Situation of Iranian Bahá’ís

Situation of Baha’is in Iran

Media reports

Reports in the news media about the situation of Iranian Baha’is

The Star, Toronto edition26 October 2010

…[T]o really grasp the pathological cruelty of Iran’s clerical regime, look at the persecution of Iran’s biggest religious minority, the 300,000-strong Baha’i community. The bizarre hounding of this peaceful faith remains a festering sore on the legacy of the 30-year-old Islamic revolution. As a few hundred Baha’is heard when they gathered for a Toronto meeting this month, the news from Iran is not good. Seven senior Baha’i community leaders were sentenced to 20 years in prison for espionage and “spreading corruption on earth.” Under intense diplomatic pressure, the sentences were recently halved to 10 years; but for some of the elderly inmates — two of whom have family in Canada — this means they have effectively been condemned to die in prison. And for what? To be a Baha’i in the Islamic Republic is to be an apostate. It is worse than being a Jew — who is, at least, a person of “the book.” And worse still than being an infidel, who was never a believer to begin with. …

Iran Press Watch26 October 2010

“It was not long after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power that the real trouble started. My husband was arrested, tortured and killed and then they arrested me too,” Mehrangiz Moayyad says. The Iranian woman is in her council home in a quiet Aberdeen estate recalling traumatic events in her homeland from nearly 30 years ago and explaining how she and her family were persecuted for their religious beliefs…Scotland’s Baha’i community has embarked on a series of protests to raise awareness of the problems facing their religion in Iran and held a vigil outside Glasgow’s St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in September. They also put a motion to the Scottish Parliament, supported by religious leaders. Scotland’s Catholic leader, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, said: “I regard what has happened as being a most appalling transgression of justice and a gross violation of the human right of freedom of belief.” …

CNN2 October 2010

A Baha'i assistant of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has been sentenced to two years in prison in Iran, the semi-official Mashregh news website said Saturday. Jinous Sobhani was arrested in early January with her husband and eight other members of the Baha'i faith after anti-government protests on the Muslim holy day of Ashura. The Baha'is were blamed for the protests, said Diane Ala'i, representative to the United Nations for the Baha'i International Community. "They had nothing to do with the demonstrations," Ala'i said. "The accusations are completely false."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty9 September 2010

Ferdosieh Nikoumanesh remembers a time when she and her family could live in peace as practicing Baha’is in the Iranian city of Ivel, where more than 50 Baha’i homes were demolished in June. Her childhood home, her grandparents’ home, and her grandfather’s store were among the many properties burned to the ground. Nikoumanesh and her husband now live in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Nikoumanesh spent many of her childhood summers in Ivel, northeast of Tehran in Mazandaran Province, visiting her grandparents, who lived in the village until 1983. She left Ivel when she was a little girl but still holds many memories of living alongside practicing Muslims. Baha’is have resided in Ivel for more than 160 years and once made up more than half of the population -- building schools, a hospital, and stores. While her family’s homes and shop were destroyed this summer, her memories remain alive. …

CNN Belief Blog31 August 2010

Minoo Vosough can still hear the guards' boots marching down the cold hallways of Iran's Gohardasht prison. The screams of other inmates burn her ears. She can feel the thud of a fist coming down on her head. And the world going black as she was blindfolded and shoved in a courtroom to hear her fate. She was arrested in Tehran more than 25 years ago - beaten, interrogated and thrown into solitary confinement. Once a week, she was taken out for a shower. She could tell if it was bright or overcast only by the small window high up in her cell. She cherished the chirping of birds outside. All she had was a blanket, a spoon and a broken fork. The Iranian regime accused Vosough of espionage, though she was never charged or afforded legal representation. Her crime in the Islamic republic, she says, was - and still is - her faith. She is a Baha'i. She has not spoken publicly about her terrifying experience in an Iranian jail. Until now.

The Washington Post28 August 2010

“For several weeks last year, I shared a cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two leaders of Iran's minority Bahai faith,” writes Roxana Saberi. “I came to see them as my sisters, women whose only crimes were to peacefully practice their religion and resist pressure from their captors to compromise their principles. For this, apparently, they and five male colleagues were sentenced this month to 20 years in prison…People of many nations and faiths have called for the release of the Bahai leaders. But many more must speak out…Mahvash and Fariba occasionally hear news of this support, and it gives them strength to carry on, just as the international outcry against my imprisonment empowered me. I know that despite what they have been through and what lies ahead, these women feel no hatred in their hearts. When I struggled not to despise my interrogators and the judge, Mahvash and Fariba told me they do not hate anyone, not even their captors. We believe in love and compassion for humanity, they said, even for those who wrong us.”

