Iranian actions strike too close to home

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The ProgressBy Robert Freeman – Chilliwack Progress
Published: September 10, 2010 11:00 AM
Updated: September 10, 2010 8:41 PM
Persecution by the state because of religious faith.

The Funk family, Sharaf (left) and Mahnaz, along with their children Jinan, 14, Shahd, 11, and Bahhaj, 8, are concerned about a relative who is in an Iranian prison. She is pictured at the far right in the photo that Bahhaj is holding.
The Funk family, Sharaf (left) and Mahnaz, along with their children Jinan, 14, Shahd, 11, and Bahhaj, 8, are concerned about a relative who is in an Iranian prison. She is pictured at the far right in the photo that Bahhaj is holding.

Denial of an education, of jobs, of passports for emigration.

That scenario of religious repression in present-day Iran should sound familiar to the Christian-based West.

And the recent trial and 20-year sentences meted out to seven Baha’is in Iran is just the latest outrage against humanity in a country where the first declaration of human rights was made more than a thousand years ago.

Mahnaz Funk, a member of the Baha’i community in Chilliwack, says she knows “very well how unjust the Iranian government is to Baha’is” as her own aunt was jailed for no reason, he father denied the right to work, and her friends denied the right to go to school because of their faith.

Now she consoles her cousin Hedieh Abbasi, whose aunt [Mrs. Mahvash Sabet – arrested in Mashhad on 5 March 2008] is imprisoned with six other elderly Baha’i.

“She was arrested just because of being Baha’i,” Abbasi said in a telephone interview Thursday from Seattle.

“I’m not sure how we can help her – we’re all the way on the other side of the world,” she said.

“But I think if we talk loud about it, make them more aware that what they do is not how they should deal with human beings,” she added, “maybe it will make them more aware the whole world is not happy with what they do and they might stop.”

Chilliwack, British Columbia
Chilliwack, British Columbia

She urged Chilliwack residents to email their local MP – or the Iranian government directly – and make their views known.

They would not be alone.

In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on Iran to “cease persecuting” the Baha’i community. [also see Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, http://www.iranpresswatch.org/post/6338]

“Iran’s continued, blatant disregard for the rights of its citizens must end,” he said.

The governments of the United States, Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have also condemned the harsh 20-year sentences.

But such treatment is “nothing new” to Baha’is living in Iran, Funk said, as the government has tried to “systematically” rid the country of the troublesome faith.

“There is no priest or mullah or head of the (Baha’i) faith who interprets the writings of Baha’u’llah on our behalf,” explains Sharaf, Funk’s California-born husband.

Each Baha’i is expected to search out the Truth for themselves, and to accept all religions, an idea which did not sit well with the revolutionary plans of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 to create an Islamic nation.

Thousands of Baha’i were put to death by the revolution’s leaders “to protect their own power,” Mahnaz said.

“We want the people of the world to know who are Baha’i, to conduct an independent investigation of the Truth for themselves,” she said.

“At least they will know who we are.”

A public prayer meeting is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Chilliwack library.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

Source: http://www.bclocalnews.com/fraser_valley/theprogress/news/102627179.html

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