Thursday, May 15, 2008

Where Being Baha'i is A Crime

Iranian authorities are at it again, trampling the rights of citizens simply because of their religious beliefs. The Baha'i World News Service has the latest:

— Six Bahá’í leaders in Iran were arrested and taken to the notorious Evin prison yesterday in a sweep that is ominously similar to episodes in the 1980s when scores of Iranian Bahá’í leaders were summarily rounded up and killed.

The six men and women, all members of the national-level group that helped see to the minimum needs of Bahá’ís in Iran, were in their homes Wednesday morning when government intelligence agents entered and spent up to five hours searching each home, before taking them away.

The seventh member of the national coordinating group was arrested in early March in Mashhad after being summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence office there on an ostensibly trivial matter.

“We protest in the strongest terms the arrests of our fellow Bahá'ís in Iran,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations. “Their only crime is their practice of the Bahá’í Faith.”

“Especially disturbing is how this latest sweep recalls the wholesale arrest or abduction of the members of two national Iranian Bahá’í governing councils in the early 1980s -- which led to the disappearance or execution of 17 individuals,” she said." Read the whole thing here.

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also has news about this latest assault on the Iranian Baha'i Community:

"Health and Safety May Be At Risk

(16 May 2008) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is calling on Iranian judicial authorities to account, in terms of Iranian and international law, for the detention on 14 May 2008 of six leading members of the Baha’i faith, who have been taken to Evin prison. All are members of the Baha’i national coordination group, the “Friends;” the seventh member has been imprisoned in Mashhad since 5 March 2008. No charges have been announced in the cases.

While the detainees have all been regularly summoned, detained, and interrogated as individuals, this is the first time they have been seized as a group. The entire leadership body of the Baha’is in Iran is thus in detention.

“We are deeply concerned that the detention without charge of the entire Baha’i leadership is consistent with a pattern of violent and illegal persecution of Baha’is in Iran,” the Campaign stated. “The persecution of religious minorities will bring neither internal stability nor international security to Iran.”

Intelligence agents detained Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm at their respective homes in the early morning of 14 May and conducted searches." Read more here.

The systematic (and completely unsuccessful) effort by governmental and religious authorities in Iran to destroy the Baha'i Faith in that country has been going on since its inception in the mid-19th century. That the Baha'is of Iran have persevered so long in the face of such a relentless campaign demonstrates the strength of their convictions. That they are persecuted solely for their religious beliefs demonstrates the wrong-headedness of their oppressors. If you care even just a little about religious freedom, I encourage you to let people know about this. Nefarious deeds shrink before the harsh light of international outrage. Get. The. Word. Out.