Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trial and Tribulation: Academics Speak Out

This latest from the U.S. Baha'i site dedicated to news about the persecution of the Iranian Baha'i Community. As an aspiring academic, it made me proud. Baha'i Thought readers who move in academic circles might consider making your colleagues aware of this letter.

In an open letter dated March 9, 2009, scholars and academic specialists in the fields of Middle Eastern and Iranian studies call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to put an end to human rights abuses against Baha’is in Iran.

A Call to Stop the Persecution of Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran

We, the undersigned scholars and academic specialists in the fields of Middle Eastern and Iranian studies, call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to put an end to human rights abuses against Baha’is in Iran, which have been greatly escalating in recent months, and grant them full civil rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We note with great concern evidence of an ongoing campaign to deprive the Baha’is of Iran of their fundamental human rights. This all points to a worrisome development inside Iran that appears to be preparing the way for further human rights violations against the Baha’is. Recent events include but are not limited to the following:

  • Arbitrary Arrests. Authorities arrested five Baha’is in Tehran on January 14, 2009: Ms. Jinous Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Didar Raoufi, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Aziz Samandari, followed by the arrest of two Baha’is in Mashhad, raids on eight homes and the arrest of Mr. Nima Haghar in Tehran on February 1, 2009. They join not only numerous individual arrested and detained in cities and towns throughout Iran, but also the seven Baha’i leaders who were arrested in 2008, and who remain in prison, despite statements by the United Nations, six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and various human rights organizations calling for their immediate release.
  • Attacks on Baha’i Homes. Authorities have been entering homes either to arrest Baha’is and/or confiscate personal belongings such as photos, books, and computers. A new and troubling development is the recent dissemination of a 31-page list of Baha’is in Shiraz that includes their names, professions, and home and work addresses. The list was accompanied by several quotes from high-ranking clerics, including Ayatollah Khomeini, against the Baha’is, and could lead to attacks on the listed Baha’is.
  • Denial of Access to Education. Since 1979, the Iranian government has enforced a ban on Baha’i students from access to higher education, a recognized universal human right, and frequent restriction of home schooling to children who have been denied access to public education institutions.
  • Campaigns of Intimidation. These include the harassment of school children, government sponsored propaganda against the Baha’is in the media, public seminars and symposia, the distribution of anti-Baha’i CDs in various school districts throughout the country, and harassment of those who seek to help the Baha’is, such as Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi.
  • The Financial and Economic Strangulation of the Baha’i Community. The Iranian government has, over the course of the past decades, expelled all Baha’i employees of national and local governments, and has moved to confiscate homes, businesses, financial assets, and other properties in a systematic attempt to destroy financially the Iranian Baha’is.
  • Attacks on and Desecration of Baha’i Cemeteries. Baha’i cemeteries in Qaimshahr, Yazd, Najafabad, and elsewhere have been repeatedly vandalized and then completely destroyed.

We stand in solidarity with the Baha’is and indeed with members of all religious communities who do not have full rights and freedoms in Iran.


Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York

Janet Afary, University of California, Los Angeles

Gholam R. Afkhami, Foundation for Iranian Studies

Reza Afshari, Pace University

Hamid Akbari, Northeastern Illinois University

Payam Akhavan, McGill University

Abbas Amanat, Yale University

Camron Michael Amin, The University of Michigan-Dearborn

Said A. Arjomand, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Muriel Atkin, George Washington University

Sussan Babaie, Independent Scholar

Ali Banuazizi, Boston College

Shahzad Bashir, Stanford University

Nasser Behnegar, Boston College

Mansour Bonakdarian, University of Toronto (Mississauga)

Michael E. Bonine, University of Arizona

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University

Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland

Houchang E. Chehabi, Boston University

Paul M. Cobb, University of Pennsylvania

Dick Davis, Ohio State University

Khalil Dokhanchi, University of Wisconsin at Superior

Fred M. Donner, University of Chicago

John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Willem Floor, Independent Scholar

Latifeh Hagigi, University of California, Los Angeles

Nader Hashemi, University of Denver

Hormoz Hekmat, Foundation for Iranian Studies

Mehran Kamrava, Georgetown University

Mehrangiz Kar, Harvard University (Law School)

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland

Farhad Kazemi, New York University

Stephen N. Lambden, University of California, Merced

Kate Lang, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Todd Lawson, University of Toronto

Loren Lybarger, Ohio University

Denis MacEoin, Independent Scholar

Afshin Marashi, California State University, Sacramento

Lenore G. Martin, Emmanuel College

Rudi Matthee, University of Delaware

Ann Elizabeth Mayer, University of Pennsylvania

Farzaneh Milani, University of Virginia

Margaret Mills, Ohio State University

David Morgan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Negar Mottahedeh, Duke University

Roy P. Mottahedeh, Harvard University

Parvaneh Pourshariati, Ohio State University

Sholeh A. Quinn, University of California, Merced

Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine

Thomas M Ricks, Independent Scholar

Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Sunil Sharma, Boston University

Nader Sohrabi, Columbia University

Rosemary Stanfield-Johnson, University of Minnesota

Mark L. Stein, Muhlenberg College

Kamran Talattof, University of Arizona

Georges Tamer, The Ohio State University

Mohamad Tavakoli -Targhi, University of Toronto

Nayereh Tohidi, California State University, Northridge

Frances Trix, Indiana University

A. L. Udovitch, Princeton University

Farzin Vahdat, Vassar College

Fereydun Vahman, University of Copenhagen

Margit Warburg, University of Copenhagen

Madeline C. Zilfi, University of Maryland

Download the PDF of the letter

Download the accompanying press release