Category Archives: Media

Journalist Roxana Saberi may be free today, but the 7 Iranian Baha’i leaders are still in jail


[Update: 05/14/09 – CNN Story today]

roxana_saberiAlthough 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.

7 Imprisoned Baha'i Leaders in Iran

7 Imprisoned Baha'i Leaders in Iran

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

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Pasadena Baha’i Naw Ruz video

Happy Baha’i New Year and 1st day of Spring!

[clearspring_widget title=”Animoto.com” wid=”46928cc51133af17″ pid=”49c5a40f9991981e” width=”432″ height=”240″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

New website alert: The Baha’i Gardens

The Baha'i Gardens

The Baha'i Gardens

A new Web site with information for visiting the Baha’i shrines and gardens in Haifa and Acre was introduced today by the Baha’i International Community.

The Web site gives details about tours, hours, and the gardens themselves, as well as information about visiting the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Acre and the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa. The shrines are the resting places of the founders of the Baha’i Faith.

The site launched in both English and Hebrew and an Arabic version is forthcoming.

English-speaking website address:  http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/

NY Times, Roger Cohen, and the Baha’is

 

Roger Cohen of the NY Times

Roger Cohen of the NY Times

In about 9 articles this year, Roger Cohen of the NY Times has been writing about modern Iranian society.  Strangely, except for a brief mention in one article, he does not discuss the Baha’i situation in Iran.

Why the snub?
I guess the Baha’i cause in Iran is just not sexy enough.

Baha’is shun partisan politics, divisiveness, and for the most part, live quiet lives serving humanity. The Baha’i story gets lost in the hubbub of geo- and theo-politics, and the so-called theory of the “Clash of Civilizations.”

Cohen’s articles mention the need for rapproachment between America and Iran.  The Baha’i worldview can certainly contribute to that goal; it is inclusive and tolerant, as stated by Baha’u’llah (the founder of the Faith): “…the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”

Baha’is have made significant contributions to Iranian society and are touted by ordinary Iranians as being very trustworthy and reliable.  Baha’is will be central to the building of a culture of justice in Iran, regardless of who runs the country.  Now that’s a real scoop.

Results of PasadenaBahai.com’s efforts
Compared to previous Cohen articles on Iran, I did see an uptick in comments that mentioned the Baha’is in Monday’s article, “Iran, Jews, and Pragmatism”.  Maybe it had something to do with alerting my friends and networks about the relative omission of the Baha’is in Cohen’s articles.  Let’s keep the momentum going!

How You Can Help
Well, until Mr. Cohen starts writing about the Baha’is more directly, the best way for us to help is to either write comments to his articles, or recommending comments.  Many comments for his current article are well-written, and several of them (mentioned below) bring up the need to address the issue of the Baha’is.

If you like these comments, then “vote” for them by 1) clicking on the links below, reading the comment, and clicking on recommend; and 2) if you’re not registered at the NY Times, then please register then–it’s free. Note: you can’t recommend a comment unless you’re registered. It’s really easy and they will not spam you, in case you’re asking.

Voting for articles is important! It shows that you took the time to read someone’s opinion, to think about it, and recommend it.

Comment #11, from JG*, Caesarea, Israel:
http://tinyurl.com/dbvd2k
*This gentleman let me know about Mr. Cohen’s visit to Sinai Temple in LA, where I got to ask Roger a question.  I thank him for his support of the Baha’is!
Summary: a very direct response to Cohen’s assertions, with a brief mention of the Baha’is.

Comment #20, from Philippe Copeland*, Boston:
http://tinyurl.com/c649l6
Summary: An American Baha’i who posits that, “…any discussion of Iran must include the human rights of all religious communities in that country to offer a full picture and context.”

Comment #21, from Samah*, Los Angeles:
http://tinyurl.com/dfdcar
*This has got to be my friend Samah–wait, there’s probably 1,000 Persians named Samah in LA! 🙂
Summary: Samah brings up a “…larger point not addressed. Jews are a small minority in Iran, almost negligible. A far better barometer for measuring the repressiveness in Persian society would be to examine the case of the Baha’is, who ARE the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country.”

Comment #24, from Stefanina Rocco, Canada:
http://tinyurl.com/czu7pu
Summary: Stefanina writes: “How does one consistently write about Iran without discussing Iran’s century old and ongoing persecution of its 300,000 + Baha’i community?”

Comment #66, from AW, Florida:
http://tinyurl.com/dgnxy5
Summary: AW gently asks Mr. Cohen to, “please enlighten your readers about Iran’s treatment of Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Christians and other minorities.”

Comment #68, from A. Foxx, Kansas City:
http://tinyurl.com/dexza3
Summary: Foxx brings up the suffering of all the Iranian people, not just the Bahais.

Comment #84, from Misha, Philadelphia:
http://tinyurl.com/c4fbnp
Summary: Misha is very direct as well, reminding Cohen to, “don’t forget how Bahai are persecuted, like Jews used to be in Europe.”

