In a holiday message to the people of Iran, President Obama today called for greater freedom in the Islamic Republic and said that, despite tensions, their nations share a "common humanity."
In a video message marking the Persian new year, known as Nowruz, Obama accused the Iranian regime of imposing an "electronic curtain" on its citizens, a barrier that stops the free flow of information and denies the Iranian people the ability to interact with the rest of the world.
"Increasingly, the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want," Obama said. "Instead, the Iranian government jams satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts. It censors the Internet to control what the Iranian people can see and say. The regime monitors computers and cell phones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power… Technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them."
Obama's message comes amid mounting concern over a potential Israeli military strike against Iran for its suspected nuclear program. The president did not, however, address the prospect of the Iranian government making a nuclear weapon.
"This holiday comes at a time of continued tension between our two countries. But as people gather with their families, do good deeds, and welcome a new season, we are also reminded of the common humanity that we share," Obama said in the video which was translated into Persian and Arabic.
The president said the U.S. will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain and strive to advance basic freedoms for the Iranian people.
"In this season of new beginnings, the people of Iran should know that the United States of America seeks a future of deeper connections between our people - a time when the electronic curtain that divides us is lifted and your voices are heard; a season in which mistrust and fear are overcome by mutual understanding and our common hopes as human beings," Obama concluded.