'O SON OF JUSTICE! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved'.~ Bahá’u’lláh
A poster published by human rights supporters depicting BIHE staff members detained in Iran
I am shocked by the campaign of cultural genocide pursued by Iranian authorities against the Baha’i community in Iran. The latest phase is an attempt to destroy community educational programmes set up because Baha’i youth are excluded from state-run institutions. BWNS reported on the 22nd May that
A coordinated series of raids have been carried out on the homes of several Iranian Baha’is, active in a community initiative to provide a higher education programme for young members who are barred from university. Initial reports indicate that raids took place yesterday on houses in Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, and Shiraz. As many as 30 people may already have been arrested…All of the targets were homes of individuals closely involved with the operations of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education…The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was established in 1987 as a community initiative to meet the educational needs of young Baha’is who have been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian government. The BIHE has been described by the New York Times as “an elaborate act of communal self-preservation.”
My heart goes out to those seven innocent Baha’is whose show trial began today in Iran.
Initial reports indicate that the trial is marked by numerous violations of legal due process.”We understand that no observers were allowed in the court,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “We find this completely outrageous, given that these seven have been held purely because of their religious beliefs, in total contradiction to any human rights standards.”We understand that even the lawyers had to argue their way inside the court – lawyers who in any case had virtually no access to the accused for nearly two years.”At the same time, the prisoners’ interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence and a film crew were seen going in, raising questions about the nature of the trial,” she said.Ms. Ala’i also noted that an Iranian Web site linked to state-run television posted a story Monday evening announcing that the trial had already begun and listing the same baseless accusations made in the past against the seven.”In any event, all of these accounts point to a trial that is highly irregular, very similar to the show trials that have been held in Iran in recent months,” she said.The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.
Iran Press Watch reports that human rights activists in Iran met to discuss freedom of ideas and the rights of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic. The meeting was held at the premises of the “Organization of Iran’s Graduates” in Tehran. This meeting took place in the context of the recent legalization of the death penalty for apostates from Islam and ongoing religious oppression in Iran. The main speaker was Dr. Hashem Aghajari, a muslim scholar and professor of history at the “Tarbyat-e Moddaress” (teacher training college). Dr Aghajari said that the main purpose of the meeting was to “promote a progressive and compassionate view of Divine religions based on peaceful co-existence among all people”.I am impressed by the courage of Dr. Aghajari who was also reported as referring to the views of Ayatollah Montazeri about the civil rights of the Baha’i community in Iran. Dr. Aghajari is quoted as saying “Here we are talking about the land. Citizenry rights are not just civil rights. This means that Iran is a land that belongs to all the people of Iran. These people own the land and rule the land therefore each and everyone is a citizen of this land.”
I have learned from my friend Barnabas Quotidianus that a petition has just been signed in Friday prayers in Tehran calling for the Bahá’í administration in Iran to be disbanded. Due to current restrictions the Bahá’í administration in Iran is of a purely ad hoc nature, dealing with community affairs; for example arranging devotional meetings, burial, marriage, children’s classes and so forth. In my view Friday’s petition can be seen as de facto demand for the destruction of Bahá’í community life in Iran, or at the very least a further severe restriction of any communal activity. This is part of an ongoing disinformation campaign to present the Bahá’í administration as a sinister spy network- which would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.