Casey Statement on the Persecution of Religious Minorities in Iran

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, released the following statement on the persecution of religious minorities in Iran:

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental and universal human right.  Religious minorities must be free to hold their beliefs and to practice their religions without fear of persecution or discrimination.  All governments, particularly those that have made international commitments to uphold religious freedom, should work to protect religious minorities and promote tolerance within their borders.

“I am deeply concerned by the Iranian regime’s ongoing persecution of religious minorities.  Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who has been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death for his refusal to renounce Christianity, is one of many victims of the Iranian regime’s egregious human rights abuses. 

“I am appalled by the treatment of Mr. Nadarkhani and his family.  I urge Iran’s leaders to drop the charges against Mr. Nadarkhani and to release him unconditionally.  Executing Mr. Nadarkhani for his religious beliefs would be an unprecedented and inexcusable violation of fundamental human rights in Iran, and would further isolate the Iranian regime as one of the worst abusers of human rights around the world.”

Senator Casey has been outspoken against the Iranian regime’s perpetual abuses of fundamental human rights.  He was an original cosponsor of S. Res. 73, supporting democracy, universal rights, and the Iranian people in their peaceful call for a representative and responsive democratic government.  He was also a cosponsor of S. Res. 80, condemning 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.

Senator Casey is an original cosponsor of S. 1048, the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act of 2011.  This legislation would expand the U.S. government’s ability to support democracy in Iran through financial and political assistance.  It would also require the President to appoint a Special Representative on Human Rights and Democracy in Iran within the U.S. Department of State, and to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote internet freedom and access to information in Iran.  He also joined a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to work at the U.N. Human Rights Council for the establishment of an independent human rights monitor in Iran. 

In May 2011, Senator Casey chaired a hearing on human rights and democratic reform in Iran, in which he urged the United States and the international community to increase pressure on the Iranian regime for reform.