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.

In the Netherlands, the Baha’i community is sponsoring an “interactive debate” on human rights in Iran at the famous Prison Gate Museum as part of its observance of the Five Years Too Many campaign.

The Prison Gate Museum in The Hague

The Prison Gate Museum in The Hague

 

The event will be held 14 May and will feature participation by several prominent specialists with knowledge of the Middle East and human rights.

Speakers include Gilles Plug, the director of the North Africa and Middle Eastern department at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will address the topic: “What does the Netherlands do to promote the protection of human rights in Iran?”

Bernadette Ficq, an asylum attorney with Lawyers for Lawyers, will discuss legal processes in Iran and the risks faced by human rights defenders when they represent prisoners of conscience, such as the seven Baha’i leaders.

Shirin Milani, a criminal court judge in the Province of Overijssel, will discuss how Iranian Baha’is are persecuted across all ages and professions, “from cradle to grave.”

The event will also feature a video message from Nico Schrijver. Dr. Schrijver is a member of the Senate of the Netherlands, and vice-chairperson of the Geneva-based UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The video can be viewed at this link.

The event will begin with a reception at 15:30. The program is scheduled to run from 16:00 to 17:00.

The Prison Gate Museum is located at Buitenhof 33. The medieval building, located in the heart of The Hague, once housed some of Holland’s most notorious prisoners – and was infamous for its use of torture. Today the museum strives to reflect the transition to modern justice in the Netherlands.

For more information, contact the Office of External Affairs of the Baha’i community of the Netherlands at: beb@bahai.nl

 

Coinciding with the Five Years Too Many campaign, the Law Society of England and Wales is co-hosting a seminar with the Bar Human Rights Committee on 9 May to examine the legal violations surrounding the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of the seven Baha’i leaders.

Titled “Access to Justice in Iran – The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders,” the seminar will feature Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and a visiting professor of human rights at the University of Essex.

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed

Dr Shaheed will be joined by Mahnaz Parakand, a member of the legal team that defended the seven former leaders. Ms. Parakand herself fled Iran in 2011 after she was threatened with arrest and imprisonment. Before leaving Iran, Ms. Parakand also defended prominent human rights lawyers Shirin Ebadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh in the Iranian courts.

Also scheduled to speak at the seminar is Nazila Ghanea, a lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Oxford. The seminar will be chaired by Kirsty Brimelow QC, chairperson of the Bar Human Rights Committee and member of Doughty Street Chambers.

The event, at the offices of The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London, is open to practicing barristers, solicitors and human rights lawyers.

For more information, contact the Office of Public Affairs of the Baha’i community of the United Kingdom: opa@bahai.org.uk.

The Baha’i community of Brazil is planning a major artistic event on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro as part of its observance of the five year anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders.

Noted Brazilian artist Siron Franco is helping to organize the event, for which he has created a special image, shown here, which he has described as “Human beings should be free as birds.”

An image created by Brazilian artist Siron Franco for the Five Years Too Many campaign.

An image created by Brazilian artist Siron Franco for the Five Years Too Many campaign.

The event will take place on Copacabana Beach in Rio on 5 May. The “free as birds” image will be printed as a 15 by 10 meter banner, and will be laid in the sand, to be surrounded by Mr. Franco and other participants in the event.

“We will be inviting members of the Brazilian parliament, representatives of other human rights organizations, and the public to participate, said Mary Aune, deputy national secretary for actions with society and the government for the Brazilian Baha’i community.

“We expect literally thousands of people to attend. In our experience, events on the beach such as this have the capacity to attract considerable attention. For example, we are printing 5,000 copies of our informational pamphlet.”

Ms. Aune said Brazilian Federal Deputy Chico Alencar will be among the featured speakers, as will Mr. Franco. Amnesty International of Brazil has also confirmed participation at the event.

The Baha’i community of Brazil has set up a special website about the event, in Portuguese, which can be viewed here: http://cincoanosbasta.blogspot.com.br/

Brazilian artist Siron Franco

Born in the state of Goias in 1947, Siron Franco has produced over 3,000 drawings, paintings, sculptures, and urban interventions. Many of his works focus on issues related to human rights, such as the Peace Monument in Rio that he created for the 1992 Earth Summit.

