WASHINGTON — Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution “condemning the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” H.Res.134 is the 12th House resolution since 1982 to address the oppression of the Bahá’ís in Iran.
“The Bahá’í community is encouraged by the emphasis the U.S. Congress has placed on the human rights abuses in Iran,” said Mr. Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. “We are convinced that this continued international pressure has kept the situation for the Bahá’ís in Iran from getting much worse.”
The resolution also called on the President and Secretary of State, together with responsible nations, to condemn the ongoing persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran, and to demand the release of religious prisoners, including seven Bahá’í 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 urged the President and Secretary of State to utilize measures “to sanction officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for egregious human rights violations in Iran, including against the Bahá’í community.”
“My sister and the other Bahá’ís imprisoned are absolutely innocent and have done nothing wrong. They are well-wishers of their government and their countrymen. Their only crime is that they are members of the Bahá’í Faith, which is no crime at all. They should be released unconditionally as soon as possible,” Mr. Iraj Kamalabadi, Mrs. Kamalabadi’s brother, stated.
Mr. Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the Baha’is of the United States, added that “the number of Bahá’ís in prison currently stands at 116. It has more than doubled since the beginning of 2011 when the number was 56. This number includes not only the seven-person, former leadership group but also educators and administrators of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, the community’s informal solution to higher education from which Bahá’í youth have been barred for over 30 years, as well as Bahá’ís in Semnan, a town especially targeted by the government of Iran for severe persecution of Bahá’ís. Many of those imprisoned are named in the resolution and the House of Representatives calls on the government of Iran to immediately release them and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion.”
H.Res.134 gained strong bi-partisan support. Of the 146 representatives co-sponsoring the resolution, 78 are Republicans and 68 are Democrats.
“Given the U.S. government’s strong leadership in the international arena, the Congress has sent an important signal to the parliaments and foreign ministries of friends and allies abroad to speak out for the human rights of Bahá’ís and all oppressed people in Iran,” stated Congressman Robert Dold (R-Illinois), who introduced the resolution.
Representative Brad Sherman, an original co-sponsor of the resolution and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Religious Freedom Caucus, added, “Bahá’ís in Iran continue to suffer from repression, discrimination, and harassment by the regime. I have long advocated for the rights and freedoms of religious minorities in Iran, and I support the efforts of the Bahá’ís and their allies to speak out against the abhorrent abuses faced by this peaceful community in Iran. The passage of H.Res.134 will bring greater attention to the plight of those Bahá’ís currently held in prison in Iran because of their religion.”
Following the passage of its sister resolution, S.Res.80, on March 29, 2012, the passage of H.Res.134 serves as a substantial step towards further exposing the human rights violations of the Iranian government and holding it accountable for its actions. In its clear and direct condemnation of the Iranian government’s persecution and its call for human rights sanctions authorized under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, Congress has again spotlighted the vital importance of religious freedom.
The floor statements made on behalf of H.Res.134 made on December 31 by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Robert Dold, who introduced the resolution, and Congressman Eliot Engel, a co-sponsor of the resolution, can be found here. The comments begin at 03:20:00 [12:19 PM] and end at 03:33:06. (The vote was then postponed until a quorum was present. The vote passing the resolution took place on Jan. 1 at 11:17 PM.)
For additional information, please contact the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990, or visit the Bahá’í World News Service.