Prominent Austrians express concern over imprisoned Baha’i leaders

May 22, 2013

A number of prominent Austrians have issued statements calling for the release of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders in connection with the Five Years Too Many campaign.

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In Austria, Baha’is organized a Five Years Too Many event in a public square in front of St. Charles’s Church in Vienna.

Their statements were read at a solemn vigil held last Wednesday, 15 May, in a public square near St. Charles’s Church in Vienna, one of the city’s landmark buildings.

Among those issuing statements were: Barbara Prammer, president of the National Council of Austria; Helmut Tichy, director of the Office of International Law at the Foreign Ministry; Alexander Van der Bellen, Deputy to the Vienna Landtag and Town Council; Efgani Dönmez, Deputy of the Federal Council; Josef Ratzenböck, former Governor of Upper Austria; Susanne Schaup, a well-known Austrian author; and Anton Pelinka, a professor of political science and nationalism studies at the Central European University of Budapest.

In her statement, Mrs. Prammer referred to a May 2008 letter she wrote to the president of Iran’s parliament, in which she had expressed her “serious concern about the continuous and systematic discrimination against the Iranian Baha’is on the basis of their religion.”

“Unfortunately, the situation of the Baha’i community in Iran has got worse. Therefore, Austria and the EU are still demanding to stop immediately the measures of oppressing this peaceful community. I will follow this demand,” Mrs. Prammer said.

Dr. Tichy wrote his letter on behalf of Vice Chancellor Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger. “The difficult situation of the seven incarcerated Baha’is is a serious concern for us and we regularly stand up bilaterally and multilaterally for the rights of the Baha’is. It is most deplorable that Iran did so far not release the seven representatives of the Baha’is who evidently were sentenced on the grounds of belonging to a religious minority,” he said.

In his statement, Mr. Dönmez noted that he is the first Muslim elected to the Austrian Parliament, and that he’d been warmly welcomed there, where “the majority of the Deputies belongs to the Christian Faith.”

“The Baha’is in Iran are part of the society, part of the Iranian culture,” said Mr. Dönmez. “They should also have the rights as all the other citizens in Iran…The Baha’is are an enrichment for the society; one must give them the opportunity to participate in society.”

Dr. Ratzenböck called on the Iranian government “to observe the human right on freedom of religion” and for “the immediate release of the innocent incarcerated Baha’is.”

More than 150 people participated in the event, which received significant coverage in the Austrian news media. The Austrian newspaper Der Standard published an article on 15 May, and the Austrian news Agency (APA) distributed a press release about the event on 12 May.

The Austrian national public broadcaster ORF interviewed a number of people for a report, which is scheduled to be broadcast on 25 May as part of the “Religionen der Welt” (Religions of the World) series. That report can be viewed for free until 1 June at this link:

A video report produced by the Baha’i community of Austria about the event can be viewed at this link:

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