May 22, 2014
WASHINGTON — To spotlight the deteriorating situation of the Iranian Baha’i community, Mr. Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, will testify at a hearing on religious freedom in the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs (HFAC) Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organization at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 22, at 2200 Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington D.C. The hearing will feature testimony on the current state of religious freedom in Iran, and will highlight systematic abuses against Iran’s Baha’i community.
The HFAC Subcommittee will be considering testimony on religious freedom violations in several countries, including Iran, and will examine government and NGO efforts to spotlight and mitigate these violations.
Bowers’ testimony will describe the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, with a particular focus on the deteriorating situation since the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on August 4, 2013. Since that time, a Baha’i has been killed in a religiously motivated murder, and a Baha’i family has been stabbed by a masked intruder in their home; there has been no progress in the investigation of either case. Two Baha’i cemeteries have also been attacked, and, in January 2014, the number of Baha’is in prison in Iran reached a two-decade high of 136.
The seven members of the former ad hoc leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran remain imprisoned, serving 20-year terms, as do twelve instructors and administrators of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, who have been detained for their efforts to educate Baha’i youth who are denied access to Iran’s university system due to their religion.
In November 2014, President Rouhani’s administration released a draft Citizens’ Rights Charter, which, though superficially a promising development, is a document that in fact appears to entrench existing discrimination against several groups, including Baha’is.
Bowers will discuss these developments, as well the importance of efforts on the part of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the U.S. Congress to report on and speak out against this religious persecution. House Resolution 109, which is currently pending in the House with 113 bipartisan cosponsors, condemns the state-sponsored persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and urges the President and Secretary of State to utilize all available authorities to impose sanctions on Iranian government officials and other individuals who are directly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including against the Baha’i community.
To watch the hearing live or after it has concluded, and to obtain copies of witness testimony, visit: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-protecting-religious-freedom-us-efforts-hold-accountable-countries.
For additional information, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990, or visit: publicaffairs.bahai.us.
Contact Rachel Wolfe, Media Relations Officer, at USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org to arrange for interviews.