing,” Blinken said. «But the most important thing we can do is speak very clearly ourselves in support of people’s rights to protest peacefully.»

Blinken also took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin over power outages in Ukraine caused by Russia’s heavy shelling of the country’s infrastructure.

What Putin cannot achieve on the battlefield, he is «taking from civilians across the country by trying to deny them heat, deny them electricity, deny them water, freeze them, brutalize them in a way we haven’t seen in Europe for decades.» Blinken said. «And that’s happening across the country.»

As the United States spends millions fixing substations, Blinken said Washington is working to help Ukraine make its power and electricity infrastructure «more resilient» and ensure Ukrainians can defend their infrastructure against Russia.

Blinken also condemned the crackdown on demonstrations in China against the government’s strict «covid zero» policies.

«In any country where we see that happen, and then we see the government take massive repressive measures to stop it, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness,» Blinken said.