Friday, February 28, 2020, Washington, D.C.—Activists from the peace organization CODEPINK were arrested by Capitol Police before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 8:30 AM Friday during a hearing titled, “Evaluating the Trump Administration’s Policies on Iran, Iraq and the Use of Force.”

Capitol Police abruptly removed CODEPINK members from the hearing, before placing four members — Medea Benjamin, Ariel Gold, Leila Zand, and Helen Schietinger — under arrest. CODEPINK Co-Founder Medea Benjamin and National Co-Director Ariel Gold were immediately placed in handcuffs. The four were taken to the police station, where they were processed and released. Gold and Benjamin are required to appear in court at a later date. Both Zand and Schietinger were released after paying a fine. Zand, an Iranian-American born in Iran, is coordinating CODEPINK’s next citizen diplomacy delegation to Iran this May.

The group attended the hearing wearing t-shirts reading, “Peace with Iran,” and held up signs before being escorted from the hearing. “By tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, imposing crippling sanctions, and carrying out the illegal assassination of General Solemani, Pompeo and the rest of the administration have manufactured a crisis with Iran — a conflict the American people do not support,” said Medea Benjamin, co-director of CODEPINK and author of Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Given the havoc the U.S. has wreaked in the Middle East, Pompeo and his cronies have a lot of nerve demanding that Iran behave like a ‘normal nation.’ Let’s start by calling out the US and its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, for engaging in violent, repressive behavior.”

The Trump administration’s campaign of maximum pressure has intentionally crippled the Iranian economy, including its healthcare system. Pompeo’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee comes in the midst of a worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus where Iran, partially because of US sanctions, is experiencing a far higher fatality rate than other similarly developed countries. Iranian doctors have complained about a shortage of antiviral medicines and ventilators, all of which are hard to purchase due to sanctions. In February 2019, Pompeo bragged to CBS that “things are much worse for the Iranian people [with the US sanctions],” indicating that the suffering being imposed upon the Iranian people is intentional.

“I recently returned from a visit to Iran in October 2019 where I saw first-hand the effects of US sanctions on ordinary Iranians and their fear of a war with the US. As a Jewish American, I visited multiple synagogues and historical sites in Iran dating back to 4000 BC,” said national CODEPINK co-director Ariel Gold, who was arrested during the hearing as Pompeo began his introductory remarks. “Upon return to the US, it was heartbreaking and terrifying to hear the Trump administration threatening to bomb such sites and to learn that the Iranian people, including friends I made while there, are currently unable to access life-saving medications to treat such ailments as leukemia, epilepsy, eye injuries from chemicals used in the Iran-Iraq war, and now the coronavirus. As someone who is deeply concerned with the dignity and humanity of all people and the prevention of unnecessary wars, I can not stay quiet while Pompeo spouts lies, hatred, and warmongering.”

“Sanctions are collective punishment of innocent civilians, which is a war crime. The effects of this punishment are evident in the coronavirus’s mortality rate in Iran,” said CODEPINK member Leonardo Flores. “By devastating Iran’s economy and health infrastructure, the Trump administration has made it more likely that the virus will become a global pandemic. We are nearing the seventeenth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq and our leaders continue making the same mistakes of attempted regime change and applying deadly sanctions. This has to end.”

CODEPINK supported the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 and predicted the escalation towards war when President Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018 and unilaterally reimposed the previously suspended nuclear-related economic sanctions. CODEPINK calls on the Trump administration to re-enter the nuclear deal, lift the sanctions, and work with Iran to stop the global spread of the deadly coronavirus.