The sentencing of the seven leaders of the Baha’i Community, known as Yaran (Friends), by the Republic Islamic Government of Iran has caused international reactions by the Governments of the World, by humanitarian organizations, and by many individuals. One such individual is Dr H. B. Danesh, Founder and President of International Education for Peace Institute (Canada), www.efpinternational.org. His letter has been sent to over 500 peace scholars, peace practitioners, and those involved in peace studies throughout the globe. These individuals are Dr. Danesh’s personal friends and colleagues. Thus far a significant number of them have responded and shared their plans in support of the Baha’i Community of Iran. Should you feel inclined to respond to his call, please contact Dr. Danesh at his contact information at the end of his letter.
01 September 2010
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Over the years, I have been fortunate to know and collaborate with you and other similarly remarkable individuals from around the globe who are dedicated to the cause of peace. Strengthened by this valued collaboration, I have decided to write to you about an urgent peace-related issue.
The matter that I am writing about is central to the issue of peace. It is about the creation of peace in the context of peace itself. It concerns responding to violence with the full force of peace. This is an uncommon and novel approach, which is now being gradually viewed as the most effective and sustainable strategy for creating peace. One of the most outstanding prototypes of this approach to peace building is the Bahá’í Community of Iran.
As you may be aware, the Bahá’í Faith is an independent, peace-based religion with adherents in all parts of the world and from all groups and strata of humanity. Central to the teachings and practices of the Bahá’í Faith is the consciousness of the oneness of humanity within the context of its rich diversity.
Since its inception in Persia (Iran) in 1844, the Bahá’í Community in Iran has been subject to the most barbaric and brutal mistreatment. Thousands of its members have been killed, tens of thousands imprisoned, and many more thousands subjected to most serious violations of their human rights.
However, since the inception of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, these violations have taken on a most alarming character. They have become the cornerstone of the policies of the government. These violations are being sanctioned by both the political and religious leadership of Iran and are aimed at all members of the 300,000-strong Bahá’í community of Iran. Their objective is to eliminate entirely the Bahá’í Community as a distinct religious minority in Iran.
In pursuit of this objective, Bahá’í children are systematically harassed by teachers and students in the schools. Bahá’í youth are not allowed to continue their education and are not admitted to universities. Bahá’í employees have been summarily dismissed from their jobs; retirees have been forced to repay their retirement entitlements; Bahá’í homes and businesses have been burned, destroyed, or confiscated; cemeteries desecrated; marriages pronounced illegal; total villages destroyed; mass exiles created; and hundreds of individuals, including the elected and appointed leadership of the community, have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and many put to death.
Among those killed have been more than two hundred peaceful and peace-creating individuals. They were highly accomplished physicians, teachers, engineers, poets, writers, farmers, merchants, housewives, youth in their teens, and community leaders. And the persecution goes on.
Currently, some 47 Bahá’ís are held in prisons in different parts of Iran. Everyday, new individuals, families, and even entire villages fall victim to the atrocities committed by government representatives and sanctioned hooligans. Among these prisoners are the Yaran (Friends)—the seven leaders of the Bahá’í Community in Iran. The Yaran is an ad hoc group that, with the full knowledge of the Iranian Government, has been coordinating the social and spiritual affairs of the Bahá’í Community at the national level for a number of years. Previously, these responsibilities were carried out by the democratically elected nine-member National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran. However, after the execution of scores of the Bahá’í leaders in the early 1980s and the banning of the Bahá’í institutions in 1983, the Yaran assumed these responsibilities.
All seven members of the Yaran have been imprisoned for more than two years awaiting trial and were recently sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment in an arbitrary manner, based on clearly unfounded and bogus charges. Due to the advanced age of most of them, this verdict amounts to a death sentence for these individuals.
For more than one and a half centuries, Bahá’ís have responded to all these atrocities by appealing to the recourse of the law in a totally peaceful manner. They have sought justice in the face of injustice and truth when confronted with untruth. They have responded to violence with its opposite—peace.
This situation calls upon us all, as scholars and practitioners of peace, to put our dedication to the cause of peace into a current context. I respectfully suggest that each of us, along with our friends and colleagues, whenever possible, bring this matter to the attention of the media and political and civic leaders, informing them about this genocidal campaign, collectively demanding that the Iranian government act according to the international standards and principles of justice concerning the Iranian Bahá’ís.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt observed, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”
Dr. H.B. Danesh (Email: [email protected])
Founder and President
International Education for Peace Institute (Canada) www.efpinternational.org
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/heavy-sentences-against-jailed-iranian-baha’i-religious-minority-leaders-condemned-
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/aug/25/iran-bahai-community-sham-trial
[and also see:] http://www.free7bahais.ca/
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