The Guardian25 August 2010

Cherie Blair writes, “When a mother of two can be sentenced to death by stoning on the basis of a disputed confession of adultery and without proper legal representation, there is little reason for faith in the fairness or mercy of Iran's judicial system. But as in the appalling case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 20-year jail sentences just handed out to seven Baha'i leaders must provoke an international outcry in the hope that the Iranian government can be shamed into thinking again. The sentences follow a sham trial in which the accused faced a variety of charges ranging from spreading propaganda against the state and engaging in espionage, to conspiring to commit offences against national security. Unless international pressure can force a change of mind, many of the Baha'i leaders are doomed to die in prison. The oldest – Jamaloddin Khanjani – is already 77 years old.”

Open Democracy23 August 2010

As international criticism increases over the violation of human rights, the Islamic Republic intensifies its collective persecution of thousands of Bahais in Iran. There are about 300,000 Bahais living in Iran, which is the birthplace of their faith. Although, the regime tolerates the so-called “People of the Book” - Jews and Christians - it is extremely antagonistic towards Bahaism. The Bahais are facing systematic discrimination by the state and most of their civil rights are denied. On a daily basis Bahais are suffering challenges for their beliefs almost from every direction. They have no political and legal representation and they never can be employed by the state. They cannot participate in any major economic transactions and their financial lives are confined. Bahais are prevented from going to university and their socio-cultural activities are restricted. In the early days of the Islamic State, all of their holy sites were demolished, some of their houses set on fire while hundreds faced execution and imprisonment.

The Australian21 August 2010

IRANIAN Behrouz Tavakkoli is a father of two, psychologist, carpenter and social worker. He has spent much of his adult life working with the physically and mentally handicapped -- "a real angel", in the words of his brother, Amin. He is also a follower of the Baha'i faith, which is effectively a crime under the theocratic dictatorship that rules Iran. Last week, Mr Tavakkoli and six other Baha'i leaders were sentenced to 20 years each in jail after being convicted by an Iranian court of the offences of "insulting religious sanctities", "propaganda against the system" and spying for Israel. Amin Tavakkoli was at home in suburban Adelaide, where he has lived since fleeing Iran in 1984, when he heard the news of his brother's conviction. "It was really a shock for us, for all the Baha'i community, because everybody knows that they are innocent, and I'm sure the regime in Iran knows they are innocent," he said. "Their arrest was not just, keeping them in prison was not just, and was against the laws of the country." …

Ethics Daily19 August 2010

The Baha’i International Community said the harsh prison sentences meted out against seven Iranian Baha’i leaders are an unjust punishment against innocent people and an entire religious community. The five men and two women imprisoned were arrested in May 2008 and later charged with “spying for foreigners,” as well as “spreading corruption on Earth” and “cooperating with Israel.” Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose Defenders of Human Rights Center represented the Baha’i defendants, said she was “stunned” by the seven- to 20-year jail terms.

Deutsche Welle18 August 2010

Iman Naghashian is shaken. The young chartered accountant sits in his office in Frankfurt’s banking quarter and cannot grasp it – 20 years detention for the seven leading members of the Iranian Baha'i community. Among those sentenced is his uncle - Saeid Rezaie. Back in May 2008, security forces stormed Rezaie’s house in Tehran and arrested him in front of his children. Together with four other men and two women, he was taken into Tehran’s Evin prison.

Voice of America14 August 2010

Seven Bahai leaders have been sentenced to 20 years in prison this week by the Iranian judiciary. The sentences were met with widespread condemnation. The verdict against the seven Bahai leaders was harsh, even by Iranian standards, and came after almost two years of arbitrary detention in Tehran's notorious Evin prison…U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deplored the condemnations in a statement Thursday, saying that the US is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and we have not forgotten the Bahai community in Iran. Clinton went on to say that the sentences were a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Iran's persecuted Bahai minority numbers around three hundred thousand, according to unofficial figures.

Foreign Policy13 August 2010

Members of the Baha'i faith, one long-persecuted group in Iran, were greatly reassured Thursday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement criticizing the Iranian government's persecution of the group. Seven Baha'i leaders were each sentenced to 20 years in prison this week. "The United States strongly condemns this sentencing as a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Clinton said. "Freedom of religion is the birthright of people of all faiths and beliefs in all places. The United States is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and we have not forgotten the Baha'i community in Iran."

Vatican Radio11 August 2010

An Iranian court has sentenced seven leaders of the Baha’i faith to 20 years in prison after charging them with espionage and engaging in propaganda against Islam. Vatican Radio spoke to Daniel Wheatley, the government relations officer for the Baha’i Community in the United Kingdom.

Los Angeles Times11 August 2010

Seven leaders of the Bahai community in Iran were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of spying for foreign nations, cooperation with Israel and undermining Islam, according to Bahai representatives in the United States and France. All those accused have denied the charges…The sentencing has been met with an outcry from world leaders and human rights advocacy groups. The president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, called the sentences "a shocking signal and an immense disappointment." Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have all released statements condemning the sentencing.

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