The US House of Representatives said on December 12 that it “condemns” the Iranian government’s longstanding persecution of the Baha’is in Iran – the country’s largest religious minority. It was the 18th time that the House has passed a resolution on the situation of Iran’s Baha’i community since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The House resolution also called on the president and the secretary of state to “immediately condemn” Iran’s treatment of the Baha’is and to impose new sanctions on Iranian officials and others who are “directly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including abuses against the Baha’i community.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously, was introduced by eight Members of Congress and co-sponsored by 132 more, 54 of whom are Republicans and 78 of whom are Democrats.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who introduced the resolution, said that “Iran’s Baha’i community is a frequent target of the regime’s human rights abuses and are subject to arbitrary arrest and harassment, denial of employment and the destruction of cemeteries and holy places.” She called the resolution a “strong message of support” for the Baha’is and other persecuted groups in Iran.
US legislators noted that more than 90 Baha’is are currently in jail – approximately 850 have been arbitrarily detained since 1979, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom – and they called on the Iranian government to release all Baha’is and others imprisoned “solely on account of their religion.”
Other findings, drawn largely from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the reports of the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran and on freedom of religion or belief, statements by the UN Secretary General and by the Baha’i International Community, which represents the Baha’is at the United Nations, detail the litany of systematic abuses suffered by Iranian Baha’is.
The resolution notes that Iran’s government sees the Baha’is as “heretics” and executed more than 200 of them in the years after the 1979 Revolution. Religious minorities, especially the Baha’is suffer “societal discrimination” and “personal harassment”; Baha’i blood may be “spilled with impunity”; universities are “required” to exclude or expel any Baha’i students; and in a wave of economic discrimination, and there are reports that even private businesses have been “pressured to refuse employment to Baha’is,” while the government routinely shutters Baha’i-owned businesses.
The US resolution also observed that, according to the Baha’i International Community, there has been a recent surge in “anti-Baha’i hate propaganda” in Iran’s state-run media. The years 2010 and 2011 saw about 22 anti-Baha’i articles appear in the media each month; in 2014, it was about 400 such articles a month; and by 2016, the number of anti-Baha’i pieces in the media had shot up to 1,500 a month.
Congressman Ted Deutch, a key co-sponsor of the resolution, said that “the House is sending a strong and unified message that we condemn the Iranian regime’s religious persecution and human rights violations ... We’re also calling on the administration to take serious action against those responsible.”