Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Gathering Storm For Iranian Baha'is?

The Baha'i World News Service reports the seven Baha'is taken into custody by Iranian authorities two weeks ago have been effectively "disappeared":

— Six Baha’i leaders who were arrested nearly two weeks ago are being held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or relatives, and the Baha’i International Community is increasingly concerned about their fate.

“Although initial reports indicated they were taken to Evin prison, in fact we don’t know where they are, and we are extremely concerned,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“What is clear is that none of their fundamental rights are being upheld. They have had no access to family members or counsel. We don’t even know if they have been before a judge or whether they have been formally charged.

“All we know is what a government spokesperson said last week, which is that they were arrested for ‘security reasons,’ a charge that is utterly baseless.

“We appeal to the international community, human rights groups, and people of conscience, as well as the news media, to continue their efforts to press the Iranian government so that the rights of these people as detainees be upheld and that they be allowed access to counsel and general communication with the outside -- as a minimum step,” said Ms. Dugal." Read the whole article here.

Bilo and Barney both have this story with Bilo continuing to add historical perspective on this latest crisis.

The fact those who are fighting for the release of these innocent people, including their family members becomes more ominous in light of reported statements coming out of Iran as mentioned by Barney in his blog:

"Last Friday, Mashhad’s Friday prayer leader, Alam Al-Hoda, accused Bahá’ís of being “Zionist spies” and called for them to be executed. According to this gentleman, not only is “Bahaism” not a religion, it is not even a belief system:

Countries such as the United States, Canada and EU, which deliberately ignore the atrocities committed by Israelis in Gaza strip, have raised their voice to express their concern for the recent arrest of these murderous spies [Friends in Iran] accusing Iran of violating human rights. Not only is Bahaism not a religion, but also it is not a belief system! How can we let these Israeli mercenaries [Iranian Bahais], who have had a hand in the murder of millions of innocent people [Palestinians], live freely in our country and exploit a bunch of political perverts, prostitutes and promiscuous people to sign petitions for the abrogation of Islamic laws [emancipation of the Faith in Iran] ? Our country is the homeland of the Expected One [the12th Imam] and a true theocracy in which there is no way to enter into dialogue with this spy network. Rather, this satanic movement must be forcefully destroyed, and its members have to be executed.

You can read the original in Farsi here."

This kind of hysterical propaganda and the actions that may spring from it are quite frankly sad. While they are a source of suffering to the Baha'is in Iran, they have failed and will continue to fail to destroy that community. All it succeeds in doing is exposing the for the world the moral bankruptcy of the perpetrators. This is in stark contrast to The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights, which while not necessarily sharing the beliefs of Baha'is, stands for their freedom to practice those beliefs.

The introduction to a statement by the Baha'i International Community called Freedom to Believe seems relevant:

"Over fifty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights boldly proclaimed the inherent dignity and the equal rights of all members of the human family. Guided by the vision of equality for all, the Declaration enshrined the fundamental right of every human being to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Despite the international community's unanimous1 adoption of this Declaration and its codification in subsequent instruments of international law2, the world bears witness to persistent intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, the proliferation of violence in the name of religion, the manipulation of religion in the interest of political ideology, and increasing tensions between religion and State policies3. The rising tide of religious extremism has fuelled these developments, threatening security, human development, and efforts towards peace. Widespread violations of this right -- most often targeting women and minorities -- have continued. Given the interdependence of human rights, such violations have compromised, among others, the right to education, employment, peaceful assembly, citizenship, political participation, health, and at times, life itself. Indeed, the promise of freedom of religion or belief for all remains one of the most contested and pressing human rights of our time.The freedom to hold beliefs of one's choosing and to change them is central to human development. It is the individual's search for meaning and the desire to know who we are as human beings that distinguishes the human conscience." (I highly recommend reading the whole statement).