Resolutions are under consideration in the 116th U.S. Congress, as in past two-year congressional sessions, highlighting and condemning human rights abuses the Iranian government has carried out against the Baha’is in Iran. They are House Resolution 823 and Senate Resolution 578.
Political tension between Iran and the United States in 2019 created a cautious congressional environment that delayed bipartisan introduction of the resolutions until 2020, according to the national Baha’i Office of Public Affairs.
Nevertheless, even with this compressed timing, Baha’i delegations across the country have been communicating with their members of Congress to send a message to the Iranian government that the international community is still watching its oppression of its Baha’i citizens, which continues to be wide-ranging and systematic.
Events in 2020 added an additional sense of urgency, especially the spread of COVID-19 to Iranian society — including its prisons, where dozens of Baha’is are unjustly incarcerated at any given time.
As in previous Congresses, both resolutions are fully bipartisan, introduced with equal numbers of initial co-sponsors from each of the two major parties. Experience over the past four decades strongly suggests that international condemnation from national parliaments, heads of state, foreign ministers, and UN bodies has prevented even more egregious abuses from recurring.
Introduced in January, H.Res.823 had by September accumulated 82 co-sponsors, or about 19 percent of the House of Representatives. At the same time S.Res.578, introduced in May, had 28 co-sponsors out of the 100 members of the Senate. Passage of both these resolutions was anticipated within weeks.
By comparison, in the previous two years in Congress, similar resolutions had gained 30 percent co-sponsorship in the House with a full 17 months before the formal vote, and 33 percent in the Senate in an eight-month interval.
“The garnering of such support over a relatively short time is extremely encouraging,” said Anthony Vance, director of the Office of Public Affairs, “and demonstrates that, even at a time when major issues, such as the pandemic, racial justice, unemployment, and climate change are affecting the entire country, concern for the human rights and religious freedom of the Bahá’ís in Iran remains, in the minds of members of Congress, an issue worthy of congressional attention.”