[Update: 05/14/09 – CNN Story today]
Although this blog is happy that journalist Roxana Saberi has been freed, it has some sobering news to remind you:
Today, May 14th, marks the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran, who have spent a year in jail without formal charges or access to their lawyer, Shirin Ebadi. The families of the prisoners were recently informed that a new accusation has been lodged against them by the Iranian government, the charge of “spreading corruption on earth,” which carries the threat of death under Iran’s penal code.
Local Bahá’ís are also writing to their members of Congress, and urging other to do the same, to gather additional cosponsors for two resolutions, H.Res 175 and S.Res.71, currently before the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate respectively, which call for the release of the Iranian Baha’i leaders and other Bahá’í prisoners
Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, said on May 12 that “despite their obvious innocence and the call by many for their immediate release, these seven men and women have been in legal limbo for a year now, against all international human rights standards.”
Ms. Dugal also noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has frequently emphasized the importance of “justice and human dignity” and “the establishment of a just world system,” such as when he addressed the UN Durban Review Conference in Geneva last month.
“How can the calls of the Iranian leadership for justice in the international sphere be taken seriously if they do not grant justice to their own citizens? In Iran, by all accounts universally agreed upon human rights are routinely ignored, not only for Baha’is but also for women, journalists, and others who only seek dignity and justice,” she said.
The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. All but one of the group were arrested on May 14, 2008 at their homes in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on March 5, 2008 while in Mashhad. Read more about them.
The prosecution of the leaders is just one step in a 30-year-long systematic campaign orchestrated by the government to eliminate the Baha’i community as a viable entity in Iran, the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith.
The Baha’i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions and one of the fastest-growing, with a significant presence throughout the United States. Baha’is view the world’s major religions as part of a single, progressive process through which God reveals His will to humanity. Major Baha’i tenets include the oneness of humanity, equality of men and women, eradication of prejudice, harmony of science and religion, universal education and world peace.
Updates and background on the situation of the Baha’is in Iran are posted at http://iran.bahai.us. To learn more about the Baha’i Faith in America, check www.bahai.us and the Religion Newswriters Association Source Guide on the Baha’i Faith at http://www.religionlink.com/tip_090211.php