For five years, seven Baha'i leaders have been wrongly imprisoned in Iran.

Their 20-year sentences are the longest given to any current prisoners of conscience in Iran. Their harshness reflects the Government’s resolve to oppress completely the Iranian Baha'i community, which faces a systematic, “cradle-to-grave” persecution that is among the most serious examples of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world today.

Baha'i communities around the world have launched a campaign calling for their immediate release – and the release of all innocent prisoners of conscience in Iranian prisons.

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The Eiffel Tower was the backdrop for the Five Years Too Many campaign event on Sunday in Paris, which featured the creation of a video.

More than 100 people gathered in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris last Sunday to draw attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.

Among other activities, participants shot a video that emphasized the plight of the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’is leaders, as part of the Five Years Too Many campaign. That video can be viewed by clicking here.

“The script of the video was written to respond to simple questions such as ‘What are the beliefs of the seven Baha’is?’ and ‘What do they do in Iran?’” said Sophie Menard, a spokesperson for the Baha’i community of France, which organized the event.

One of the more dramatic features of the event in Paris was a performance by a mime, who acted as he was trapped in a prison cell.

“The hope is to create a link between the reality of the Iranian prisoners and the person who is watching the video,” said Ms. Menard.

Ms. Menard said many photographs were also taken in front of the Eiffel Tower and the Wall of Peace at the Champs de Mars. Those photographs included images of children and youth showing their hands, with the campaign theme of “Five Years Too Many” written on their palms.

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Members of the Baha’i community of Latvia observe the fifth anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders.

The Baha’i community of Latvia observed the fifth anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders with music, prayers and discussion.

They gathered in the capital city of Riga on Sunday, 12 May,  in the capital city of Riga, said Francis Millers, a spokesperson for the community.

“We shared a depth of information and made heartfelt prayers, as well as enjoyed music,” said Millers. “We then took some pictures that we hope represent our feelings about this and these we have been using on Facebook.”


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:


Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, today issued the following statement:

“Canada marks with regret the fifth anniversary of the illegitimate arrest and detention of seven Iranian Bahá’í national leaders by the Khamenei regime, and we renew our call for their release.

“Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naemi and Mahvash Sabet continue to serve 20-year sentences in deplorable conditions as part of the Iranian regime’s continued systematic and institutionalized persecution of the Bahá’í community. These individuals have been arrested and imprisoned for no crime but for practicing their faith and leadership within their religious community.”

The full press release of the Canadian office of Foreign Affairs can be read at this link.

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UK Religious leaders with Minister Alistair Burt. Front row: Ms Fidelma Meehan, Baha’is of the UK; Acharya Modgala Duguid, Amida London Buddhist Centre; His Grace Bishop Angaelos, The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre; Minister Burt; Naomi Long MP; Mr Swaminathan Vaidyanathan, Acting Secretary-General, Hindu Forum of Britain; Lord Avebury, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is Group. Second row: Mr Vivian Wineman, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Dr Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs, Evangelical Alliance; Dr Charles Reed, Foreign Policy Advisor, The Church of England; Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, Network of Sikh Organisations; Imam Mufti Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK.

A delegation of religious leaders in the United Kingdom today met with Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, presenting him with an open letter calling for the release of the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders.

Addressed to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, the letter was signed by 50 individuals representing virtually every religious community in the United Kingdom, including the Baha’i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism.


His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre with Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt.

Signatories to the letter included Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra. His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, handed the message to Mr. Burt.

The 50 leaders asked Mr. Hague to renew his support for the seven and “all members of Iran’s long-suffering and largest religious minority, the Baha’i community.”

“Iran has abandoned every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard, routinely violating the human rights of its citizens,” they wrote. “The government’s shocking treatment of its religious minorities is of particular concern to us as people of faith.”

Mr. Burt responded after the meeting, saying: “I am happy to accept this open letter calling for the release of seven Baha’i leaders currently in prison in Iran. It is a fine example of interfaith co-operation from across the many faith groups in the UK.”

“I urge Iran to release the seven Baha’i leaders and to take immediate steps to stop the systematic persecution of the Baha’i community. Iran should stop the repression of any group on the grounds of their religion or belief, should respect the human rights of all its citizens, and engage seriously with the international community on improving its human rights record,” said Mr. Burt.

