WASHINGTON D.C., United States — The United States Congress has called on Iran to release Baha'is imprisoned solely for their religious beliefs.
In a resolution passed on 1 January, the House of Representatives expressed its condemnation of Iran's "state-sponsored persecution" of Baha'is.
"Ordinary Iranian citizens who belong to the Baha'i Faith are disproportionately targeted, interrogated, and detained under the pretext of national security," said the resolution, which was the 12th such measure approved by the US Congress since 1982.
Sponsored by Representatives Robert J. Dold, Daniel Lipinski, and Brad Sherman, the bill took note of Iran's wrongful imprisonment of seven former Baha'i leaders, each currently serving 20-year prison terms. It also condemned the unjust arrest and incarceration of Baha'i educators and administrators of an informal community effort to provide for Baha'i youth who are otherwise excluded from higher education.
"The [Iranian] regime has sought to make life as a Baha'i in Iran simply unlivable," said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a statement before the vote. "This resolution draws attention to their plight, and calls on the Iranian regime to end its campaign of abuse against the Baha'i."
More specifically, the resolution urged President Obama and his Secretary of State to utilize measures approved in 2010 to "sanction officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for egregious human rights violations in Iran, including against the Baha'i community."
"The Baha'i community is encouraged by the emphasis the U.S. Congress has placed on the human rights abuses in Iran," said an official of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. "We are convinced that this continued international pressure has kept the situation for the Baha'is in Iran from getting much worse."
At the present time, there are approximately 116 Baha'is imprisoned in Iran for their religious beliefs. More than 670 Baha'is have been arrested since mid-2004, and thousands more have been deprived of jobs, education and the right to religious freedom.