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Hearing of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee and the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - One Year Under Rouhani: Iran's Abysmal Human Rights Record

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Location: Washington, DC

"The litany of cruel and inhumane human rights abuses that continue to occur under Rouhani is seemingly endless; but Rouhani knows that all he needs to do is smile, tweet, and promise the U.S. and the West he will cooperate on the nuclear issue and his transgressions against the Iranian people will be forgiven or overlooked."

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a joint hearing with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee , entitled: "One Year Under Rouhani: Iran's Abysmal Human Rights Record." Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

"It was thought that the human rights situation in Iran couldn't possibly get any worse than it was under the tyranny Ahmadinejad. During Ahmadinejad's eight years in office, Iran saw a precipitous increase in the number of prisoners of conscience, journalists in jail, executions, and the ethnic and religious minority communities all suffered a great deal.

Of course, we cannot forget the 2009 Green Movement in Iran in which millions took to the streets to Ahmadinejad's stay in power and calling for reforms. This was an opportunity for the United States to lend its support for a reform movement in Iran, but instead, the Administration refused to support the Green Movement, missed a real opportunity to support change in a part of the world that is resistant to peaceful change. It is, unfortunately, a mistake we have seen this Administration repeat often and we are seeing the results of its inaction and indecisiveness now.

Then along came the so called moderate, Rouhani -- and the Western media and the Administration all tripped over themselves saying he was a man who could bring reform to Iran. What they were forgetting, or choosing to be willfully ignorant of, was the fact that this Rouhani was the consummate regime insider, handpicked by the Supreme Leader to be one of the finalists in the presidential selection. It bears reminding everyone that no policy -- domestic or foreign -- gets enacted in Iran without Khameini's say so, and that includes the Iranian regime's sanctioned human rights violations.

Yet everyone wanted so badly to believe that Rouhani would be this reformer, and just like he had done when he was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, he managed to pull the wool over the eyes of many. But what have we seen so far in the one year since Rouhani won the June 14, 2013 selection -- and I call it a selection because the people of Iran were given a false choice of selecting one of Khameini's handpicked choices.

Well, according to most objective analyses, the human rights situation in Iran has not gotten better, and in many areas has even gotten worse. There have been over 670 executions under Rouhani and over 900 political prisoners have been jailed; according to some human rights groups, Iranian authorities have executed, on average, more than two people a day in 2014 -- many of whom have been political prisoners or members of ethnic minority communities. But the wanton and flagrant human rights abuse practices don't just end there.

In Rouhani's Iran, the regime continues to stifle free speech, freedom of the press, right to assembly, jailing bloggers and social media users and shutting down media organizations and jailing journalists. Some reports indicate that there are upwards of 40 journalists and bloggers -- Iran has the world's second highest number of jailed journalists -- 100 human rights defenders and hundreds of religious minorities unjustly imprisoned in Iran.

One of the most endangered groups are the Baha'is -- Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority -- who have seen their community constantly targeted for persecution and imprisonment. There are over 150 members of the Baha'i community currently in Iranian prisons, including Rozita Vaseghi who, as part of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission's Defending Freedoms Project, I have "adopted" as my prisoner of conscience.

These prisoners of conscience are being held in Iranian prisons merely for professing and practicing their religious beliefs, and many, like Rozita, have been sentenced to harsh prison sentences of 5 years or more, where they are placed in solitary confinement, subjected to cruel conditions and denied the medical attention they need. Christians continue to be intimidated, harassed and detained, including U.S. citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was just recently taken from his hospital bed, beaten and thrown back into jail and who has suffered a multitude of injuries at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

Then of course there is South Florida resident, Robert Levinson -- who lives in Congressman Deutch's district and his family lives there -- who was abducted in Iran over 2,500 days ago and is now the longest held captives in U.S. history; despite Iranian promises to aid in the investigation and search for him, they have been less than forthcoming.

The litany of cruel and inhumane human rights abuses that continue to occur under Rouhani is seemingly endless; but Rouhani knows that all he needs to do is smile, tweet, and promise the U.S. and the West he will cooperate on the nuclear issue and his transgressions against the Iranian people will be forgiven or overlooked.

Is that really how we want America to project our foreign policy? It's way past time for the Administration to stand up to these thugs and to stand up for the people who cannot stand up for themselves.

If we won't do it, who will?"


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