US President Joe Biden has used a White House event celebrating Nowrouz, the Persian New Year, to pay tribute to protesting Iranian women and vowed to continue to hold Islamic Republic officials accountable "for their attacks against their people.”
Biden said on March 20 that he wished the holiday would be a moment of “hope for women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“The United States stands with those brave women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their conviction,” Biden told the audience.
He described the reception as the biggest White House Nowrouz celebration to date.
Just before the US president and his wife, Jill Biden, hosted the event, a video of Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour performing the protest anthem Baraye played at the celebration.
Iran has been swept by protests demanding fundamental changes since the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody. Amini had been arrested by “morality police” for allegedly wearing the mandatory headscarf improperly.
The women-led protest movement marks one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 revolution.
The authorities responded with brutal force, killing more than 520 demonstrators and unlawfully detaining over 20,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The European Union, the United States and other countries have imposed a series of sanctions on dozens of Iranian officials and entities over the Islamic Republic’s bloody crackdown.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that many families in Iran “face an empty chair at their Nowruz table this year, as friends and family members have been killed or detained by Iranian authorities.”
“On the occasion of Nowruz, we reiterate our commitment: the United States will continue to defend your human rights and to support you as you seek a brighter future,” Blinken added.