WASHINGTON, DC— Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of H.Res. 754, a resolution condemning the government of Iran for its gross human rights violations:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.Res. 754, a resolution condemning the government of Iran for its gross human rights violations. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“When President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June 2013, he came to office with a reputation as a so-called moderate. Some hoped that the human rights situation inside Iran would improve. A year later, we know that was a false hope. In fact, on so many fronts, things have gotten worse.
“You know, it’s interesting, with people who say Rouhani is a moderate. No moderates were allowed to run for president in the Iranian election. There were six hardliners, at the end, that were allowed to run. Rouhani may be the most moderate of those six hardliners, but he’s still a hardliner. And I think we’re seeing it time and time and time again. And in fact, we don’t even really know that he has the power to make decisions. The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, is the one who really makes all those decisions. So while we can hope for certain things, I think we have to deal with things, unfortunately, as they are, and not as we wish they were.
“So for example, Iranian authorities have dramatically escalated the number of executions of Iranian citizens. This is from the so-called moderate Rouhani regime. According to the U.N., there were 852 executions between July 2013 and June 2014.
“Earlier this month, Iran executed Reyhaneh Jabbari. She was convicted of killing a man who she apparently stabbed in self-defense while she was being sexually assaulted. That evidence wasn’t allowed to be a part of her trial. And while she was in prison awaiting her execution, she was tortured.
“We all remember the massive protests as the Chairman mentioned after the fraudulent 2009 Iranian elections. We all remember the images of tens of thousands of Iranians, brave Iranian citizens, taking to the streets. And we all remember how the Iranian government responded, sending the Basij militia to brutally beat peaceful protesters. The leaders of that Green Revolution remain under house arrest to this very day.
“Religious minorities also face constant danger in Iran. This is especially true for members of the Baha’i faith. Baha’i people are frequently detained and interrogated by Iranian security forces. Since 1979, hundreds of Baha’i leaders have been executed.
“The United States has helped to shine a light to Iran’s human rights violations. We pushed the U.N. Human Rights Council to continue the work of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Now, I have been one of the strongest critics of the Human Rights Council and its outrageous bias against Israel. But this Rapporteur has done important work to reveal the scale of human rights abuses in Iran.
“Since 2010, the Administration has sanctioned 19 Iranian officials and 18 Iranian entities. We’ve gone after them for their involvement or complicity in serious human rights abuses, or in restricting the basic freedoms of the Iranian people. I am proud of the role that Congress has provided in putting forth these sanctions.
“The most recent designation was for Morteza Tamaddon. He was the Governor-General of Tehran province on May 23rd of this year. We singled him out for his involvement in censorship and other activities that limit the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of Iran’s citizens.
“This designation occurred even while the P5+1 is negotiating with Iran on its illicit nuclear program. And even as those negotiations continue, we cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the horrific abuses taking place in Iran every single day.
“The resolution we are now considering urges the Administration to use every tool at its disposal to target, expose, and punish those who violate the human rights of the Iranian people. Because at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, despite the sharp differences between our governments, we have no ill will towards the people of Iran, toward the citizens of Iran. They are, unfortunately, oppressed by a government that calls itself their government, but is really a brutal oppressor of the Iranian people.
“On the contrary, I believe that people of our two nations should be natural friends. Iran would be the natural U.S. ally in the region, but because of the Iranian regime, this of course cannot happen and will not happen as long as they are in power.
“So I hope that this resolution will demonstrate to the people of Iran, who are our friends—not the government but the people of Iran—that we join them in seeking a future for their country based on respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution, I thank the Chairman, as always, for his cooperation, and I reserve the balance of my time.”