By Senator Sharon Keogan
Some of you will know that the largest religious minority in Iran is the Baha’i faith and many of you around this country will know many Baha’is that live in your communities. You may also know that the Baha’is who live in Iran are very severely persecuted simply because of their religion. The UN, the most human rights experts agreed that the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran is one of the most obvious cases of state-sponsored persecution. If there ever was any doubt that this persecution of Baha’is in Iran is systemic and state-sponsored, the recent upsurge in arrests convictions and imprisonments of Iran’s Baha’is leaves no doubt. There were always between 50 and 100 Baha’is in prison in Iran but in the past few months as Iran battles a severe Covid-9 resurgence, the Iranian authorities have begun to arrest and imprisoned more Baha’is in recent weeks. At least 80 Baha’is have been targeted and subject to arbitrary arrests interrogation and convictions on trumped-up charges some of them have been sent to prison and some are at home awaiting their conviction waiting in terror to be summoned to serve their sentences. Among the people arrested is an elderly man who will suffer and struggle to survive if he conrtacts Covid-19 in prison. There is also a case of a couple who is caring for their daughter who has cancer these parents are now terrified that there will be no one to care for their sick daughter if they are summonsed to prison at the same time. They’re worried because they know that could easily happen as these things have been done before and has happened to Baha’is before. To me the statistics about ramping up the persecution of Baha’is in Iran are more than numbers because I have family in Iran who are Baha’is. So when I read about Baha’is being arrested and imprisoned, I fully understand how arbitrary and religiously motivated these arrests really are and I know that there’s a chance that the next arrested person might be a member of my extended family, because members of my extended family are Baha’i who live in Iran. That simple fact alone is enough to have them arrested and imprisoned nobody in my family has committed Baha’is who’ve been arrested in the past few weeks these people are being persecuted simply because of their beliefs the Baha’is who are being arrested and imprisoned are just ordinary people. They aren’t trying to overthrow the regime or cause trouble in their society. They simply want to live their lives and all they want are asking are for ordinary human rights basically I would like to highlight this issue with the minister for foreign affairs and also the ambassador here in Iran so I’m asking this house if we could raise and speak up for and shine the light on the Baha’is that are being persecuted at this moment in Iran, thank you.