President Joe Biden said Friday he was “stunned” by how Iranians have reacted to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, saying the nation has been “awakened” by the women-led protests and won’t be quieted for “a long, long time.”
While visiting Irvine Valley Community College in California, Biden made brief comments on the ongoing protests in Iran following ahead of his formal speech, saying that the US stands with the women of Iran. Southern California has traditionally had a very large population of Iranian immigrants.
“Iran has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights,” Biden said.
“I want you to know that we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran, for real, for real,” Biden said, “who right now are demonstrating to secure their very basic, fundamental rights.”
Speaking about the death of Amini, he said, “it stunned me what it awakened in Iran. It’s awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted in 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 are a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women, such as wearing the compulsory headscarf. Amini’s death has sparked an outpouring anger over issues ranging from freedoms in the Islamic Republic to the continuing and crippling impacts of sanctions.
Biden has moved quickly to back the Iranian protesters. In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Biden alluded to the protests over her death and said the US stood with the “brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”
Days later, the US announced sanctions on Iran’s morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
Biden on Friday said, “Women all over the world are being persecuted in various ways, but they should be able to wear in God’s name what they wanna wear. No one should be telling them what to wear.”
The President also thanked those at the event who were holding signs that read “Free Iran,” acknowledging some of the protesters outside the college where he was speaking.
“I want to thank you all for speaking out. I want to thank the Persian community here for being so vocal,” Biden said.
The effort to move quickly to respond to the protests sweeping Iran comes after some top officials in the Biden administration acknowledged that the US 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, told NBC recently that officials were concerned about undermining the protesters instead of aiding them.