President Joe Biden said Friday he was “stunned” by how Iranians have responded to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, saying the nation has been “awakened” by the women-led protests and will not remain silent for “a long , long time.”
While visiting Irvine Valley Community College in California, Biden made brief comments on the ongoing protests in Iran after his keynote speech, saying the United States stands with the women of Iran. Southern California has traditionally had a very large population of Iranian immigrants.
“Iran needs to stop the violence against its own citizens, simply by exercising their basic rights,” Biden said.
“I want you to know that we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran, really, really,” Biden said, “who are demonstrating right now to secure their very basic, basic rights.”
Speaking about Amini’s death, he said, “It amazed me what it awakened in Iran. It has awakened something that I don’t think will be quiet for a long, long time.”
The massive protests sweeping Iran were sparked by the death of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman detained by morality police on September 13 after being accused of violating the country’s conservative dress code. The Morality Police is a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women, such as wearing the compulsory headscarf. Amini’s death has sparked fierce anger over issues ranging from freedoms in the Islamic Republic to the continued and crippling effects of sanctions.
Biden has moved quickly to support the Iranian protesters. In his address to the UN General Assembly last month, Biden alluded to the protests over her death, saying the United States stood with the “courageous women in Iran who are demonstrating right now to secure their basic rights.”
Days later, the United States announced sanctions against Iran’s morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters.”
Biden said Friday: “Women all over the world are persecuted in different ways, but they should be able to wear in the name of God what they want to wear. Nobody should be telling them what to wear.”
The president also thanked those at the event who held signs reading “Free Iran,” acknowledging some of the protesters outside the college where he spoke.
“I want to thank all of you for speaking up. I want to thank the Persian community here for being so vocal,” Biden said.
The effort to respond quickly to the protests sweeping Iran comes after some top Biden administration officials acknowledged that the United States was too slow to respond when protests erupted in Iran in 2009. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, who served in the Obama administration, NBC recently reported that officials were worried about undermining the protesters rather than helping them.