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FIRUZ KAZEMZADEH: One of the First USCIRF Commissioners Dies

Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh (right) at a USCIRF hearing on Sudan in 2000.

June 2, 2017

FIRUZ KAZEMZADEH: One of the First USCIRF Commissioners Dies

USCIRF Expresses Its Deepest Regrets at the Passing of a Founder

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was saddened to learn that on May 17 Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh died.  He was a professor emeritus of history at Yale, a distinguished member of the American Baha’i community, and a tireless champion of international religious freedom. In the accompanying picture, Dr. Kazemzadeh is shown (right) at a USCIRF hearing on Sudan in 2000.

Dr. Kazemzadeh was one of the first commissioners appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), having been chosen by then President Bill Clinton in May 1999.  The U.S. Congress established the Commission in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).  Dr. Kazemzadeh was a leader of the American Baha’i community serving on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States (the elected Baha’i national governing council) for nearly four decades.  In addition, he was a scholar and professor emeritus at Yale University.

USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J., said, on behalf of the Commission, that, “It was leaders such as Dr. Kazemzadeh who helped forge USCIRF into a strong and vibrant voice for religious freedom throughout the world.  As we look to IRFA’s 20th anniversary in 2018, we know the debt of gratitude we owe individuals such as Dr. Kazemzadeh.  He spoke loudly and continuously about the importance of the freedom of religion or belief and ensured that it was always on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. We have dedicated ourselves to the same cause and will carry on in his spirit and memory.”

In 2001, then U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle reappointed Dr. Kazemzadeh to a second two-year term.  He served as a commissioner until 2003 and as Vice Chair from 2001 to 2002.  In response to his reappointment, Dr. Kazemzadeh said, “The struggle for religious freedom, like the struggle for the abolition of slavery or the exploitation of child labor will be a long and difficult one, but the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will triumph and the Commission will contribute to their eventual triumph.”


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/+1-202-786-0611)