View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                      (Ramstein Air Base, Germany)
For Immediate Release                                        May 5, 1999

The President announced today his intent to appoint Laila Al-Marayati, Firuz Kazemzadeh and Charles Z. Smith as members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, of Los Angeles, California, is a founding member and past president of the Muslim Women's League, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization focusing on the dissemination of accurate information about Islam and Muslims, particularly regarding women. She has written extensively and participated in numerous conferences and interfaith dialogues speaking on a variety of issues related to Muslim women. Under her direction, the Muslim Women's League founded the Women's Coalition against Ethnic Cleansing, comprised of over 20 women's religious and civic groups. Dr. Al-Marayati has also served as a member of the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, and, in September 1995, was a member of the U.S. Delegation, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the Fourth World Conference on Women, sponsored by the United Nations, held in Beijing, China. Dr. Al-Marayati is a Board certified obstetriciangynecologist in private practice in Glendale California, and is Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Los Angeles County/USC Women?s and Children's Hospital.

Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh, of Alta Loma, California, is Secretary for External Affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. As the American Baha'i community's principal spokesman on external affairs issues, Dr. Kazemzadeh has testified frequently before the House International Relations and Senate Foreign Relations Committees on the religious repression of Baha'i abroad. He is Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, having taught Russian history there from 1956 until his retirement in 1992. During his tenure at Yale, Dr. Kazemzadeh also served variously as Director of Graduate Studies in Russian and Eastern European Studies; Chair of the Council on Russian and East European Studies; Chair of the Committee on Middle Eastern Studies; Director of Graduate Studies in History; and Master of Davenport College. He is the author of The Struggle for Transcaucasia, 1917-1921 and Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864-1914,as well as the co-author of several other books relating to Russia and Central Asia. Since 1966 he has served as editor of World Order magazine. Dr. Kazemzadeh was born in the Iranian Embassy in Moscow, where his father served for many years, came to the United States in 1944, and received his academic training at Stanford and Harvard.

The Honorable Charles Z. Smith, of Seattle, Washington, is a Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. He was originally appointed in July, 1988, to fill an unexpired term, and was elected, unopposed, in 1988 and 1990, and most recently in 1996 to another term of six years. Justice Smith served from 1965 to 1995 on the General Board of the American Baptist Churches, USA, and was President, American Baptist Churches from 1975 to 1977, and Immediate Past President from 1977 to 1979. He has served in several local, national, and international organizations concerned with religious freedom and human rights, including active participation with the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry in monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords during the period 1977 to 1985. Justice Smith taught at the University of Washington School of Law from 1973 to 1983 and is now Professor of Law Emeritus. He has also served on the boards of numerous civic, charitable, cultural educational and health related organizations in Seattle and Washington State, and a number of professional organizations and councils. Justice Smith is a member of the National Bar Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association. He received his B.S. from Temple University and a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law. He also retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve with the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel.

The nine-member U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was established upon the strong bipartisan passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which the President signed into law on October 27, 1998. The Commission, which is advisory in nature, will issue an Annual Report providing recommendations for U.S. policy responses to international religious freedom violations. Robert Seiple, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, acts as an ex-officio member of the Commission.

The promotion of religious freedom abroad is a priority of the Clinton presidency. These three distinguished appointees will further ensure that international religious freedom continues to be an integral part of the Administration's foreign policy.