Members of Congress Send Open Letter to the President regarding Human Rights in Iran

May 22, 2014

WASHINGTON — Today an open letter led by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9) and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-2), and signed by a bipartisan group of 23 Senators and 15 Representatives was sent to the President of the United States. The letter highlights the deterioration of human rights in Iran since the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 and urges President Obama to address human rights in the U.S.’ ongoing engagement with Iran.

The letter discusses the targeting of journalists, the repression of ethnic minorities, and the increase in the number of executions since Rouhani has taken office. It states that “[t]he assault on religious freedom is particularly dire,” and emphasizes that religious minorities, including Sufi and Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Baha’is have experienced continued harassment and intimidation, destruction of their religious sites, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment.

The members of Congress spotlight the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a dual Iranian-American citizen who remains in prison because of his Christian faith, and go on to state that “the Baha’i community, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, continues to face severe repression, including denial of jobs and higher education, non-recognition of marriages, and desecration and destruction of cemeteries and holy places.” They also note that President Rouhani’s newly drafted Charter of Citizens’ Rights specifically excludes Baha’is from the rights enumerated for religious minorities.

The letter goes on to say that “President Rouhani’s positive statements regarding rights and freedoms in Iran, while welcome, must be accompanied by concrete improvement. Thus far, these statements have done little, if anything, to bring about such improvement, and the people of Iran continue to face severe and systematic abuses.”

“With the election of a new Iranian President came the hope for a better day,” said Representative Jenkins. “However, hope has quickly vanished in the face of continued executions, detentions, and widespread oppression. I have personally met with Kansans who have friends and loved ones that are locked away in Iranian prisons solely for their religious beliefs. As the leader of the free world, we have a responsibility to speak up, and defend universal freedoms at home and abroad, in any corner of the world where our inalienable rights are being denied.”

“We must continue to press for human rights and religious freedoms across the world,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky. “We have an enormous opportunity to elevate these critical issues and push for meaningful reform to protect individuals in Iran, including members of the Christian and Baha’i Faiths. I’m proud to join this group of bipartisan members of the House and Senate who support human rights in Iran.”

The letter concludes by urging President Obama to seize the unprecedented opportunity presented by the United States’ current engagement with Iran, and to “ensure that, whatever the nature and scope of the U.S. dialogue with Iran, human rights issues are a consistent and vital element of the conversation.”

To view the letter to President Obama, visit: Congressional Letter to President regarding Human Rights in Iran.

For additional information, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990, or visit: