The House delivered a bipartisan jab at Iran on Wednesday just days away from the Nov. 24 nuclear negotiations deadline imposed by the administration.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced just last Friday a bill condemning the Islamic Republic on its human-rights record. It was fast-tracked onto the floor, where it passed by voice vote.
That means no roll call votes were recorded, but Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) spoke out against the timing of the resolution.
“The expansion of human rights for all Iranians is more likely to happen if current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are successful. Diplomacy with Iran empowers human rights leaders in Tehran because it weakens the claim that Iran is under constant threat which justifies the police state,” Ellison said. “Diplomacy empowers advocates to push for rights like freedom of speech and religion. If Congress wants to help improve human rights in Iran, we must engage and support the P5+1 nuclear talks.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she hoped the resolution “is not used to undermine diplomatic efforts to reduce and provide for inspections of Iran’s nuclear program.”
The bill condemned myriad abuses, “in particular, the recent cruel execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault.”
It “deplores the Government of Iran’s mistreatment of its religious minorities, including through the deprivation of life, liberty, and property” and notes “that the Administration has designated only one Iranian person for the commission of serious human rights abuses under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, as amended, since May 30, 2013.”
It also “condemns the undemocratic elections process that denies Iranians the ability to freely choose their own government.”
Engel said on the floor that any hopes that President Hassan Rouhani would be a moderate have evaporated. “In fact, on so many fronts, things have gotten worse.”
“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,” Engel said. “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.”
“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.”
Even as negotiations continue, Engel stressed, “We cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the horrific abuses taking place in Iran every single day.”
“Under the reign of Cyrus the Great, the world’s first human rights document was issued with its tolerance for all cultures and religions,” Royce said.
“While Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions with relentless determination, it continues to repress millions of Iranians yearning for basic freedoms. Today’s resolution stands for the principle that U.S. foreign policy can and must pursue strategic objectives, like the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, while promoting democracy and human rights.”