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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
The Shame Of Iranian Human Rights February 27, 2015
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, at a time when the administration seems keen to reach a nuclear accord that relies on trust in the Iranian regime and perhaps even a de facto collaboration in the fight against ISIS, it is wise to consider and scrutinize the dismal human rights record of this country with which we are currently conducting negotiations based on good faith. How they treat their own people is illustrative of how they see and will treat outsiders. A hearing I convened yesterday provided a critical examination of human rights in Iran—which is important and necessary in its own right—and also placed it in the context of the administration’s efforts to partner with this regime on critical issues. According to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, between July 2013 and June 2014, at least 852 people were executed in Iran. Shockingly, some of those executed were children under the age of 18. Iranian human rights activists place the number of people executed by the Iranian regime at 1,181. The current Department of State human rights report states that Iranian human rights violations include disappearances; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including judicially sanctioned amputation and flogging; rape, politically motivated violence and repression, harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities, with instances of deaths in custody; arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado. While the Iranian constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities and allows for minority languages to be used in the media and in schools, minorities do not enjoy equal rights, and the regime consistently denies their right to use their languages in school. In addition, a 1985 law, the Gozinesh (selection) law, prohibits non-Shia ethnic minorities from fully participating in civic life. That law and its associated provisions make full access to employment, education, and other areas conditional on devotion to the Islamic Republic and the tenets of Shia Islam. The regime disproportionately targets minority groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Baluchis for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse. These groups report political and socioeconomic discrimination, particularly in their access to economic aid, business licenses, university admissions, permission to publish books, and housing and land rights. Because of severe religious freedom abuses, our Government has designated Iran as a Country of Particular Concern since 1999. The frequent arrest and harassment of members of religious minorities has continued, following a significant increase in 2012. The government severely restricts religious freedom, and there have been reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs. There have been continued reports of the government charging religious and ethnic minorities with “enmity against God,” “anti-Islamic propaganda,” or vague national security crimes for their religious activities. Those reportedly arrested on religious grounds faced poor prison conditions and treatment, as with most prisoners of conscience. One of those imprisoned on religious grounds is Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen and father of two—Rebekkah Grace and Jacob Cyrus—and a Christian imprisoned in Iran because of his faith. Pastor Abedini was imprisoned by the Iranian regime nearly 1,000 days ago, when members of the Revolutionary Guard pulled him off of a bus and placed him under house arrest. He was later taken away—in chains—to Evin Prison, where he has endured periods of solitary confinement, beatings, internal bleeding, death threats, and continued psychological torture, all because he would not deny his Christian faith. What was Pastor Abedini’s crime? According to the court, he was a threat to the security of Iran because of his leadership role in Christian churches in 2000-2005. President Obama promised Pastor Abedini’s son Jacob that he would do all he can to gain his father’s release by the boy’s birthday next month. Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry, in answer to my question on this matter, said the administration was working quietly to gain Pastor Abedini’s release as soon as possible. Let’s hope. Meanwhile, Iran is repeatedly cited for virtually unrelenting repression of the Baha’i community, which Iran’s Shiite Muslim clergy views as a heretical sect. Baha’i number about 300,000-350,000. At least 30 Baha’is remain imprisoned, and 60 were arrested in 2012. A February 2013 UN report said in that 110 Baha’is were in jail, with 133 more expected to start serving jail time. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the regime has executed more than 200 Baha’is. The regime frequently prevents many Baha’is from leaving the country, harasses and persecutes them, and generally disregards their property rights. Iranian regime officials reportedly offer Baha’is relief from mistreatment in exchange for recanting their religious affiliation. Iranian courts offer no recourse to the monstrous violation of human rights because without an independent judiciary, Iranians (and foreigners tried in those courts) are routinely denied fair public trials, sometimes resulting in executions without due process. This also results in ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures and remedies and allows arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. This is the regime the administration trusts to make agreements and honor them. I call on the administration to do more than acknowledge these facts—it must take more seriously the blatant disregard of the rights of people and factor this into any interactions we have with this predatory regime. How can we make any binding agreement with such a dishonorable regime? That question remains to be answered."
