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Condemning Iran for Persecution of Baha'I Minority

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 134, as amended; and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the substance of the bill, I just want to say a couple of things as we're ending the 112th Congress. In the 113th Congress, I'm about to take over as ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The man I'm replacing, who spoke before me, the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman), I just want him to know, which he already does, but I want to say it for the record how much we're going to miss him and what a role model he really is for all of us on the committee, first as chair and then as ranking member. There isn't a person on either side of the aisle who doesn't respect him. There isn't a person who doesn't understand how important he's been to the Congress the many years he has served in Congress, and particularly on the Foreign Affairs Committee. His shoes are going to be very hard to fill. I'm going to try the best I can, but I want him to know, which he already does, but I want to say it for the record that I'm going to miss him. I'm going to miss him as a friend, and I'm going to miss him as a colleague; and I think the Congress as a whole will miss him because he's one of the best, and I wish him only the very, very best as he moves on to a future endeavor.

Let me also say the gentlewoman from Florida, the current chair of the committee and former ranking member of the committee, she knows the affection I have for her both personally as a friend but also as a colleague, as chair of the committee for the past 2 years and as ranking member for the previous 4. She and I have worked together not only in these past 6 years but for all of the years we've been in Congress, and I think we've been in Congress for almost the exact same time. It's been a pleasure and an honor to work with her, and I continue to look forward to collaborating with her on all these issues of importance to us--we agree on many, many, many things--in the 113th Congress. Madam Chair, I just want to tell you how much we appreciate you on both sides of the aisle.

So let me talk about the bill. I think it's important. I agree with everything the chairwoman said. While the international community is rightfully concerned about Iran's ties to international terrorism and its nuclear weapons program, we cannot forget those who struggle for religious freedom and democracy in Iran.

The Baha'i community has long been the target of religious persecution by the Iranian regime. Much of its informal leadership has been arrested, and many members of the community executed. The Baha'i are not permitted to practice their religion and culture. Their marriages are not recognized. Their dead cannot be buried according to Baha'i law, and their cemeteries are desecrated. In addition, the Baha'i are denied government jobs and business licenses. They are not permitted to enroll in public universities, and Baha'i schoolchildren are frequently harassed by classmates, teachers, and administrators. No human being deserves this type of treatment at the hands of their government.

The social teachings of the Baha'i faith, such as the equality of women and men and the principle of each individual's responsibility to navigate the truth, are impossible for the theocratic leaders of Iran to comprehend. But these are universal values--human values--and they must be protected.

Mr. Speaker, the United States and the international community must not ignore the systematic and violent attacks against the Iranian Baha'i community, and Tehran must be held accountable. By passing this resolution, we shine a light on the persecution of the Baha'i and hopefully move us one step closer to the day that true freedom reaches Iran.

I encourage all of my colleagues to support H. Res. 134, and I reserve the balance of my time.


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