Statement on the Exile of Andrei Sakharov and Human Rights in the Soviet Union
May 15, 1985
Two years ago I signed the proclamation designating May 21 as National Andrei Sakharov Day. Recalling that Dr. Sakharov's Nobel Peace Prize cited him as a ``spokesman for the conscience of mankind,'' I said that we who value freedom and human dignity must do all in our power to prevent him from being silenced.
As we honor Dr. Sakharov today and rededicate ourselves to the values of peace, freedom, and justice that he represents, we do so with solemn awareness that for more than 1 year, he and his brave wife, Yelena Bonner, have been cut off from all direct contact with family or friends in the West. A year ago this month, Dr. Sakharov embarked on a hunger strike to protest the refusal of Soviet authorities to permit his wife to travel abroad for urgently needed medical treatment. Soviet authorities have turned a deaf ear to the outpouring of international outrage over the treatment of one of the Soviet Union's most distinguished citizens and of his courageous wife, who is a decorated veteran of World War II.
In recognizing the courage and ideals that Dr. Sakharov embodies, let us also remember the many thousands of his countrymen who likewise suffer the denial of basic human rights. Today the human rights situation in the Soviet Union remains bleak. Soviet authorities have succeeded in eliminating the main vehicle for human rights activism -- the Helsinki monitors movement. Anatoly Shcharanskiy, Yuriy Orlov, and other monitors are now serving long terms of imprisonment or exile. Religious groups have become a major target of persecution, and Baptists, Catholics, Ukrainian Uniates, Pentecostalists, and other groups have been subjected to arrest and harassment. The crackdown on Hebrew teachers and Jewish cultural activists which began in July 1984 continues. Jewish emigration last year reached a 10-year low.
In exiling Dr. Sakharov to Gorky, the Soviet Government has attempted to silence and remove him from international attention, but their efforts will ultimately fail. Americans and others around the world who have drawn inspiration from his courage understand their obligation to carry his message to all and to redouble their efforts in pursuit of world peace and respect for human rights. I am appreciative for the efforts undertaken by the Andrei Sakharov Institute, and I recognize the many concerned citizens around the world who have been inspired by Dr. Sakharov and who support his goals and ideals. We must act on his behalf, ensuring that his message of hope and freedom will never be silenced.
Today we renew our call to the new Soviet leadership to end the isolation of Dr. Sakharov and his wife and to permit Yelena Bonner to travel abroad for needed medical care. Let all who cherish Dr. Sakharov's noble values, both governments and individuals, continue to press the Soviets for information about the Sakharovs and for an end to Soviet persecution of two of its most distinguished citizens.