For more information, contact Ms. Aune at: mary.aune@bahai.org.br

For its part in the Five Years Too Many campaign, the Baha’i community of France is planning a special video event near the world famous Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Scheduled for 12 May at 5 pm, a group of young people will gather at the place du Trocadéro-Parvis des droits de l’Homme – the Plaza of Human Rights – to shoot a video that examines the reasons that Baha’is are persecuted in Iran.

“The script for the video calls for a succession of different people, of various ages, backgrounds, and languages, who each discuss the reasons that Baha’is are imprisoned in Iran,” said Sophie Menard, director of the Office of External Affairs of the Baha’is of France.

“The aim is to create a connection with the viewer, by showing how everyone, regardless of their belief or background, is also affected by violations of human rights,” she said. “With the Eiffel Tower in the background, it is hoped that this will help symbolize the degree to which we are all affected by injustice.”

A short video teaser has been created to promote the event, to which all are welcome. That video can be viewed by clicking here. To download the video, click here: Paris Five Years campaign video

For more information, contact Sophie Menard at: sophie.menard@bahai.fr

Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian foreign minister and President of the University of Winnipeg

Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian foreign minister and President of the University of Winnipeg

Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be among the speakers at a public meeting in Toronto, Canada, as part of the Five Years Too Many campaign.

Scheduled for Thursday, 9 May, the event will also feature talks by two relatives of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders, Naeim Tavakkoli and Siovash Khanjani.

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, is also scheduled to speak.

Dr. Axworthy, currently president of the University of Winnipeg, was Canada’s foreign minister from 1996 to 2000, and has long been a vocal advocate for human rights. He has spoken out in the past against Iran’s persecution of Baha’is, including an Op-Ed in the Huffington Post.

Mr. Tavakkoli, is an Ottawa engineer and the son of Behrouz Tavakkoli, one of the seven prisoners. Mr. Khanjani, a Toronto businessman, is the nephew of Jamaloddin Khanjani, also one of the seven.

Those attending the public meeting will also be shown a video clip of Senator Romeo Dallaire expressing his grave concerns about the targeting of Baha’is in Iran. That video clip can be viewed here.

The meeting will be held at the Toronto Baha’i Center, at 288 Bloor Street West, starting at 7:30 pm. For more information, contact Gerald Filson, director of public affairs for the Baha’i community of Canada, at: gfilson@cdnbnc.org

Actor Rainn Wilson will be the master of ceremonies at an event in Washington DC as part of the Five Years Too Many campaign next month.

Also scheduled to speak at the event, which is scheduled for 6 May 2013 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will be author Roxana Saberi and Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The event is expected to feature remarks by a couple of US Congressmen, said Anthony Vance, director of the Office of Public Affairs of the Bahá’í community of the United States, which is organizing the event.

bwns_8008-0_Rainn WilsonMr. Wilson, who is a Baha’i, is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute on the television comedy “The Office.” He has also been in numerous Hollywood films.

Ms. Saberi is an American journalist who was arrested in Iran in January 2009. During her four months in Evin Prison, she spent several weeks sharing a cell with two of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi. In her book about the experience, “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran,” and elsewhere, Ms. Saberi has described in detail the difficult conditions they faced, as well as the inspiration provided by Mrs. Sabet and Mrs. Kamalabadi.

Appointed to the USCIRF in 2012, Dr. Lantos Swett established the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in 2008 and serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer. The Foundation is dedicated to the legacy of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, who actively campaigned for human rights.  In addition to managing the Lantos Foundation, Dr. Lantos Swett teaches human rights and American foreign policy at Tufts University.

For more information, contact the US Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at: BahaisUS@usbnc.org

Launching a new campaign

April 10, 2013

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We are launching an international campaign to seek the immediate release of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders – and all other prisoners of conscience in Iran. We hope people of good conscience around the world will raise their voices in support of this call and urge the Iranian Government to live up to its international human rights obligations.

As visitors will see, we have numerous documents on this Website that explain the unjust and wrongful manner in which the seven were arrested, tried and imprisoned.

Their story is similar to what is happening to the roughly 100 other Baha’is now in prison in Iran – and the hundreds of other innocent prisoners of conscience that have been incarcerated for simply exercising their internationally recognized human rights.

The campaign begins on 5 May – and runs through 15 May 2013. We plan to report here on the activities and efforts that are undertaken around the world in support of this campaign as we approach the fifth anniversary of the arrest of the seven.