It is heartening that the international community is vocal in its support of seven innocent Baha’is unjustly imprisoned in Iran.
An increasing number of governments, human rights groups and prominent individuals are raising their voices against the harsh prison sentences handed down earlier this month to Iran’s seven Baha’i leaders. As lawyers for the prisoners prepare to appeal against the 20-year jail terms, the government of New Zealand has voiced its concern that the trial “was conducted in a manner that was neither fair nor transparent.” “New Zealand is dismayed that Iran has failed to uphold its international human rights commitments, and its own due legal processes in this case,” said Foreign Minister Murray McCully. “The sentences appear to be based wholly on the fact that these people are members of a minority religious group,” said Mr. McCully, in a statement issued on 20 August. “New Zealand calls on the Government of Iran to protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens, and to end its ongoing and systematic persecution of the Baha’i,” he said. The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States of America – as well as the European Union and the President of the European Parliament – have already condemned the sentencing of the seven. In the wake of calls from numerous international organizations for the prisoners to be released, groups focused specifically on human rights abuses in Iran – such as the Human Rights Activists News Agency and United4Iran – as well as Amnesty International, have now launched letter-writing campaigns encouraging supporters to call for justice for the seven. Prominent individuals, including British barrister Cherie Blair, have also been raising their voices in support of the Baha’i leaders. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) – which campaigns on behalf of disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples – has expressed it deep concern over the lengthy sentences. “Given that independent observers were not allowed to attend the trial, and the history of persecution that the Baha’i community has faced in Iran, the outcome will do nothing to encourage faith in the Iranian justice system,” said Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. “MRG calls on Iran to quash the convictions and release the defendants immediately,” Mr. Soderbergh added.
I am appalled to hear of the twenty year jail sentence unjustly handed out to seven innocent Baha’is in Iran.
The harsh prison sentences handed down to seven Iranian Baha’i leaders who are absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing is a judgment against an entire religious community…Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose Defenders of Human Rights Center represented the Baha’i defendants, said she was “stunned” by the reported 20-year jail terms. “I have read their case file page by page and did not find anything proving the accusations, nor did I find any document that could prove the claims of the prosecutor,” said Mrs. Ebadi in a television interview, broadcast on 8 August by the Persian-language service of the BBC. The flagrantly unjust sentence has provoked vehement protest from governments throughout the world – including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.A. The European Union and the President of the European Parliament have also joined the chorus of condemnation, along with numerous human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and FIDH – as well as other groups, and countless individuals. “The trumped-up charges, and the total lack of any credible evidence against these seven prisoners, reflects the false accusations and misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame a peaceful, religious community for an entire generation,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. Ms. Dugal noted that the seven have reportedly been transferred to Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, a facility about 20 kilometers west of Tehran. “The reason for the move is not yet known and it is too early to assess the implications for the prisoners,” she said. “It does, however, clearly impose an added burden to their families, who now have to travel outside Tehran to visit their loved ones.”The seven – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – were all members of a national-level group that, with the government’s knowledge, helped see to the minimum spiritual needs of Iran’s Baha’i community.
I am interested to hear of the publication of a major new Spanish langauage book about the persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran.
When author Rafael Cerrato decided to pay a short visit to the north of Israel in 2006, little did he suspect that it would give rise to a new book. Passing through the city of Haifa, he was deeply impressed by the buildings and gardens of the Baha’i World Centre, situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel. “I was amazed,” said Mr. Cerrato. “I immediately thought I had to discover what lay behind that beauty.” Returning to Spain, the author – who is Roman Catholic and has written extensively about religion – started looking into the history and teachings of the Baha’i Faith and was fascinated by what he found out. “I discovered that the long-awaited bridge between East and West – which many politicians and intellectuals have tried to create with the Alliance of Civilizations and such – already exists,” he said. “Without losing any of the principles of previous religions, the Baha’i social teachings have it all – the need for supranational bodies, the equality between men and women, universal education… I believe in these principles and they attract me – so I have no problem in broadcasting them.”
During his research, Mr. Cerrato also became impressed by “the great faith and steadfastness” that the Baha’i community of Iran shows in the face of opposition.He decided to write a book charting the story of the Baha’i Faith, with an emphasis on the severe oppression its members have experienced at the instigation of the authorities in Iran – the land of the Faith’s birth – since its inception in the middle of the 19th century. The book, titled “Desde el corazon de Iran – Los baha’is: La esperanza oprimida” (“From the Heart of Iran – The Baha’is: Oppressed Hope”), has recently been published by Erasmus Ediciones. It is one of the first major works written in Spanish about the genesis and persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran.Mr. Cerrato’s book has been described in one review as a “deftly handled, well-documented and panoramic journey.” The reviewer, Enrique Cordoba – a columnist for “El Nuevo Herald” – wrote, “I celebrate that Cerrato has published this book…for those who want to inform themselves of a doctrine that should be studied.” Miami-based radio journalist Ninoska Perez Castellon wrote that it is “a necessary book… It’s a call to the world to ensure that the abuses against the Baha’i community in Iran are not left to fall into obscurity.” “It is because of the integrity of writers like Rafael Cerrato that we can become deeply familiar with a subject that should be on the front page of newspapers,” she wrote.