- - Thursday, January 4, 2018

Since the outbreak of anti-regime protests in Iran, President Trump has expressed his strong support for the Iranian people through a number of tweets. The U.S. Congress can also use these widespread demonstrations to send a strong and unified message of support to the Iranian people by passing House Resolution 274 with unanimous consent and with as many co-sponsors as possible.

This resolution, that condemns the government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Bahai minority, should also include strong language that states unequivocally that America will no longer tolerate the abuse of human rights and religious minorities in Iran. And in order to provide a human element to this congressional resolution, it should be named in honor of Mrs. Jinous Mahmoudi, who was executed by the Iranian regime 36 years ago to this date.

The sponsors of House Resolution 274 have most likely never heard of Jinous Mahmoudi, but it would be a symbolic victory for champions of woman’s rights and human rights in Iran if the U.S. Congress passed HR 274 unanimously and named it in honor of Iran’s first female meteorologist and advocate of woman’s rights in Iran.

Jinous Nemat Mahmoudi was born in 1929 in Tehran to a family of writers and scholars. Her father, Abbas Nemat, was the publisher of Tehran Mosavar magazine, one of the country’s oldest and popular magazines. Her passion for science and nature lead her to study physics and meteorology.

A few yeas after Jinous completed her university studies, her achievements in the field of meteorology caught the attention of the late shah of Iran who without any hesitation appointed her to head the National Meteorological Organization. Jinous became the “go to woman” for all matters related to weather in Iran.

After the establishment of the Islamic regime in 1979, Iran’s Bahai community became a target for persecution. Upon direct orders from the founder of the Islamic regime, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, Bahais were to be rounded up and executed. Jinous’ husband, Houshang Mahmoudi was executed and his body was never recovered.

Mr. Mahmoudi was the host of a very popular children’s program on television; he was the “Mr. Rogers of Iran” for millions of Iranian children. And in 1981, Jinous Mahmodi was executed on trumped up charges of “spying”; a label assigned to the over 200 Bahais who were executed by the regime between 1979 and 1998.

The story of Jinous Mahmoudi and her Bahai faith are instructive because in many respects they highlight why the Iranian regime is fearful of not only the teaching of the Bahai faith but the broader social implication of these teachings to a free and democratic Iran.

A core tenant of the Bahai faith is the equality between men and woman. This modern and forward-looking outlook, is anathema to the teachings of Iran’s Shia clergy who see woman as second-class citizens. For example, a man’s testimony is equal to that of 2 woman or in cases of inheritance, a woman gets one half that of a man.

These discriminatory practices remain a bedrock of the Islamic regime and explain why today we witness equal number of woman on the streets of Iran protesting against the regime. Immediate passage of H.R. 274 would send a powerful message to the courageous woman of Iran that their voices have been heard.

Another fundamental teaching of the Bahai faith is that there is no need for clergy. This strikes at the very foundation of the theocratic dictatorship of Shia clergy who throughout Iran’s history have assumed (and amassed) power by acting as intermediary between the people and teachings of the Koran.

The anti-regime slogans one hears today on the streets of Iran call for a separation of “mosque and state.” Members of Congress cannot only support Iran’s besieged Bahai community by swift passage of H.R. 274 but by doing so they will signal to the people of Iran that if they choose to dismantle the theocracy that has been forcibly imposed on them for the past 39 years, they have the blessing of America’s Congress.

“God’s lamp is in each one of us.” This statement by Bahaullah, the founder of the Bahai faith applies to every member of Congress. Their vote to pass H.R. 274 will send a strong message of hope to the people of Iran and along the way, bring a smile to Jinous Mahmoudi, long gone but never forgotten.

S. Rob Sobhani, Ph.D. is the CEO of Caspian Group Holdings and author a book on Iran’s relations with Israel.

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