- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in support of a resolution calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held by the Government of Iran (H.Res. 317):
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Let me thank Chairman Royce, because here again is another piece of legislation from the Foreign Affairs Committee that we’ve shown we can work together with in a bipartisan manner. So, I am pleased to stand with the Chairman.
“I am also pleased to stand with the former Chairman, and my good friend as well, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She’s now chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, and along with this resolution’s other lead sponsors: Mrs. Lowey of New York; Mr. Deutch of Florida, the Middle East Subcommittee’s Ranking Member; and Mr. Poe of Texas.
“We’re here today to talk about Americans illegally detained by the Iranian regime, and those Americans have had no stronger champions than the members I’ve mentioned before through the years.
“It’s actually, Mr. Speaker, it’s just outrageous that the government of Iran continues to hold American citizens and residents on trumped-up charges: Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, a former UNICEF official in poor health, Baquer Namazi; Karan Vafadari, an American citizen, and his wife Afarin Niasari; Nizar Zakka, who was detained after attending a conference at Iran’s invitation; another American citizen who has been kept anonymous by family for fear of that person’s wellbeing; and of course Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than 10 years ago. How cruel. For 10 years, his family doesn’t know where he is. His family doesn’t know how he is.
“This is a regime, the Iranian regime, which talks about piety and religion, and they don’t have any feeling of humankind from one person to another.
“The detainment and disappearance of these people, and citizens of America’s friends and allies—the pain and suffering and uncertainty that their families endure every single day—the lack of cooperation and information coming out of Tehran—is a pretty clear indication of how this regime operates and what its values are.
“The measure we’re considering today underscores what Congress has said before: this behavior is unacceptable and it must stop. We call on the government in Iran to release these men and women immediately without precondition.
“The people of Iran are the real captives of this regime, but these American citizens are our citizens and we demand their release. The government of Iran must do what it has long promised by providing information on the disappearance of Robert Levinson—and we urge the Trump Administration to make resolving this issue a top priority.
“So, I’m glad to stand with my colleagues on both sides to support this measure. I again thank my colleague from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for, as always, outstanding, stellar, and heartfelt work on these issues.
“I thank Chairman Royce again, and all the people I mentioned before, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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