Prominent Indians – and 500 youth – appeal for release of the seven

May 16, 2013


L.K. Advani, chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party, center, with former Indian Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, right, and Mrs Zena Sorabjee, at left, at the Five Years Too Many event in New Delhi.

In New Delhi on Tuesday, prominent Indians signed an appeal asking for the release of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders and other prisoners of conscience in Iran.

“For five years, seven Baha’i leaders have been wrongly imprisoned in lran. Their 20-year sentences are the longest given to any current prisoners of conscience in lran,” said the appeal, which was to be sent to the Iranian embassy, as well as the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

“We call for the immediate release of the seven, along with countless other prisoners of conscience in Iran,” it continued. “We plead people of good conscience everywhere in India to raise their voices in support and urge the Iranian Government to live up to its international human rights obligations.”

Among those signing were L. K. Advani, chairman of BJP Parliamentary Party; Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India; Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Chief Imam of the All India Organization of the Imams of Mosques; Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing; Amitabh Kundu, a professor of economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University; Amitabh Behar, co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty; and Rabbi Ezekiel Malekar.


Young people who participated in the Five Years Too Many campaign event in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The signing came at an event held at the national Baha’i center in New Delhi, accompanied by prayers from many religions and a contingent of some 500 young people wearing T-shirts and baseball caps bearing the slogan “Five Years Too Many.”

In his remarks, Mr. Advani said that it was very disturbing to see the Baha’is subjected torture and persecution in Iran. “We are doing our sacred duty by remembering them and urging the Iranian Government to release them,” he said.

“For the success of democracy, the most important attribute is tolerance to the diagonally opposite point of view,” Mr. Advani said. “Intolerance to different points of view is found greatest in the field of religion, where a person who subscribes to a form of faith is reluctant to accept any other form of faith.”

Mr. Sorabjee said the test of any civilized nation is its treatment of minorities. “Ultimately history has shown that the forces of spirit will overcome the forces of the sword,” said Mr. Sorabjee. “I’m sure this will happen in Iran and our hearts go over to the Baha’is, who have been subjected to so many violations of human rights. I hope that the authorities have a good sense to at least release them.”

Mr. Kothari took note of the recent statement by four UN Special Rapporteurs for release of the seven Baha’i leaders and other prisoners of conscience in Iran. “Religious freedom itself is a cornerstone of democratic citizenship,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we collectively urge the Indian Government to put pressure. The persecution has reached the level that we need to address the Prime Minister and others and say that they have to publicly condemn Iran for the religious persecution of the Baha’is.”

Imam Ilyasi urged the Government of Iran to stop the persecution of the Baha’is and give the Baha’is equal rights and opportunities to growth and development.

Prof. Kundu reminded the audience of everyone’s responsibility to raise their voice against injustice. “I totally agree that five years is too much. Let us raise our voice to the Yaran, our friends in Iran!” he said.

Dr. Syeda Hameed, member of Planning Commission of India, sent a video message for the occasion.

“Iran has always prided itself with its tradition of democracy and freedom,” she said. “Continuous persecution of the Baha’is is inimical to this tradition. Protection of the rights and liberties of minorities is [in] the international covenant, which binds Iran, as it does all other state parties. Iran should free these seven women and men in the true spirit of [the] Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ”

The event received significant attention in the news media, with coverage in The Hindu, the Hindustan Times, the Press Trust of India, Siasat, the Business Standard, and The Asian Age, among other news outlets.

A video of the event has been produced and can be viewed at:


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