Thank You, Rep. Lankford

For Supporting Freedom of
Thought, Conscience and Religion


“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18)

Rep. James Lankford, Member of Congress for the 5th congressional district in Oklahoma, has been recognized by the members of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association for his support of the fundamental rights of religious minorities.

Priya Desai, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of UNA-USA, has written a letter to Rep. Lankford expressing thanks for the congressman’s decision to become a co-sponsor of House Resolution 109.

HR 109 is a bi-partisan resolution expressing disapproval of the Government of Iran “…for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

Baha’i Advocates for Peace

For years, the Baha’i community has suffered from a lack of protection of their fundamental human rights in Iran. In the ten years following the 1979 revolution, according to the United Nations Office of the Baha’i International Community, more than 200 Baha’is were killed or executed. Hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – all solely because of their religious belief. Since 2005, more than more than 710 Baha’is have been arrested, and the number of Baha’is in prison has risen from fewer than five to a current figure of 136.

In March, 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a report (A/HRC/19/66), which stated that “the Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed by communications that demonstrate the systemic and systematic persecution of members of unrecognized religious communities, particularly the Baha’i community, in violation of international conventions” and expressed concern regarding `”an intensive defamation campaign meant to incite discrimination and hate against Baha’is.”

Dr. Cornel West, professor of African
American Studies and Religion,
recently welcomed a relative of
an imprisoned Iranian Baha’i
into his Princeton University office
and shared his thoughts on
the persecution of the Baha’is
in Iran. (See the 4-minute
video at YouTube)

House Resolution 109 recognizes the efforts of the United Nations to intercede on behalf of the rights of the Baha’i community. For example, the resolution refers to a statement (A/RES/67/182) adopted in December, 2012, by the United Nations General Assembly calling upon the government of Iran to “eliminate discrimination against, and exclusion of… members of the Baha’i Faith, regarding access to higher education, and to eliminate the criminalization of efforts to provide higher education to Baha’i youth denied access to Iranian universities,” and “to accord all Baha’is, including those imprisoned because of their beliefs, the due process of law and the rights that they are constitutionally
guaranteed.”

HR 109 implicitly acknowledges several international treaties on human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these international agreements are commonly referred to as the International Bill of Rights.

The actions of the government of Iran are concerning to people of conscience around the world.

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signatory nations have agreed to “guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

According to Congress.gov, House Resolution 109 has been assigned to the House Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa. There has not yet been a recorded vote. So far, Rep. Lankford is the only member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation who has stepped forward to support the resolution.

Our Letter to Rep. Lankford

April 18, 2014



Dear Rep. Lankford,

Thank you for becoming a co-sponsor of House Resolution 109, which supports the rights of religious minorities in Iran.

Priya Desai

As the resolution points out, religious freedom for all people is a common value of the world community. The United Nations has repeatedly upheld freedom of religion as a universal right. It is entirely proper for the United States Congress to reaffirm its support of these values and principles.

As an Oklahoman and as a supporter of American leadership in the United Nations, I am especially happy to know that one of our Members of Congress from Oklahoma has decided to become a co-sponsor of this important resolution.

On behalf of all the members of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, I would like to say “Thank You” for your support of the Baha’i community in Iran and the religious rights of people everywhere.

Sincerely,

Priya Desai
President, OKC Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

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