15 of Britain’s top comedians have written an open letter calling for the Iranian government to respect the human rights of its citizens, in particular seven leaders of the Bahá’í faith who have been imprisoned for more than eight months and now face spurious charges.
In a letter published in today’s edition of The Times (Thursday 25 February), the comedians – including David Baddiel, Bill Bailey, Sanjeev Bhasker, Jo Brand, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr, Jack Dee, Omid Djalili, Sean Lock, Alexei Sayle and Meera Syal – say they are concerned for the safety of the seven Bahá’í leaders. “No formal evidence has been brought against them,” says the letter, “They have not been given access to their legal counsel, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. She has had no access to their files and has suffered threats and intimidation since taking on their case.”
Charges that are likely to be filed against the Bahá’ís in the Revolutionary Court include “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic”.
“In reality, their only “crime”, which the current regime finds intolerable, is that they hold a religious belief that is different from the majority,” says the letter.
The prosecution of the leaders is the latest development in a 30-year-long systematic effort orchestrated by the government to eliminate the 300,000 member Bahá’í community in Iran, where the faith began in the mid-19th century. Documentary evidence has been provided by United
Nations agencies on this campaign of religious persecution against Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority.
The seven detained Bahá’ís had been looking after the basic needs of Iran’s 300,000-strong Bahá’í community after all Bahá’í institutions were banned by the Iranian government following the 1979 Islamic revolution. In the absence of any national governing council, the informal group of seven was formed with the full knowledge of the government who had routine dealings with them.
“As artists who strive to uplift the human spirit and enrich society through our work,” wrote the comedians, “we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society – be it through the arts and media, the promotion of education, social and economic development, or adherence to moral principles.”
“Further, we join with the governments, human rights organizations and people of goodwill throughout the world who have so far raised their voices calling for a fair trial, if not the complete release of the Bahá’í leaders in Iran,” they wrote.
The letter has been signed by David Baddiel, Bill Bailey, Morwenna Banks, Sanjeev Bhasker, Jo Brand, Russell Brand, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr, Jack Dee, Omid Djalili, Sean Lock, Lee Mack, Alexei Sayle, Meera Syal and Mark Thomas.
Read the letter at Times Online (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article5804284.ece)
[From a Press Release by the Office of Public Information for the NSA of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom]