[bramptonguardian.com, 24 May 2012]A Brampton organization wants Canada to use diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government and help stop the systemic and relentless prosecution of Baha’is, a religious minority group.
The Baha’is of Brampton will hold a public meeting, Friday, May 25 at the Century Gardens Recreation Centre (Room 3) located at 340 Vodden St. at 7:30 p.m. Gerald Filson, director of external affairs for the Baha’i Community of Canada, is the keynote speaker.
Baha’i religion, founded in Iran in the middle of 19th century has some 300,000 followers in that country, but the community has been oppressed because its religious ideology conflicts with that of the Muslim (Shia) majority in Iran.
The purpose of the Friday meeting will be to raise awareness, urge action and mark the anniversary of the arrest of six Baha’i leaders who were sentenced to 20-year prison terms in 2010.
In Iran, Baha’i youth are denied access to post-secondary education, men are refused jobs; homes are routinely raided and prisoners don’t get a fair trial, explained Michael Davids, a member of the Baha’is of Brampton.
“We want to expose the plight of the Baha’is and bring awareness about the issue here in Canada,” he said. “Canadian government has been doing an exceptional job, especially at the United Nations level with promoting this cause and addressing the human rights violations.”
A Brampton Baha’i woman—who did not want her name published because of fears that her mother and other family members in Iran would be singled out for punishment — said she received news recently that her 22-year-old nephew Bashir Ehsani has been sentenced to a five-year prison term. His crime was that he dared to question university authorities in Iran on why he was not given admission to a computer science program despite passing the entrance test with flying colours, the woman said.
“I can’t call or talk freely to my family because the phones are monitored,” she said. “They arrested my nephew because he sought legal advice from a lawyer and has been championing the rights of young people. Years ago, my father was brutally beaten and he became crippled…I feel helpless at all their suffering. There’s always a pain in my heart when I think of home…”
Said the Baha’don’t believe in retaliation or violence, the Iranian government gets away commiting its atrocities, the woman said.
“I am inspired by the Baha’i people who despite of being persecuted, discriminated and bullied believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel…” she said.
In a 2011 speech to the senate, Senator Romeó Dallaire said the incarceration of the Baha’i people bears resemblance to the Rwandan genocide.
“In 2004, only four (Baha’is) were incarcerated,” he said. “In 2010, there were 48. In 2011, there are more than 100. More Baha’is were arrested in the past year than in the previous six years combined. In addition, Baha’is serve disproportionate sentences without the right to be freed on bail. The similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal, similar and in fact applied with seemingly the same verve….”