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Chivukula, Bramnick, McKeon & Benson Measure Calling for Release of Baha'I Prisoners in Iran Approved by Assembly
(TRENTON) Bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula, Assembly Minority Leader Jon M. Bramnick, Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson for the immediate release of all Baha'i prisoners in Iran was approved on Monday by the full Assembly.
The measure (AR-176) also calls for fair treatment of the Baha'i community in that country.
Founded in Iran in 1844, the Baha'i faith is the youngest of the world's monotheistic religions with more than five million adherents in 236 countries and territories, drawn from every nationality, ethnic group and religious background.
"Iran's estimated 300,000 Baha'i community has long been subjected to state-sponsored persecution because of its religious beliefs, with the attacks intensifying after the Iranian revolution in 1979 when more than 200 members of the Baha'i faith were killed in summary executions and extrajudicial killings. Hundreds of Baha'is are reported to have been unlawfully arrested and imprisoned and thousands deprived of jobs, education and the freedom to worship," Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex) said.
"The measure we sponsored strongly condemns the "cradle to grave" persecution of members of the Baha'i faith in Iran and calls for the immediate release of all Baha'i prisoners," Chivukula added.
"We join the global community in calling for the immediate release of the seven prominent members of the Baha'i faith who were incarcerated in Teheran's notorious Evin prison after being unjustly charged and given 20-year sentences. We urge the Iranian government to live up to its international human rights obligations," Bramnick (R-Westfield) said.
"Baha'is in Iran are reported to be routinely arrested, detained, and imprisoned. They are denied business licenses and Baha'i marriages are not recognized. Teheran's violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights is also manifested in the continued raids and attacks on Baha'i homes and businesses, the defacement and destruction of Baha'i sacred sites, and the systematic denial of education and employment to members of the community. The measure we sponsored condemns the state-sponsored persecution of the Baha'i community by the government of Iran and calls for the immediate release of all Baha'i prisoners," McKeon (D-Essex\Morris) said.
"We first learned of the brutal treatment of the Baha'i community in Iran from constituents in our district who belong to the Baha'i faith. It is untenable that anyone should suffer the kind of oppression and violation of their human rights that members of the Baha'i community are subjected to in Iran and we urge the Iranian government to grant them their constitutional rights and to release all Baha'i prisoners," Benson (D-Hamilton) said.
"The Baha'i community of New Jersey is deeply grateful to the New Jersey General Assembly for the approval of AR-176 and appreciates the support of our state's lawmakers and so many people of New Jersey who have joined us in recognizing that the persecution of any one religion is a threat to all religions, and to all people of conscience throughout the world. It is essential to keep an international spotlight on the persecution of the Baha'i in Iran, and resolutions such as this one let the government of Iran know that the eyes of the global community are upon it," said Jay Tyson, a member of the local spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Hamilton Township.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced a resolution in the 113th Congress condemning the government of Iran for state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i religious minority and for its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The resolutions also call on the U.S. President and Secretary of State to condemn Iran's continued human rights violations and demand the release of prisoners held solely on account of their religion.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly recognized and condemned the treatment of the Baha'i by Iran and in December of that year, adopted a resolution calling on the Iranian government to eliminate discrimination against, and exclusion of members of the Baha'i faith. This includes denying Baha'i youth access to Iranian universities.
The resolution also calls on Iran to accord to all Baha'is, including those imprisoned because of their beliefs, the due process of law and rights that they are constitutionally guaranteed.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has expressed "deep concern" over continuing economic and educational discrimination against Baha'is in Iran. According to the ILO, the case of Iranian Baha'is remains "particularly serious" because of "systematic discrimination" by the government.
Currently, it is reported that there are 115 Baha'is in prison and 436 awaiting trial, appeal, sentencing or the commencement of their sentence in Iran.
The central theme of the Baha'i faith is that all of humanity is one single race, that the day has come for humanity's unification into one global society and that the purpose of life is to know and worship God, to acquire virtues, to promote the oneness of humankind and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
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