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Public Statements

Plight of the Bahá'í Community

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KIRK. Madam President I wish to call attention to the plight of the Bahá'í community and the atrocious human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today marks the fifth year Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naemi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm have been behind bars in Iran due to their faith. These six individuals, along with Mahvash Sabet, imprisoned 2 months earlier, make up the "Yaran-I-Iran,'' or Friends of Iran, which is the former leadership group of the Bahá'í community of Iran. We must not let up on our efforts to defend the Bahá'í community until the Iranian Government's intensifying persecution comes to an end.

Iran outlawed Bahá'í institutions in 1983, leading to the establishment of an ad hoc leadership group to meet the basic spiritual and social needs of the Bahá'í community of Iran. In August 2010, the Government of Iran sentenced the Yaran to 20-year prison terms on the absurd charges of ``spying for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, propaganda against the regime and spreading corruption on earth.''

The Bahá'í faith is an independent world religion that began in 19th-century Persia. Its central tenets include unity, peace, and understanding. The Bahá'ís are currently the largest non-Muslim minority in Iran, numbering some 300,000 members, and the Bahá'í faith is one of the world's fastest growing religions with more than 5 million followers worldwide. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Bahá'ís have been a target of systematic government-sponsored persecution. Roughly 200 Bahá'ís in Iran have been killed by government authorities since 1978 and more than 650 Bahá'ís have been arrested since 2005 alone.

In May 2011, the government conducted raids on the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education, an informal learning system created by the Bahá'í community in response to the exclusion of Bahá'ís from universities. Several educators were arrested and detained. Seven of them--Mahmoud Badavam, Noushin Khadem, Vahid Mahmoudi, Kamran Mortezaie, Farhad Sedghi, Riaz Sobhani, and Ramin Zibaie--were sentenced to 4 and 5-year prison terms, although Vahid Mahmoudi has since been released. Since October 2011, four more BIHE instructors were imprisoned.

The 2013 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report stated that "during the past year, the already poor religious freedom conditions continued to deteriorate, especially for religious minorities, in particular for Bahá'ís.'' On February 28, 2013, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran reported that there were 110 Bahá'ís currently imprisoned in Iran solely for practicing their faith. Bahá'ís in Iran are restricted from filling public and private jobs, denied business licenses, and excluded from university. In recent years, the state-sponsored media in Iran embarked on a systematic campaign to demonize and incite hatred against Bahá'ís through the use of false and offensive propaganda pieces. An increasing amount of personal property has been confiscated, an increasing number of Bahá'í-owned businesses have been vandalized and attacked, and an increasing number of Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated over the past year across the country.

Despite being bound to numerous international treaties, the Iranian Government continues to persecute those who seek to exercise their freedom of expression, thought, conscience, and religion. As Americans, we honor our fundamental rights and freedoms by speaking out for the rights and freedoms of the Bahá'ís and all others who are oppressed in Iran. And it is incumbent on the Senate to reveal the truth about the situation of the Bahá'í community in Iran and take steps to eradicate the violence and injustice.

Illinois is home to the world-renowned Bahá'í Temple, so the plight of Bahá'ís in Iran holds special significance for our citizens. I am proud to have joined with my Illinois colleague, Senator Durbin, in introducing S. Res. 75, a resolution that condemns 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. Today, we reaffirm our solidarity with the faithful Bahá'ís in Iran who are subject to discrimination, detention, or worse solely for their beliefs and views. It is my hope that S. Res. 75 will bring the persecution of Bahá'ís and the issue of human rights in Iran to the forefront of the international agenda.

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