Editor’s Note: A series of gatherings is organized across the United States in support of the Baha’is of Iran and in preparation for the October 18 trial of the seven former Baha’i leaders of that country. The latest of these events was held in Washington D.C. on September 12, 2009. A report of that gathering is shared below:
Speaking to a crowd of over 1,400 people packed into The George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on September 12, Dr. Azar Nafisi, best-selling author; Ms. Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscar-nominated actress; and Dr. Dwight Bashir, Associate Director for Policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, joined the swelling worldwide chorus speaking out for human rights in Iran. On this particular evening, their message focused on Iran’s long-suffering Baha’i religious minority.
In a moving and impassioned presentation, Dr. Nafisi spoke about the common humanity of all people and the suffering of one being the suffering of all. She reflected on the significance of the fact that her beloved country, which she grew to love, with its ancient heritage, its beautiful language and its poets, the homeland of great religions and an early pioneer of human rights and religious freedom, should be diminished in the way it has because of its mistreatment of its Baha’i citizens. She said their struggle is an existential struggle, because in many ways they are being systematically denied the opportunity to exist.
Dr. Bashir began his presentation by quoting from President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo: “People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways … Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith …”
“The last part of President Obama’s statement is exactly what we are witnessing in Iran today,” Dr. Bashir said.
He then provided a snapshot of the deplorable status of human rights and religious freedom in Iran, including deteriorating conditions for Baha’is, Christians, Muslim minorities and dissidents. Bashir urged the U.S. government to raise religious freedom and related human rights in any future bilateral or multilateral discussions with Iran.
Dr. Bashir also cited a letter addressed to the Commission from Iranian-American journalist Ms. Roxana Saberi, which urges the Obama Administration to speak out in support of seven Baha’i leaders who have been imprisoned in Iran on false charges, some of which could carry the death penalty. Ms. Saberi shared a prison cell with the two female Baha’i leaders when she was detained in Evin prison earlier this year…
Ms. Shohreh Aghdashloo addressed the gathering via video from Los Angeles. She began by voicing her support for the Iranian Baha’is and expressing her desire to see more freedom in her beloved homeland. Ms. Aghdashloo also said that although she is not a member of the Baha’i community, she has great admiration and respect for Baha’is and for the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. She also read a monologue from her upcoming film entitled Mona’s Dream — the true story of a 16-year-old Iranian girl who was executed in 1983 for teaching Baha’i children’s classes.
The evening also featured dramatic performances by seven children, each of whom expounded on the life of one of the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders. A choir also performed several songs, including a prayer that was originally taught by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, to fellow prisoners while they were incarcerated in a dungeon in Tehran in the 1850’s.
[Posted originally on http://dcbahai.org/news-and-events/74-iranevent09.]
September 17, 2009 10:04 pm
Thank you and God bless you all, for you support and voicing your concerns which are the concerns of so many of us.
May we all witness a day when the citizens of our homeland are freed from all tyrannies and injustice that are inflicted upon millions of our brothers and sisters in our beloved land.
September 18, 2009 11:09 am
Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran. Where is the Baha’i International Community’s representative ?
September 18, 2009 12:26 pm
Ms. Nafisi rightly described the Iranian Baha’is as “canaries in the mine” of Iranian human rights. She also brought our attention to the extent of the desire Iranians have to witness the realization of fair and equitable treatment for the all Iranian citizens, regardless of religious belief or ethnic background. This is an aspiration the Baha’is of the world share with her wholeheartedly. Hearing such luminaries as Prof. Nafisi and Ms. Aghdashloo speak to the predicament of the Iranian Baha’is was a highlight I will not soon forget.
September 19, 2009 8:35 pm
Dear R; i am not sure what you mean. Presumably you are not asking why Baha’is don’t have a member in the Majlis, since that would not be a representative of anything international except humanity, and would judge all legislation by the best interests of all Iranians, rather than for the Baha’is. There is also the problem of needing a different electoral process without candidates, etc. This of course wouldn’t be acceptable in a system in which the highest administrators approve the candidates, and wouldn’t agree to consider all adult Baha’is approved candidates (LOL).
September 23, 2009 5:48 am
Thank you so much Dr. Nafisi, Dr. Bashir and Ms. Aghdashloo for supporting your fellow citizens. Ms. Aghdashloo is already being accused of being Baha’i by 2 Islamic republic sites. It means that in order to support your fellow citizen you must belong to their Faith. This is the limitation of their understanding. I am so glad to be a Baha’i and follow this goal of the Bahais all around the world:
“The World is One Country and Mankind its’ Citizens”
October 13, 2009 9:31 pm
There is also a similar event taking place in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 14, sponsored by the USC Office of Religious Life, the USC Levan Center for Humanities and Ethics and the Los Angeles Baha’i Center.
The concert event will be hosted by Rainn Wilson from NBC’s The Office and will feature an array of international musicians, guest speakers and a coalition of religious leaders.
It will be held at USC’s Bovard Auditorium at 7:30 PM. This event is free and open to the public.