FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U4I media contact: Sarah Shourd, Advocate, [email protected], (510) 473-5923
U4I media contact: Roxana Saberi, journalist, U4I advisory board member, [email protected]
Berlin, Germany Baha’i media contact: Alina Braml, [email protected], +49 (0) 30 24 72 32 17
Brazil Baha’i media contact: Jordana Araújo, [email protected], (+55 61) 3255 2200
London, UK Bahá’í media contact: Sam Roskams, [email protected], +44 (0)20 7019 7780
Paris, France Baha’i media contact: Sophie Ménard, [email protected], +33 6 63 55 49 14
Washington, D.C. Baha’i media contact: Nic Corbett, [email protected], 202-833-8990
Worldwide Action to Free 7 Baha’i Leaders in Iran:
10,000 Days in Prison
Dozen Cities Organize Mobile Billboard Campaign Calling for Release Former American Prisoner of Conscience Sarah Shourd Joins Their Call
Berkeley, California – Sunday April 1, 2012 will mark 10,000 total days that seven leaders of the Baha’i community have spent behind bars in Iran. On this day, United4Iran and local communities are raising awareness in 12 cities across the globe through mobile billboards featuring a call to “Free Baha’i Leaders: Prisoners of Conscience in Iran.”
Former imprisoned activist and hiker Sarah Shourd is joining United4Iran in calling for their immediate release.
While imprisoned, Shourd experienced a touching encounter with one of the imprisoned Baha’i leaders.
“Fariba Kamalabadi and I were being led blindfolded to the prison clinic. We were walking in single file and the first thing she did was reach out and rub my back affectionately. She smiled at me, whispering that she was sorry that I was alone, then hastily told me who she was,” Shourd said. “Later, when I was released and was able to learn more about the seven Baha’i leaders, who are being held without proper legal representation or a fair trial, I was even more astounded by Fariba’s kindness and bravery that day.”
Shourd is joining the call for the release of Kamalabadi and her colleagues, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.
“They are being held solely for their religious beliefs, for demanding the right of Baha’is to civil rights and an education,” Shourd said. “The Iranian government is in serious violation of international law regarding these cases and they must all be released immediately.”
Prior to their arrests in 2008, the seven were members of an informal national-level group that attended to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s Baha’i community. They were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after six brief court sessions characterized by a lack of due process.
In an initiative coordinated by United4Iran, mobile billboards depicting the prisoners are expected to be on display in major world cities, including Amsterdam, Netherlands; Berlin, Germany; Brasilia, Brazil; Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg in South Africa; London, England; Paris, France; Sydney, Australia; Washington, D.C., United States; Wellington, New Zealand. In New Delhi, India, organizers are expected to hold a peace march with banners from the Baha’i temple to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON) temple in Delhi.
The large image of the Baha’i prisoners featured on the billboards and banners is constructed of smaller photographs of hundreds of people currently jailed in Iran, including journalists, trade unionists, student and women’s activists, religious leaders and opposition leaders.
“We hope this action will bring worldwide attention to the plight of the seven Baha’i leaders, and also remind us of all other prisoners of conscience who remain behind bars,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s director of organizing.
“It is time for Iran’s government to end its shameful treatment of the Baha’i community, which remains an integral part of Iran’s cultural and spiritual tapestry. We demand that they and all other religious minorities currently in prison for their belief be released, and that their rights be upheld in Iranian society,” Mahmoudi said.
Some 20 months after being held without charge in Tehran’s Evin prison, a trial began on 12 January 2010. The seven leaders were charged with, among other things, “espionage”, “propaganda against the Islamic republic”, and “establishment of an illegal administration” – charges that were rejected categorically by the defendants.
The five men are currently serving out their sentence at Gohardasht prison, some 50 kilometers west of Tehran. The two women are in Evin prison after previously being held in Gohardasht and a brief stay in appalling conditions at Qarchak prison.
Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations, said, “The seven were, and remain, totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Ten thousand days of their lives have literally been stolen from them forever – days that they would have dedicated to the service of their fellow countrymen. The day is long overdue when these prisoners are freed to be able to make their contribution to the country they love.”
## United4Iran (U4I) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of improving Iran’s human rights conditions by mobilizing and uniting the global community and through public awareness and advocacy.