Also among the religious leaders who signed the letter were:

  • The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
  • Mr Vivian Wineman, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews
  • Mr Swaminathan Vaidyanathan, Acting Secretary-General, Hindu Forum of Britain
  • Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, Network of Sikh Organisations
  • Maulana M Shahid Raza OBE, Chief Imam of Leicester Central Mosque, Chairman of Imams and Mosques Council
  • Imam Mufti Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK
  • Acharya Modgala Duguid, Amida London Buddhist Centre
  • Dr Natubhai Shah MBE, Founder Chair of the Jain Network
  • The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom
  • The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary, Baptist Union Great Britain

The Foreign Office press release about the event can be read at this link:

To read the UK Baha’i News story, go to:

A PDF copy of the letter and list of signatories can be found here: Open letter to Foreign Secretary 14 May 2013 final

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In Chile, participants in the Five Years Too Many campaign gathered for an hour of silence in front of Government House in Santiago.

For its part in the Five Years Too Many campaign, the Baha’i community of Chile yesterday gathered near Government House in Santiago for an hour-long silent demonstration on behalf of the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders.

About 70 people participated, standing in front of a banner with photographs of the faces of the seven, while holding blue balloons and wearing T-shirts with that said “Cinco años Es Demasiado” – the campaign slogan in Spanish.

A press release was also distributed to the news media and the Mayor’s Office.

Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs called for the immediate release of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders at a “Five Years Too Many” event held last Thursday in Toronto.

“You are not alone. There is a unity. There are others who feel the same sense of outrage,” said Dr. Axworthy, who is currently President of the University of Winnipeg, addressing an audience of several hundred people at the Toronto Baha’i Center.

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Former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy speaking Thursday at the Toronto Baha’i Center.

Dr. Axworthy’s remarks echoed an Op-ed article he wrote that appeared that day in The Globe and Mail.

“A litmus test to judge Iran’s record has been the treatment afforded to its largest non-Muslim religious community, the Baha’is,” wrote Dr. Axworthy in the newspaper. “Lately the record of Iran has worsened – for religious and ethnic minorities, students, journalists, women, and labor leaders – and once again for the Baha’is, who provide a clear measure of just how deplorable the state of human rights is in Iran.”

In his talk Thursday night, Dr. Axworthy said people can “change the world” if things are done with a spirit of unity and collaboration – and if children and young people are involved.

Also speaking in Toronto on Thursday were Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, and relatives of two of the seven leaders incarcerated in Iran — Naeim Tavakkoli, son of Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Siavosh Khanjani, nephew of Jamaloddin Khanjani.

“The reason for their arrest was entirely because of their religious beliefs – and their long sentences were meted out simply because of the leadership role they played in the Baha’i community of Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

For more information, read the Canadian Baha’i News Service story at this link.

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Participants in the Five Years Too Many campaign at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Saturday.

Markus Löning, the German Government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, has called on Iran to repeal the judgment against seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders and to release them immediately.

In a statement on 10 May, Mr. Löning noted that the seven “sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in a trial that lacked any transparency and disregarded fundamental rule-of-law principles.”

“I call upon the Iranian judiciary to quash these unlawful judgements immediately. The seven Baha’i leaders and all other prisoners held because of their religious beliefs must be released without delay.”

Mr. Löning’s call followed a statement issued by MP Erika Steinbach on Wednesday last week. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right,” said Ms. Steinbach. “We support the campaign of the Bahá’í International Community for the immediate release of the seven Bahá’í leaders who already are illegally imprisoned for five years.”

Over the weekend, members of the Baha’i community of Germany and others gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to call attention to the plight of the seven. Held on Saturday, 11 May, it was supported by the Society of Threatened Peoples. The event included talks by civil society representatives, music, and photography, along with readings of prison reports written by Roxana Saberi, Marina Nemat, Pari Wahdat-Hagh, and Olya Roohizadegan.

A video has been produced of that event, which can be viewed here:

Mr. Löning’s statement can be read in English here:

Ms. Steinbach’s statement can be read in German here:

Four high-level United Nations human rights experts today called on Iran to immediately release the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders.

In a press release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the arrest of the seven, the four experts emphasized that the seven are held solely because of their religious beliefs, that their continued imprisonment is unjust and wrongful, and that Iran’s treatment of religious minorities violates international law.

The four are: Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran; El Hadji Malick Sow, head of the UN’s Working Group on arbitrary detention; Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and Rita Izsak, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues.

To read the Baha’i World News Service story, click here.

To read the UN OHCHR press release, follow this link.

A PDF of the OHCRH release can also be downloaded by clicking here.

A video has been produced for the Five Years Too Many campaign. It is three and half minutes long. Participants in the campaign may use it as they see fit.

Direct Link to the video on Vimeo