Dec 31 2009
Obama’s rationale is that we can’t continue to fund anti-government, pro-democracy protesters in Iran as we had been doing for decades, because he doesn’t want to offend the the Islamic mullahs or interfere with any future talks he might engage in with the dictator of Iran.
Why should Obama fund Iranians who are risking their lives for freedom and human rights, when he is slowly taking them away from Americans?
For the past five years, researchers in a modest office overlooking the New Haven green have carefully documented cases of assassination and torture of democracy activists in Iran. With more than $3 million in grants from the US State Department, they have pored over thousands of documents and Persian-language press reports and interviewed scores of witnesses and survivors to build dossiers on those they say are Iran’s most infamous human-rights abusers.
But just as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center was ramping up to investigate abuses of protesters after this summer’s disputed presidential election, the group received word that – for the first time since it was formed – its federal funding request had been denied.
“If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said Rene Redman, the group’s executive director, who had asked for $2.7 million in funding for the next two years. “I was sur prised, because the world was watching human rights violations right there on television.’’ Currently, the group is working to develop a list of all those who were arrested following the election and a list of those responsible for alleged abuses in prison. But without additional funding, the group will shut down in May when its funding runs out, Redman said.
Many see the sudden, unexplained cutoff of funding as a shift by the Obama administration away from high-profile democracy promotion in Iran, which had become a signature issue for President Bush. But the timing has alarmed some on Capitol Hill.
“The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center is at the forefront of pioneering and vitally important work,’’ said Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, in a statement yesterday. “It is disturbing that the State Department would cut off funding at precisely the moment when these brave investigations are needed most.’’
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said, “It is a shock that they did not get funding.’’ A reason, he asserted, may be that “the Obama administration is so focused on engaging Iran that they don’t want this information to get in the way.’’
Obama officials have argued publicly for a less-confrontational approach than Bush. But at least three other groups that received funding under Bush’s democracy program for Iran have been told they would not receive funding this year, according to Roya Boroumand, founder of the Bormound Foundation, which works against the death penalty in Iran. BOSTON GLOBE