Shirley Chisholm on Iran
Congresswoman Appeals For Human Rights (1972)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | December 17, 2020                        

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) became the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968, and in 1972, at age 47, launched her own trailblazing Presidential campaign. Her example helped smooth the path for women and minorities in U.S. politics, including the likes of Barack Obama and Kamala Harris in their journeys to the White House.

A vibrant advocate for social justice, Chisholm’s campaign slogan “UNBOSSED AND UNBOUGHT” defined her iconoclastic ways. “I do not believe in the politics of expediency”, she declared. “That is why our country finds itself in the condition that it now finds itself. Nothing but expedient politics!” On foreign policy, she denounced the use of American taxpayer money “to prop up a bunch of military dictatorships” across the world, and was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War.

Exactly one month after announcing her Presidential candicacy, Congresswoman Chisholm wrote to Pres. Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State about the pending executions of five students in Iran, then ruled by the U.S.-backed Shah. Half a century onward, severe repression and horrific, routine political executions persist under the revolutionary Islamic regime, while U.S. foreign policy remains as fundamentally hypocritical as when Chisholm condemned it.

February 25, 1972

Honorable William P. Rogers
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I wish to express my deepest concern over the recent actions of the Iranian government regarding the arrests of protesting Iranian students.

I specifically refer to press accounts concerning the private executions of five of these students, the pending execution of ten others, and the trials of numerous others which have been conducted in private and under martial rather than civilian procedures.

It is a most disturbing situation that the civil rights of Iranian citizens should be placed in jeopardy by its own government. I believe that it is the obligation of the government of Iran at this time to commute all pending sentences of death and to make preparations for fair and public trials under civil law for all those accused.

I call upon you at this time to use your good offices in helping to resolve this tragic and deplorable situation.

Member of Congress

Shirley Chisholm Declares Presidential Bid, January 25, 1972

Shirley Chisholm at UCLA, May 22, 1972

UCLA speech (excerpt)

To look at the position of this country in terms of the espousal of equalitarian principles. *heh* Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going abroad for economic and/or financial assistance to prop up a bunch of military dictatorships who are repressing and suppressing the personal liberties of their own citizens within their own borders.

Espousal of equalitarian principles. You know, we get away with a lot of verbal tommyrot in our country. What happens to these equalitarian principles in terms of other peoples abroad, when the dollar gets in the way? You know what happens and I know what happens.When I become president — I’m not gonna say if, when! — when I become President, I would cut off every bit of your money — not my money, your money — the country’s — that are propping up these dictatorships and repressing and suppressing their own peoples. That is if you believe in democracy! That is IF you believe in democracy! [applause]

A lot of the others talk about it but they can’t do it. That’s another story.

You look at our country in the United Nations... The whole question of the Rhodesian sanctions, that everybody else is following except us. The whole question of South Africa, constantly being ruled, the majority being ruled by a white minority...repression such as you’ve never seen it and never believed it in your life! And what do we do in the United Nations? We ‘abstain’, or we vote negatively, and we espouse democratic principles. The hypocrisy!

Our Dictator: Dorothy Thompson on Fascism in America (1937)


Related links:

March on Washington | Black Rights vs. White Fragility, 1963-2020

Agitational Activities of Anti-Shah Iranian Students in the US (Oct. 1963)

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith: Democracy Requires An “Articulate Majority” (1949)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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