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    U.S. Senate and Iranian Bahá'ís


    Thursday, June 27, 1996



    WASHINGTON, June 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States issued the following:

    The U.S. Senate late last night condemned Iran's continuing repressive actions against the Bahá'í community and urged the regime to grant religious rights to more than 300,000 Bahá'ís, Iran's largest religious minority group. The Senate acted by unanimous consent, following a 408-0 House vote approving an identical resolution. This is the seventh congressional appeal in support of Iranian Bahá'ís adopted since 1982.

    More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed since the Islamic regime took power in 1979, and three are currently under sentence of death on account of their religious beliefs. Noting that official Iranian government documents spell out a formal policy aimed at the suppression of the Bahá'í community, Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS), the principal sponsor of the current resolution, expressed concern that the very survival of the community is threatened by the regime's denial of legal recognition and of basic rights to organize, elect its leaders and educate its youth.

    A spokesman for the 120,000-member American Bahá'í community welcomed the Senate's support and emphasized the importance of continuing international pressure on the Iranian government. Firuz Kazemzadeh, a member of the elected governing council of the U.S. Bahai's, said there is good evidence that prior congressional resolutions, together with appeals by other nations and the United Nations, have helped to persuade Iran to moderate its actions against Bahá'ís.

    Forty U.S. Senators cosponsored the current resolution. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Connecticut Democrats Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman joined Senator Kassebaum in leading the effort.

    This month marks the thirteenth anniversary of the executions in Shiraz of 17 Bahá'ís, including seven women and three teenaged girls. While no Bahá'ís have been executed since 1992, American officials and United Nations representatives have publicly expressed concern regarding the fate of three Bahá'ís currently under sentence of death. Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department issued a strong appeal for the freedom of a Bahá'í who had been condemned to death for "apostasy" because he had allegedly converted from Islam to the Bahá'í Faith. Following this appeal and intercession by U.N. officials and representatives of other governments, the Iranian Supreme Court set aside the verdict and remanded the case to a civil court.

    American Bahá'í communities are active in all fifty states. The Bahá'í Faith, which emerged from Islam in the mid-19th century, emphasizes the unity of humankind, equality of sexes and races, tolerance and world peace.

    CO: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States

    ST: District of Columbia

    © Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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