Source: Ain-i Baha’i TV
Translation by Iran Press Watch
Portions of the speech by the attorney for the seven former leaders of the Baha’i community ‒ the “Yaran [Friends] of Iran” ‒ Ms. Mahnaz Parakand, recalling their arrest and imprisonment.
They have always claimed that the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is one of the countries that have accepted the International Declaration of Human Rights; which is committed to the international conventions related to civil, political, and economic, social and cultural rights. These conventions were ratified in the Iranian Parliament at the time, and are considered to be the official law of the land in Iran ‒ not merely as an international commitment, but because they have been ratified in Parliament, they are considered to be civil laws, like laws pertaining to crimes and punishments or any other civil law, and both people and the government are obligated to abide by it. This means that the IRI is responsible to answer to the United Nations (UN) and the members of the UN due to this commitment, and it must also stay accountable to the people of Iran as a result of not upholding these laws. Unfortunately, the IRI has never been held accountable when there is a conflict of interest between the rights of the people and the power and control of the IRI ‒ it has never upheld its International commitment, and has always sacrificed the people’s rights to gain more power for the regime. Today, although 36 years has passed since the revolution, the revolutionary courts are still operational, and the judges who sit in the revolutionary courts and attend to ideological or political charges are all those who are ideologically connected to state power, and also all are in fear of the Intelligence and security institutions, and have no independence in their judgement on their cases. I have witnessed on numerous occasions that they consult the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) officers about the cases; MOIS officers are constantly in the offices of the judges, whereas we the lawyers of the accused are not permitted to have access to the judges as necessary; nevertheless MOIS officers continuously are planning and coordinating these cases.
During the first years after the Revolution, Mr. Khomeini uttered a statement which I think is necessary for you to consider very carefully, so that you may understand on what the foundation of this regime is built, and why human rights are violated in Iran. Mr. Khomeini said: “Upholding the regime is of the utmost importance.” The most important issue at this moment for officials in Iran is to uphold the regime. This means that when it comes to the rights of the people or the interests of the nation, we observe that there is a conflict between the interests of the regime and the interests of the people or of the nation. Considering that “upholding the regime is of the utmost importance”, whose interest should be upheld first? Certainly according to this statement, the people, their interests, and their rights must always be secondary to the interests of the regime ‒ in other words, if they deem it necessary they will execute, deprive and deny to keep the regime in place. This is why we have observed this same behavior for all these years ‒ this is why the revolutionary courts are still in place. Revolutionary courts, as you can tell from the name, belong to the era of revolution, not 36 years after the revolution. There are laws that have been ratified in the IRI’s Parliament requiring those accused of political and ideological charges to be tried in courts with five judges residing over them as well as a jury ‒ why is it that these laws, although ratified, are not being implemented, and the revolutionary courts are still in existence? Because “upholding the regime is of the utmost importance”. The judges of the Revolutionary Courts are the individuals who can defend the regime. When I speak of judges in this talk, I am referring to those judges who do not have independence to make their judgment and are simply robots who deliver a signature ‒ the sentence has already been pre-determined, they just sign it. When I used to go to the Revolutionary court to read the Yaran’s files to take notes, it took me two months to complete this task ‒, officials would not give us tables to take notes, they wanted to impose hardships on us ‒ we would only have a chair to sit on with no desk to review the thick files and take the necessary notes ‒ I would work there from 8 AM to noon every day until they sent us away at noon each day. One day Judge Mogheiseh said to me personally: “Why do you work so hard taking all these notes, presenting your case, even though we will deliver our sentence anyway?” As simple as this! He was clearly telling me that the sentence had already been set, so why should I work so hard for nothing? This is why independent courts are not yet active in this particular area, and the revolutionary courts have to attend to these cases. Otherwise there are many legitimate courts with judges who judge cases fairly and are not willing to take orders from the MOIS.
Baha’is have been facing these same pressures from the very beginning of the Revolution. Today, as I want to speak about the Yaran, I will be mainly addressing issues related to Baha’is. There has been heavy anti-Baha’i propaganda, which still continues in governmental and non-governmental media in order to create hate and resentment as well as fear of intermingling with Baha’is. They do this in order to create such fear that people will keep their distance from their Baha’i neighbors. As you know, Baha’is cannot even hold their monthly Feasts, which are really just private gatherings in their own homes. Many have been arrested at Feast in private homes, and have faced charges of gathering with the intention to act against national security. No matter how much one explains that this is simply a religious obligation and has nothing to do with politics, no one is interested to hear this truth. Baha’is who, based on the latest count, have three hundred thousand members in Iran, are not allowed to have at least one representative in Parliament * to attend to their needs, they cannot study at universities, nor can they take employment with the government ‒ they are forced to work in private businesses, open shops, or optical sales stores, etc. These stores as well are often attacked and destroyed, or the government may make up some excuse to close the stores and take their business permits away under false charges of smuggling, so that they lose their livelihood. Even their dead are not safe and cannot be buried with peace of mind. It was just a few months ago that an eight-year-old little girl in Tabriz passed away and they refused to give permission for her burial. Her body languished at the morgue in lieu of permission to be buried for a long time. Baha’i cemeteries are destroyed, and the dead are not allowed to be buried in other cemeteries. Agricultural lands that they have worked hard and developed are destroyed, taken away from them and traded. Their complaints regarding these crimes go unheard.
Baha’is in Iran are deprived of university education. Families, in order to educate their children, got together and started the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). The teachers and professors as well as the costs were provided solely by the Iranian Baha’i community. However, BIHE was attacked, classrooms closed and the teachers were arrested with the usual charges of acting against national security, and they were sentenced to 4 to 6 years in prison. Some have recently completed 4 years in prison and have been freed; some others who had 6-year sentences are still incarcerated. Many Baha’is who had fabricated cases against them have not been able to gain access to the court system or to legal representation; yet they have been tried in these revolutionary courts and heavy sentences of imprisonment have been imposed upon them. As we know, at the beginning of the Revolution there were two consecutive complete groups of nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran who were executed, ‒and the group of nine third disappeared and no one knows of their fate. The seven Yaran are the fourth group which, though they are not members of a formal National Spiritual Assembly, which is now illegal in Iran, were simply managing the affairs of the Baha’i Community. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Shahriari (Sabet), Jamaloddin Khanjani, Behrouz Azizi Tavakoli, Saeid Rezaie, Afif Naeimi and Vahid Tizfahm, are the seven former leaders of the Baha’i community ‒ the “Yaran [Friends] of Iran” ‒ who were responsible for attending to the needs of the Baha’i community in Iran, and they were unfortunately arrested in 2008.
*It is well-known and documented that Iran sets aside seats in Parliament for representatives of approved religious minorities. Here, for example, is an article in the Times of Israel about the Jewish representative in the Iranian Parliament — there is one representative for Jews, two for Christians, and two for Zoroastrians. Such a thing would be inconceivable for Baha’is, although in fact Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran. http://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-iranian-mp-lauds-countrys-religious-freedom/