December 20, 2013
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 75 “condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” S.Res.75 was introduced by Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois.
By passing the resolution, the Senate has made it clear that it sees human rights, including those of the Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, as an important element of the U.S.’s renewed engagement with Iran. The Senate’s actions, coupled with the December 18 passage of a U.N. General Assembly resolution on human rights violations in Iran, make it clear that the U.S. and numerous countries continue to hold grave concerns about the ongoing abuses against the Baha’is and others out of favor with the Iranian regime.
“This resolution is particularly timely. With the November 26 release of President Rouhani’s long-awaited draft Charter of Citizens’ Rights, which, by its current terms, fails to protect religious minorities, who are not already recognized under the Iranian constitution, such as the Baha’is, it is important that the plight of the Baha’is is highlighted so as to press Mr. Rouhani and senior Iranian officials to produce a more inclusive charter,” said Mr. Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. “Otherwise, the foundation is being laid for a continuation of the last 34 years of persecution of the Baha’i community.”
The number of Baha’is in prison currently stands at 116. It has more than doubled since the beginning of 2011 when the number was 57. Baha’is also face intense economic and social pressure, including denial of jobs and higher education, harassment of school children, and desecration of cemeteries. Baha’is in Iran are persecuted from cradle to grave.
The resolution also calls on the Iranian Government to immediately release all religious prisoners, including the seven Baha’i leaders who have been sentenced to 20 years in prison – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.
Further, the resolution urges the President and Secretary of State, together with responsible nations, to condemn the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, and to utilize measures “to impose sanctions on officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including abuses against the Baha’i community of Iran.”
“Resolutions like these are so important because they let my brother-in-law and the other Baha’i prisoners in Iran know that they are not forgotten. The Senate has shined a light on a dire situation and has made a strong statement about the importance of human rights and religious freedom in Iran,” said Azadeh Perry, sister-in-law of Mr. Saied Rezaie, a member of the former ad hoc Baha’i leadership group.
Mr. Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the Baha’is of the United States, stated that “We are not only concerned about the comprehensive and systematic nature of the persecution conducted against the Baha’is, as outlined in the resolution, but also about increasing indications that the government is actively encouraging violence with impunity. It has failed to investigate the shooting death of a prominent Baha’i in Bandar Abbas in August, after a city cleric’s incitement in a sermon and threats from officials of the Ministry of Intelligence and anonymous callers. This marked the tenth instance of an unsolved killing or a mysterious death of a Baha’i in Iran since 2005. This resolution lets the Iranian government know that the eyes of a watching world are upon it. ”
S.Res.75 gained strong bi-partisan support with 35 senators cosponsoring the resolution – 22 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and one Independent.
“We must never turn a blind eye to the Iranian regime’s true nature as typified by its ongoing persecution of members of the Baha’i Faith,” stated Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), who introduced the resolution. “With the passage of S.Res.75, the United States Senate holds the Government of Iran accountable for its egregious violations of basic human rights and reaffirms its solidarity with Iranian Baha’is in their struggle for religious freedom.”
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), the original cosponsor of the resolution, added, “I am glad to see the passage of this important resolution. The Baha’i community in Iran has already endured too much. This resolution takes important steps in condemning the Iranian regime’s violations on human rights and pushes the Administration to do more to aid the situation. The Baha’is in Iran deserve the same religious freedoms enjoyed by the Baha’is in Illinois. I hope this resolution will serve as a reminder to the worldwide community that many religious minorities still fight for security and fairness today.”
For additional information, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990, or visit http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/iran-update/.