Editor’s Note: The following open letter was written by Brazil’s National Spiritual Assembly [the highest elected administrative body of Brazil’s Baha’is] during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to their country.
Your visit to Brazil, invited by President Lula, provokes a reflection on the relations between both countries. Brazil and Iran have increased both their attention in the world scenario: they are emerging countries, with enormous geopolitical influence, and a population marked by the diversity. Nothing more natural, therefore, that to promote this approximation, sharing good practices and verifying possibilities of cooperation.
In name of the above mentioned similarities, we call your attention on the following point: whereas Brazil has adopted a model of living together in diversity, with policies aiming at intensifying participation and the respect for human rights, in Iran there are reckless practices of restriction of the rights and of persecution to the racial minorities, of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and of religious identity.
In Iran, the Bahá’ís (the largest religious minority in the country) face the severe consequences of religious discrimination, having their work licenses denied, as well as their access to education and justice. Their properties and sacred places are confiscated and destroyed. In the last 30 years, more than 250 were executed; since 2005, more than 200 were arbitrarily imprisoned, intimidated and harrassed – all because they will not deny their faith. Their 7 national leaders have been arbitrarily imprisoned for more than 18 months, their defense being constantly impeded.
The government-controlled media offends the Bahá’ís with hundreds of articles, radio and television programmes, web posts and leaflets with speeches of hatred, promoted by clergymen and governmental officials – whereas Bahá’ís are prohibited from exercising their right to response.
Here in Brazil, the Bahá’ís take part in the construction of democracy and development of their communities – activities recognized by the Brazilian Government and society. Here, they can practice their faith with freedom and safety, in consonance with the principles of oneness of humankind, equality of race and gender, promotion of peace and service to humanity.
How can this difference of treatmentto be justifyed, then? Why is it that the Bahá’ís, in most parts of the world, are seen as persons of good will, committed with the advancement of the society, without any involvement to partisan politics, and in Iran, precisely where their Faith was born in the 19th century, they receive such a degrading treatment?
It is the responsibility of governments to promote the common good, to defend the interests of their citizens and to stimulate human development, with justice and dignity. We hope that the dialogue between both Presidents may stimulate the reflection on the needs of new policies in Iran that allow the followers of all the religions, including the Bahá’ís, to contribute with the progress of their motherland.
Original Portugese; Translation by Jheniefeer Sayyáh