Nigeria On The Brink? February 27, 2015
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and is the continent’s largest economy. Unfortunately, Nigeria is beset by various challenges that threaten the peace and stability of this African giant. The terrorist group Boko Haram continues its bloody reign of terror, now threatening to establish a “caliphate” on the model of ISIS in the Levant. Religious and ethnic discord, which pre-dates Boko Haram’s emergence, continues unabated. Lower oil prices have serious damaged an economy significantly dependent on oil revenues. Meanwhile, the prospect of a violent repeat of the 2011 post-election scene has ratcheted up tensions in Nigeria even further. A hearing that I recently held examined the situation in Nigeria and the U.S. efforts to maintain positive relations with the largest U.S. trading partner in Africa and a major ally in international peacekeeping. U.S.-Nigeria relations were understandably rocky during the military rule of Sani Abacha in the 1990s. However, the advent of democracy with the 1999 elections ushered in an improved atmosphere of cooperation. Nigeria consistently ranks among the top recipients of U.S. bilateral foreign assistance and is the second-largest beneficiary of U.S. investment in Africa. In recent months, though, our relations have deteriorated. Apparently, some in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan feel the United States is meddling in their internal affairs, especially when it comes to our noting deprival of the due process rights of citizens by Nigerian military and security forces. Our view is that friends don’t just stand by when friends commit human rights abuses. The subcommittee that I chair held a hearing last July 10th to examine the complaints that human rights vetting was a major obstacle to U.S. counterterrorism. What we found was that the State Department estimated that half of Nigerian forces would pass our vetting process, which we found is slowed by too few staff working on these important issues. Still, the Nigerian Government must be more cooperative. Some units in larger divisions may have human rights issues, but if replaced by units without such baggage, there would be created an entirely acceptable division for training. Late last year, the Nigerian Government cancelled the counter-terrorism training of one of its battalions, which now places the entire training program on hold. We are making arrangements for discussions in the near future with Nigerian Military officials and Members of Congress and the Obama administration to overcome the current stalemate and resume the cooperation necessary to meet the challenge posed by Boko Haram. This terrorist group has wreaked havoc on the people of Nigeria, particularly in the northeast. It is estimated that more than 5,500 people were killed in Boko Haram attacks last year alone, representing more than 60% of the more than 9,000 deaths caused by this group in the past five years. As many as 2,000 people may have perished in the Boko Haram attack on the town of Baga and nearby villages last month. More than a million Nigerians have been displaced internally by the violence, and tens of thousands of others are now refugees in neighboring countries. Clearly, Boko Haram violence is escalating drastically. Boko Haram has become part of the global jihadist movement and threatens not only Nigeria, but also Cameroon, Chad and Niger. While the terrorist group may not be an official affiliate of al-Qaeda or ISIS, they appear to be trying to create an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria. Various press reports estimate that the group has seized as much as 70% of Borno state, with additional territory under its control in neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states. In fact, Reuters calculated that by mid-January of this year, Boko Haram was in control of more than 30,000 square kilometers of territory—an area the size of the state of Maryland. For approximately two years, I pressed the administration to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist organization (FTO). I argued that, like cancer, early intervention can mitigate its spread, severity and duration. I traveled to Nigeria twice and convened three hearings during the last Congress on why an FTO designation might help, only to be told by then-Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson that “the phenomenon of Boko Haram is one of discrediting the Central Government in power for its failure to deliver services to people.” On the very day of our hearing to consider a bill on FTO designation, the state Department, led by Secretary of State Kerry announced that Boko Haram was being designated a Foreign Terrorist organization. Meanwhile, Nigeria faces the prospects of post-election violence after presidential voting. The race pits President Jonathan against former Nigerian military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari in a re-run of the 2011 elections. This time, however, Buhari’s All Progressive Congress (APC) is a coalition of major opposition political parties and includes defectors from President Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), such as Speaker of the National Assembly Aminu Tambuwal. Some PDP officials have referred to their opponents as “Nigeria’s Muslim Brotherhood,” while APC officials accuse the Jonathan administration of representing only Christian southerners. Party spokesmen on both sides have warned of potential violence if their candidate doesn’t win. Out of nearly 69 million registered voters in Nigeria, political observers believe this race could be decided by as few as 700,000 votes. Lack of action by the government to ensure that internally displaced voters can participate in the elections, delays in the distribution of voter cards and in the recruitment and training of poll workers places in question the effectiveness of the February elections. Moreover, the election laws require that a winning presidential candidate must achieve a majority of the votes and at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of the states. With so much territory in the control of Boko Haram or under the threat of their violence in the North, the northern-based APC likely would question a loss even though they have refused to accept a delay in voting to ensure that pre-election preparations are complete. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13% of Nigerians have confidence in the electoral process. This makes the “Quick Count” being planned by a coalition of Nigerian civil society groups vital in providing any confidence that the vote on February 14th reflects the will of the people. In the face of all the challenges faced by Nigeria, its allies—such as the United States—must understand fully the context of this situation in order to determine how best to be of help. We hope that the Nigerian Government resulting from the February elections will be accepting of outside advice and assistance. Nigeria is the proverbial “too big to fail” nation. A collapse of its economy, increase in refugees to its neighbors or spread of its homegrown terrorism to the region and the broader international community clearly will be problematic for more than just Nigeria. Religious extremism already is a problem elsewhere in the Sahel region. Last month, Muslim extremists destroyed more than 40 Christian churches in Niger because of what they felt was irreverent depictions of the prophet Mohammed—not in Niger but in Europe. The hearing was just the beginning of our renewed efforts to help Nigeria address the problems that threaten its stability. We must be honest with Nigerians and ourselves about the difficulties we both face. This is why we have asked our witnesses to give their honest assessments of where we are in the various situations Nigeria encounters and to suggest what actions our Government can and should take to be most helpful. It is in our mutual interest to do so, and therefore, we will continue our efforts to restore full military and security cooperation between our two countries."
Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015—Motion To Proceed—Continued February 25, 2015
John McCain, R-AZ
"Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the article titled “Credibility Gap” from the Washington Post and also the International New York Times article “Scores of Syrian Christians Kidnapped by Islamic State” be printed in the Record."
Isis February 25, 2015
Marlin Stutzman, R-IN
"Mr. Speaker, over the last several months, Islamic State has shown just how barbaric they can be. They are willing to kill and torture innocent people in the most savage ways to intimidate the United States and the civilized world. With the recent beheadings in the Middle East and the multiple shootings in Europe, it is very clear that terrorism is a problem that only continues to grow."
The Future Forum February 25, 2015
Eric Swalwell, D-CA
"On the very same day that information was released, three American citizens attempted to join ISIS, which should be called Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, who truly are evil and would do whatever they could to harm any one of the 310 million of us living in this country."

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