The Iranian Regime's Persecution of Its Baha'i Minority is Appalling, Ros-Lehtinen Says
The Administration Must Hold the Iranian Regime and Its Officials Responsible for Their Violations of the Human Rights of the Baha'is
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke today on the House floor in favor of H.Res. 134, condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. Remarks by Ros-Lehtinen:
“I rise in strong support of House Resolution 134 introduced by my good friend and colleague from Illinois, Mr. Dold. House Resolution 134 condemns the Iranian regime’s persecution of Iran’s Baha’i minority. Baha’is are the largest non-Muslim minority in Iran, numbering over 300,000 members in Iran alone. This resolution marks the twelfth Congressional action urging the Iranian regime to end its persecution of the Baha’i minority. And still, Baha’is do not have the freedom to practice their religion.
“In fact, restrictions on Baha’is extends beyond their religious practices to further restrict their civil rights and human rights. Many members of the Baha’i faith living in Iran are even subject to harassment and persecution by the regime and others, with extensive reports of confiscation of property, restrictions on travel, and raids on Baha’i homes and businesses. The Iranian government continues to arrest and detain Baha’is based on their religious beliefs, with at least 60 cases logged last year alone.
“The members of the national leadership of the Baha’i in Iran, arrested in 2008 and unfairly tried with minimal access to their defense attorneys, are now serving a twenty year sentence for crimes including insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the regime. The government maintains possession of many Baha’i properties that were seized following the 1979 Revolution, including holy places, cemeteries, and historical sites. Many of those properties have now been destroyed.
“Baha’is are barred from leadership positions in the government and are only permitted to enroll in schools if they do not identify themselves to be Baha’i, and are required to identify as members of another religion in order to register for entrance examinations. Many Baha’is are denied admission to universities, and even those who are admitted may face expulsion due to their faith. The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, established after Baha’is were barred from attending other universities, was declared illegal this year, and six educators from that Institute are currently imprisoned in Iran. These are just a fraction of the injustices that Baha’is face at the hands of the Iranian regime.
“The regime has sought to make life as a Baha’i in Iran simply unlivable. They seek to take away aspects of everyday life that you or I would consider fundamental, inalienable rights. This resolution draws attention to their plight, and calls on the Iranian regime to ends its campaign of abuse against the Baha’i. It condemns the Iranian regime for persecution of the Baha’i, and calls on the regime to immediately release the Baha’is that it wrongfully holds in captivity, including the seven Baha’i leaders and six Baha’i educators, and it calls for the President and Secretary to publicly express the same sentiments.
“Finally, the resolution urges the President and Secretary of State to use measures already enacted into law under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 to sanction Iranian officials responsible for human rights violation against Baha’is and others. I was a co-author of that legislation, and those measures are not there for show. They are there to punish those responsible for these egregious crimes, and deter future human rights violations.
“It is, therefore, time for the Administration to walk the walk and hold Iranian regime officials—from the so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ and Ahmadinejad on down—responsible for their violations of the human rights of the Baha’is and other Iranians. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.”