Editor’s Note: Although this letter was published in June 2008, Iran Press Watch thought it was another significant indication of international outcry against injustice perpetrated against the Baha’i community of Iran. This open letter was signed by a number of distinguished individuals, whose name appears at the end.
We remain deeply concerned about the recent arrests of all members of Iran’s national Baha’i leadership. On May 14, 2008 six Baha’i leaders, members of a national coordinating body, which helped to address minimum needs of the Baha’is in Iran, were arrested in pre-dawn raids. A seventh leader had already been arrested in early March. No formal charges have been framed against them.
These arrests are shockingly similar to the abductions and executions of Baha’i leaders in the early 1980s. In August 1980, all nine members of the national Baha’i governing council were arrested and disappeared without a trace. It is certain that they were executed. In December 1981, eight newly elected council members were also executed. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, more than 200 Baha’is have been executed solely on the basis of their religious beliefs.
We urge Iran to abide by the international human rights conventions it has ratified and release these detainees immediately. If charges are to be framed against them, provide them without undue delay a fair and open trial as well as access to legal counsel.
It is appalling that Baha’is are discriminated against in the land where their religion was born. In spite of being the largest minority in Iran, their religion is neither recognized nor are they allowed to practice their religion freely. Worse still, there has been a carefully orchestrated official policy of oppression against them.
Recently, a new wave of persecution has hit the Baha’i community: arbitrary arrests and detentions, attacks against Baha’i school children, dissemination of false inflammatory information in the media, denial of their means of livelihood, and expulsion from universities. Yet, Baha’is continue to be law-abiding, committed to the development of their country and do not take part in any political activity.
Also of great concern to us is a new draft penal code currently being considered by the Iranian Parliament. Its section five is particularly alarming. It mandates the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion (apostasy), a provision which targets Baha’is, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups.
Such discrimination against the Baha’is, whose only offence is their belief in peace, justice and tolerance, is unacceptable. It is shocking that Iran, a country renowned for its great civilization, philosophy, poetry and art, one which India has had long-standing historic ties with, would resort to such a flagrant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion.
We invite all like-minded people, believers in human rights, democracy and freedom, to join us in voicing our concerns to the Iranian authorities to cease persecuting the Baha’is.
- Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India
- Justice J.S. Verma, Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India – Former Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
- Justice Rajinder Sachar, Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court – Former President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties
- Soli J. Sorabjee, Former Attorney General for India – President, United Lawyers’ Association
- Dr. Syeeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission of India
- Professor Tahir Mahmood, Member, Law Commission of India
- Dr. Mohini Giri, Founder, Guild of Service India – Former Chairperson, National Commission for Women
- Vir Sanghvi, Editorial Director, Hindustan Times
- B. George Verghese, Senior Columnist – Visiting Professor, Center for Policy Research
- Kuldip Nayar, Senior Columnist – Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
- Swami Agnivesh, President, World Council of Arya Samaj
- Maja Daruwala, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
- Arun Bharat Ram, Chairman SRF Ltd. – President CII International