President Obama has reversed course on his administration's policy of limiting criticism of Iran's human rights abuses, speaking out Sunday in support of imprisoned dissidents seeking democracy in the Islamic republic.
In an annual Persian New Year message, Mr. Obama named several Iranians who had been arrested in a series of crackdowns that have shaken the country since 2009. The comments contrasted sharply with a 2009 presidential message to Iran and its leaders in the annual video message for Nowruz, the Persian New Year holiday.
"For nearly two years, there has been a campaign of intimidation and abuse," Mr. Obama said in the message, broadcast over the Internet. "Young and old; men and women; rich and poor -- the Iranian people have been persecuted. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience are in jail. The innocent have gone missing. Journalists have been silenced. Women tortured. Children sentenced to death."
He ended the message with a quote from Simin Behbahani, an octogenarian Iranian poet who is banned from leaving her country and widely considered the poet laureate of Iran's democratic opposition movement.
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