Iran has called upon the United States to stop violence against its own citizens amid worldwide police brutality protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25th, after the officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. In the days following Floyd’s death, protests against police brutality erupted in cities across the country.
Although the majority of demonstrations have remained peaceful, many protestors have been met with aggressive law enforcement tactics, including batons, pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Multiple videos of police violence against protestors, journalists and bystanders have gone viral on social media.
The police violence has been coupled with support from the Trump administration, which has called upon governors to “dominate” protestors. Trump himself has been seen by some as further inciting violence through his portrayal of the protests as extremely violent and highlighting incidents of looting.
“Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” Trump tweeted.
In response to the aggressive police tactics, Iranian officials have voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter protests and criticized Washington’s perceived hypocrisy.
‘‘Some don’t think #BlackLivesMatter,’’ Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter. ‘‘To those of us who do: it is long overdue for the entire world to wage war against racism. Time for a #WorldAgainstRacism.’’
Zarif’s tweet was accompanied by a screenshot of a State Department statement calling out the Iranian government’s response to 2018 protests. In the screenshot, references to Iran were crossed out in red and substituted with references to the United States.
“We condemn the government’s same futile tactics of suppression, imprisonment of protesters, and the denial of Iranians’ Americans’ frustrations,” said the doctored statement, which was originally penned by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
The United States has regularly criticized Iran for its history of human rights violations and suppression of protests. Most recently, the Trump administration condemned Iran for its violent retaliation against anti-government protests in early 2020.
Zarif’s statement on Twitter followed a May 27th post from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who voiced similar disapproval.
‘‘If you’re dark-skinned walking in the U.S., you can’t be sure you’ll be alive in the next few minutes,” Khamenei wrote on May 28th on Twitter. Khamenei’s tweet included a video detailing racial inequalities in the United States and the country’s history with slavery.
In the video, Khamenei said the ‘‘question of racism has not been solved yet in the country that claims to support freedom and human rights. A human, for his black skin, has no reassurance to live in society, if indeed, a police officer can beat him to death because of his colored skin.’’
The Ayatollah also addressed the hypocrisy of the United States’ prior critiques regarding Iranian human rights abuses.
“How can they claim to support human rights? Despite the fact that African Americans represent only 13 percent of the American society, 25 percent of the victims of police brutality are black,” Khamenei said.
Iranian officials’ remarks on the Black Lives Matter protests are not unprecedented. Previously, in 2014, Khamenei likened police shootings of black people in Ferguson to the Palestinian struggle in Gaza. However, some have argued that Iran’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement is just the regime’s latest attempt at capitalizing off U.S. instability.
According to reporting from Time magazine, by putting forth images of the unrest, Iran portrays the U.S. as a “hypocritical superpower unable to secure its own people, as well as normalizing the violence and repression they visit on their own citizens.”
Through this normalization process, Iran switches the focus of human rights arguments onto the United States — the typical accuser in situations of human rights abuse. By knocking the United States off its supposed pedestal, Iran furthers their own power, both domestically and abroad.
In response to Iran’s condemnation, Pompeo clamped back on Zarif’s comments with criticisms of his own: “You hang homosexuals, stone women and exterminate Jews.”
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