Seven Imprisoned Baha’is Say No to Religious Discrimination

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Since early 2008, seven innocent Bahá’í leaders, known as the Yárán, have been imprisoned in Iran under extremely harsh conditions. Their so-called crime is nothing more than serving the spiritual and social needs of their Bahá’í community.

“The six years they have already served comprise slightly more than one quarter of the 20 year sentence each received. It is the longest sentence ever given to prisoners of conscience in Iran,”says Bev Watson, director of External Affairs of the New Zealand Bahá’í community. “It is unthinkable that they should serve another 14 years.”

Those imprisoned are Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mrs Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm.

After more than two years of arbitrary detainment, and with no access to their lawyers, the seven leaders were sentenced on such charges as espionage, propaganda against the Islamic order, and establishment of an illegal administration, as well as with corruption on Earth and waging war against God.

Noble Laureate Shirin Ebadi, one of the lawyers on the case, publicly stated: “As their lawyer, I should have had access to my clients from the time of their detention and I should have known of the charges against them. But I was not allowed to see them.” Ms Ebadi has continually stressed  that given the advanced age of several of the Bahá’í leaders, the prison sentence is effectively a life sentence as it is unlikely they will survive beyond their prison terms.

It is clear that the Iranian government’s treatment of the Yárán is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a number of other international human rights instruments to which Iran is a signatory. The UN General Assembly, many governments, national and international NGOs, Nobel laureates, religious leaders and countless individuals from many walks of life, are fully aware that the accusations against the Yárán are ludicrous and unfounded; that their trial was marked by gross irregularities in proper judicial procedure, and that these seven Bahá’í leaders – whose only wish is to be of service to humanity – continue to be detained unjustly and in appalling conditions.

Despite this, however, the Yárán responded swiftly when Mr Mohammad Javad Ardeshir Larijani, the Secretary-General of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, recently stated that no one is imprisoned because of his/her belief in the Bahá’í Faith, and if they commit no illegal act, their rights as citizen will be respected.  A letter addressed to him asked some courteous but pointed questions and challenged him to consider whether the actions of the Iranian government do, in fact, demonstrate respect for the citizenship rights of Bahá’ís.

Under these circumstances, international condemnation of the actions of the Iranian government obviously continues to be of critical importance, not just to the Bahá’ís but also to all other innocent prisoners of conscience in Iran.

Ms. Watson, together with the New Zealand Bahá’í community, looks forward to the day the Iranian government adheres to its international human rights obligations.  “That day cannot come too soon when the Yaran and all other prisoners of conscience are released, and the rights to religious freedom and human dignity are respected.”   (Golpaygani Memorandum)

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