Speaking up for the Baha’is at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles

Thanks to a reader in Israel, I found out that Roger Cohen, author of the article “Iran, the Jews, and Germany” mentioned in a previous blog posting, would be in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 12th at Sinai Temple for “…a crucial dialogue with the Iranian Jewish community.” The Temple was about 1/3 full, with probably about 200 people there, eagerly awaiting to hear what Cohen had to say.

Mr. Cohen started the evening with an opening statement touching upon the article, “What Iran’s Jews Say” and expressed his desire to defend our right to disagree with him. In the opening statement, he also shared his story of becoming an naturalized American citizen and the first written sentence of the naturalization test was: “I want to be good American.”

I believe that Cohen’s intention is good–to foster greater understanding and unity between Iran and the US. This is desperately needed right now. He also mentioned that is far too easy to demonize a country on tragic misunderstanding and error. That is true as well. The Iranian people have been unfairly portrayed in the US media. He actuallly went to Iran to meet the people and the government–so his reporting was based on first-hand experience of what’s going on in Iran today.

The only issue I have with his columns on Iran is that they miss out on one of the biggest (unreported) stories in Iran: the persecution of the Baha’is. The Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran, 300,000 strong. The Baha’is of Iran cannot practice their Faith publicly, nor attend university unless they renounce their Faith, have seen their cemeteries razed, their property confiscated, and have been killed with impunity since the inception of the Faith in the 19th century. None of these details were mentioned in the articles. Mr. Cohen did acknowledge that in his trip to Iran, he did not meet or speak with any Baha’i.

Dr. Mahmoudi speaks in support of the Baha'is of Iran

Dr. Mahmoudi speaks in support of the Baha'is of Iran

After Mr. Cohen spoke, Rabbi Wolpe asked him several hard-hitting, but generally fair questions. Rabbi Wolpe then opened it up to the audience to ask Mr. Cohen his questions. There was actually another Baha’i in the audience, Dr. Mahmoudi from LA, who made a comment about the suffering of the Baha’is in Iran before my question. I did not know her before that evening. It took a while to be able to ask my question. My arm felt like it was going to fall off waiting to be called! Finally, at the last minute, Mr. Cohen was asked to pick the final questions of the night:

I asked him about the Baha’is, acknowledging him for mentioning the Baha’is, even if in passing in his article, and also pointing out that the ad-hoc leaders of the Faith are currently in prison (see previous articles in this blog), awaiting trial, with no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, with the possibility of the death penalty. I asked him in the spirit of fairness, in his stated goal to show a more complete image of Iran in the US, “could you please write an article about the situation of the Baha’is in Iran?”

The crowd clapped at this suggestion and several people called out to him to see if he would answer my question. He said that hasn’t written about the Baha’is in Iran and was unsure if he would write about them in the future. Several members of the crowd approached me afterwards thanking me for asking Cohen the question.

Thank goodness the Jewish Journal recorded the entire program, inclusive of all questions. Click here to watch it. Running time is about 1 hr 30 minutes. I ask my question at 1 hr 22 minutes. I am not seen, only a disembodied voice.

I also left a comment on the Jewish Journal page, thanking all participants for having this dialogue. I feel bad because I misspelled Rabbi Wolpe’s name. Sorry, Rabbi!

Before the program started, I was interviewed by a Jewish TV Channel, which unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of or the possible air date. If anyone out there can reply with that info, that would be greatly appreciated.

Your Correspondent,
Al Cadena

The Baha’i International Community Responds to Iran

7 Imprisoned Baha'i Leaders in Iran

7 Imprisoned Baha'i Leaders in Iran

The Baha’i International community released a statement last week in response to Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who declared illegal on 15 Feb 2009 the ad hoc arrangements that tend to the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran. The ad hoc arrangements, which include the Yaran and the Khadimin, the Baha’i administrative leadership at the national and local levels respectively, will close their functioning to remain obedient to the government. To read the letter click here.

The Yaran, which consists of the 7 Baha’is imprisoned since last year (pictured above) remain without access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and still face trial in Iran with the possibility of the death penalty.   Thankfully, there is action in the House of Representatives and the Senate to condemn the Iranian government actions.

If you haven’t already contacted our Congressman, Adam Schiff, to support H. Res 175, then here is his contact form.

A similar resolution is now on the floor of the Senate, so if you feel so moved, please contact our Senators too:
Barbara Boxer
Dianne Feinstein

Thanks for your support!

Timeline of Baha’i Persecution in Iran

Interactive Timeline

Interactive Timeline

The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights, a group of Muslim interfaith activists, created this multimedia timeline to promote human rights and religious freedom and respect within the Arab and Muslim world. It is very meticulous, listing every infraction from the Islamic Revolution in 1979 to today.

It is also a work-in-progress that the Network asks the public to submit their own content or story to make it more complete. For more information about the timeline and how to submit, visit here.