RELIGION
12/20/2013 09:50 pm ET

Senate Resolution 75 Condemns Baha'i Persecution In Iran: Senators Kirk And Durbin Pass Bill

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The U.S. Senate formally condemned the persecution faced by Iran's Baha'i community with the passage of Resolution 75, introduced by Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois. A summary of the bill states that it:

Condemns Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.

Calls on Iran to release the 7 imprisoned leaders, the 12 imprisoned educators, and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion.

Calls on the President and Secretary of State, in cooperation with responsible nations, to condemn Iran's continued violation of human rights and demand the release of prisoners held solely on account of their religion.

Urges the President and Secretary to utilize all available authorities, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, to impose sanctions on Iranian government officials and other individuals directly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including abuses against the Baha'i community of Iran.

The bill has been hailed by the American Baha'i community. “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 in a press release.

There are currently 116 Baha'is in prison, according to the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs. Seven of those have been sentenced to twenty years in prison due to their religious leadership, including Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.

Bahai's are Iran's largest religious minority, though the religion was founded there in the 19th century. The 2012 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report stated "Since 1979, Iranian government authorities have killed more than 200 Baha'I leaders in Iran and dismissed more than 10,000 from government and university jobs."

The senators introduced the bill in March. "Illinois is home to the world renowned Baha'i Temple, so the plight of Baha'is in Iran holds special significance for our citizens," Kirk said. "It is my hope this resolution will bring the persecution of Baha'is and the issue of human rights in Iran to the forefront of the international agenda."

Durbin continued, “The religious persecution of Baha’is in Iran is a violation of one of our most basic human rights. This resolution will not only bring awareness to situation in Iran, but it will also remind the international community that we still must press more security and fairness for religious minorities around the world. The Baha’i community in Iran deserves the same religious freedoms enjoyed by our Baha’i neighbors in Illinois.”

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