March 14, 2013
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 of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 15 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 human rights violations against Iran’s Baha’i community and Christian community.
The TLHRC, a Commission of the US House of Representatives, aims to raise greater awareness of human rights issues among Members of Congress and develop congressional strategies to advocate for internationally recognized human rights norms. The late Congressman Tom Lantos, for whom the Commission is named, was a long-standing champion of human rights globally and a strong supporter of the Baha’is in Iran. During his service in the House, he co-sponsored 9 resolutions condemning the persecution of this religious minority and calling for its emancipation.
“It is very fitting, at this time of an upsurge in violence with impunity directed against the Baha’i community, that the Lantos Commission would be a vehicle for increasing public and congressional awareness of this very disturbing trend.” said Anthony Vance, Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Baha’is of the U.S.
Bowers’ testimony will draw, in part, on the just-released publication from the Baha’i International Community entitled Violence with Impunity: Acts of aggression against Iran’s Baha’i community, which details the escalation of attacks on the Iranian Baha’i community between 2005 and 2012, documenting over 225 cases of aggression that include torture, solitary confinement, physical assault, arson of homes and businesses, vandalism, and cemetery desecration. It also highlights the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of these violent acts, who are both Iranian governmental officials and unidentified attackers.
Bowers’ testimony will also describe the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and highlight the increasing pressure on Baha’is since 2005. In 2008, the seven members of the Yaran, the former ad hoc leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran, were imprisoned, and they are currently serving 20 year prison sentences. Since 2011, ten instructors and administrators from the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education have been detained and are now serving four or five years prison sentences for their efforts to educate Baha’i youth.
The increased pressure on Baha’is is further demonstrated by the numbers of Baha’is that have been targeted for arrest and detention. Since the beginning of 2011, the number of Baha’is in prison nationwide has nearly doubled from 56 to 110. In addition, there are over 430 Baha’is in the criminal justice system – either out on bail or waiting to be called to serve their sentences. This is up from 230 at the beginning of 2011.
Contact the Media Relations Officer, at USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org to arrange for interviews.