Thursday, February 19, 2009

Congressman Mark Kirk: Then they came for the Baha’is - Iran Press Watch

The following speech by Hon. Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois was delivered to the House of Representatives:

Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Persecution of Baha’is in Iran
”In Germany, they first came for the gypsies, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a gypsy. Then they came for the Bolsheviks, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Bolshevik. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. I didn’t speak up then because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.”–Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor arrested by the Gestapo in 1937.

Mr. KIRK. Madam Speaker, then they came for the Baha’is.

The Baha’i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions. Founded in Iran in 1844, it now claims more than 5 million adherents in 236 countries and territories. Gathering worshipers from nearly every national, ethnic and religious background, the Baha’is preach tolerance, diversity and equality.

To an Islamic dictatorship that denies its people basic political and human rights, this religion founded in Iran on the tenets of religious tolerance remains an anathema to the Supreme Leader. And the world is standing by as Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority nears its final stages.

In 2006, Iran’s Armed Forces Command Headquarters ordered the Ministry of Information, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Police Force to identify members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran and monitor their activities.

In that same year, we saw the largest roundup of Baha’is since the 1980s. The Iranian Interior Ministry ordered provincial officials to ”cautiously and carefully monitor and manage” all Baha’i social activities. The Central Security Office of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology ordered 81 Iranian universities to expel any student discovered to be a Baha’i.
In 2007, the situation worsened. More than two-thirds of the Baha’is enrolled in universities were expelled once identified as Baha’is. Police entered Baha’i homes and businesses to collect details on family members.

Twenty-live industries were ordered to deny licenses to Baha’is. Employers were pressured to fire Baha’i employees and banks were instructed to refuse loans to Baha’i-owned businesses. Baha’i cemeteries were destroyed.

In November 2007, three Baha’i youths were detained for educating underprivileged children.
The following month, the Iranian Parliament published a draft Islamic penal code, requiring the death penalty for all ”apostates”–a term applied to Baha’is and any convert away from Islam.
On May 14. 2008, seven members of Iran’s national Baha’i coordinating group were arrested. This is reminiscent of the mass disappearance and assumed murder of all the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran in August, 1980.

On August 1, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 1008, condemning the persecution of Baha’is in Iran and calling for the immediate release of all Baha’is imprisoned solely on the basis of their religion.

Our bipartisan voice bought the Baha’i leadership some time–but it appears only 6 months.
This week, the Government of Iran charged the seven Baha’i leaders with ”espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.” Deputy Tehran Prosecutor Hassan Haddad declared, ”The charges against seven defendants in the case of the illegal Baha’i group were examined . . . and the case will be sent to the revolutionary court next week.” It is time for the international community to act.

Today, along with my colleagues Jim McGovern and Brad Sherman, I am introducing a bipartisan resolution calling on the Government of Iran to immediately release the seven Baha’i leaders and all others imprisoned solely the basis of their religion.

I urge President Obama and Secretary Clinton, in concert with the international community, to publicly condemn Iran’s persecution of its religious minorities and demand the release of these seven community leaders.

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