U.S. Senate calls for release of religious prisoners in Iran

April 1, 2012
The U.S. Senate resolution condemns the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of Baha'is. The resolution was introduced last year by Illinois Senators Mark Kirk (top) and Richard Durbin.

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States Senate has passed a resolution condemning the government of Iran for its systematic campaign of persecution of Baha'is and calling for the release of all Iranian prisoners held solely for their religious beliefs.

The resolution – approved by unanimous consent on Thursday – also called for sanctions against Iranian officials directly responsible for human rights violations.

"Despite five international human rights treaties to which it is legally bound, the Iranian government continues to persecute those who seek to exercise their freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion," said Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois who introduced the resolution.

Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois who co-sponsored the resolution, added: "It is past time for the state-sponsored religious persecution of the Baha'is in Iran to come to an end. The passage of this resolution affirms that the American people stand with the Baha'i in their quest for some of our most basic human rights: security and religious freedom."

The resolution took note of recent international measures that have cataloged the growing oppression of Baha'is and other religious minorities in Iran, such as recent reports on human rights in Iran by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The resolution also listed a series of incidents dating back to 2008 where Iranian Baha'is have been arrested and imprisoned "solely on the basis of their religion."

These incidents included the arrest, trial, and 20-year sentences handed down to seven national Baha'i leaders.

Iran was called upon in the resolution to "immediately release the seven leaders and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion." President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton were also urged to utilize measures available under the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act 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."