Iran’s turmoil has caused the U.S government to tread lightly with its political response. President Barack Obama has shied from strong rhetoric, opting instead for nuanced statements that show American respect for the Iranian electoral process, yet concern for its people’s welfare.

This approach has inflamed hard-liners, who feel the proper response is a powerful response. In this game of politics, though, where ground can shift suddenly under one’s feet, standing firm could be counterproductive.

President Obama believes there is tactical advantage in this approach. He is compromising, allowing the Iranian outcome to be dictated by the boots on the ground and the voices in the streets of Tehran, not American influence, direction or meddling.

History will decide if this approach was right. In the interim, not all situations in Iran should be handled in this careful manner. While politics has its pitfalls, standing tall for protection of human rights and ceasing unjust persecutions are positions that are uncompromising.

For more than a year, seven leaders of the Baha’i faith in Iran — a minority religion in the Islamic republic, with a mere 300,000 members — have been imprisoned for espionage. They are accused of being Israeli spies, a crime punishable by death, yet the proof of their guilt is nonexistent.

They are imprisoned for being Baha’i, members of a persecuted sect that has faced executions and oppression in Iran for decades. The Iranian Baha’i diaspora is spread far and wide, including here, where a pleasant couple named Parivash and Nasser Rohani reside in Auburn. She works at St. Mary’s; he, at L.L. Bean. 


The Rohanis are two voices in a worldwide effort to bring attention to the plight of the Iranian Baha’i, especially now, as the demonstrations in Iran and political gamesmanship around the globe threaten to obscure the significant human rights peril their countrymen are facing.

One of the seven imprisoned Baha’i is the wife of Nasser Rohani’s cousin. Her trial, according to reports in the Baha’i community, could come as early as July 11.

Allegations of Zionist conspiracies and “insulting religious sanctities” in Iran are old news to the Baha’i; official justifications for persecution against their membership has balanced on such vague allegations and untruths for years. They are an oppressed minority, fearful for their very existence.

Their only defense is pressure on the Iranian government from the world, unanimous clarion calls for preservation of justice and human rights. This comes in many forms — there are two examples pending before Congress now, U.S. House and Senate resolutions condemning the Baha’i persecution in Iran, introduced well before the election.

Both are within their committees, yet both cannot languish. With the world’s attention on Iran, and the potential for trial within weeks, accelerating these resolutions to the floor of the House and Senate for public votes should occur without delay. The message these resolutions contain must be sent.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree are co-sponsors of these resolutions. We urge their continued support and exertion of pressure for a vote. The current politics of Iran may demand caution and patience.  

Condemning the deprivation of human rights, however, does not.

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