To the Editor:
Shai Franklin has apologized to Irwin Cotler, but he also owes an apology to Sen. Mark Kirk and to the Iranian political prisoners he carelessly smeared in his ill-informed Op-Ed titled “Stop pretending to care about Iranians’ rights.”
I know firsthand the contribution that Kirk has made to the cause of human rights, particularly in Iran. I ran the largest civil society and human rights program for Iran for four years. Consistently, the strongest support on the Hill came from Senator Kirk and his staff.
It is well known that Kirk has made human rights central to his political career. Kirk was part of the effort to found the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and was involved in its work on Soviet Jewry, Tibet, Hong Kong and anti-apartheid — and that’s just when he was a congressional staffer.
Since his election to Congress in 2000, Kirk also has been very active on the Bahá’í issue, has been a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, has appropriated money for a U.S. consulate to be opened in Lhasa, Tibet, and has supported the rights of Assyrian Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan. He has advocated for prisoners in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China and Egypt. In his copious spare time, Kirk helps political prisoners in Iran.
So contrary to Shai Franklin’s article, Mark Kirk has an exemplary record of human rights advocacy. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it — you can ask the Dalai Lama, Martin Lee and Natan Sharansky what they think.