Back in 1984, in the midst of the Cold War, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato led the move to rename the street in front of the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street NW after human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.
It served as a strong reminder to anyone entering or leaving the building of the plight of political prisoners in the Soviet Union.
Last fall, David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights, was having a fine sushi lunch in Manhattan with former world chess champ and activist Garry Kasparov, who runs the Human Rights Foundation. Keyes laid out a new effort: naming streets in front of repressive regimes’ embassies around the world after political prisoners.
Could be a long list, but first on it was China, where this week marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Last week, as we noted in a Loop exclusive, a bipartisan group of House members asked city leaders to rename the street in front of the Middle Kingdom’s embassy on International Place NW for imprisoned Chinese dissident — and Nobel Peace Prize recipient — Liu Xiaobo.
A State Department official said they don’t comment on proposed legislation, but the Chinese naturally went ballistic, calling the proposal “very provocative and ignorant behavior.” (D.C. officials are mulling the request.)
Iran is another priority, Keyes said, but one problem is it hasn’t had an embassy here in 35 years. So Keyes said he is going to try to have every European capital and other countries around the world rename streets in front of Iranian embassies for imprisoned Iranian activist Majid Tavakoli.