Tag Archives: human rights

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

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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.

NY Times Article: Iran, the Jews and Germany (& the Baha’is)

ny-times-2009-03-01Dear Friends,
 
Roger Cohen, one of the most influential columnists at the NY Times, has been writing about Iran in over 7 op-ed pieces lately.
 
One of his latest articles, “What Iran’s Jews Say,” describes the relative civility of the government towards the Jews, as an effort to lessen the demonization of the Iranian government as portrayed by Western media.  Although the intention is worthy–we all should be striving for unity and consultation among nations–he is seemingly unaware of how bad things are for the Baha’is in Iran.  He mentions the Baha’is in passing, but doesn’t seeminglly equate ill treatment of the Baha’is as the same as of the Jews or other groups.
 
Please recommend this comment in response to Mr. Cohen’s recent article, “Iran, the Jews, and Germany” by registering at the NYtimes.com and clicking on “Recommend”:
 
 
Text of Comment:
 
“Roger, tucked away in your earlier op-ed, “What Iran’s Jews Say”, is the single sentence: “Among minorities, the Baha’i — seven of whom were arrested recently on charges of spying for Israel — have suffered brutally harsh treatment.” Throughout your series of seven op-eds from Tehran, you failed to tell us anything more about the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran, or, whether you asked to meet with these seven persons.

Concerning the seven, a 22 February 2009 VOA editorial “reflecting the views of the United States Government” (http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2009-02-23-voa5.cfm) states:

“More than 9 months have passed since 7 leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested and sent to prison with no access to legal counsel. Now the Iranian government has announced the 7 have been charged with espionage. The move is the latest in decades of repressive measures against the Baha’is, the largest non-Islamic religious minority group in Iran. Those measures include barring Baha’is from attending public universities or working in public agencies, destroying or closing Baha’i places of worship, bulldozing Baha’i cemeteries, legally confiscating Baha’i property, and killing Baha’is with impunity.”

In your current op-ed, you write: “I was based in Berlin for three years; Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust inhabited me.” Roger, doesn’t the above remind you of something that occurred in Nazi Germany some 70 years ago?

For your information, tens of thousands of Baha’is have been slaughtered in Iran from the time this religion emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. The most recent murder occurred in July 1998, when Rúhullah Rawhani, a Baha’i businessman and father of four, was executed in Mashad without sentencing and without any semblance of due process.

In “What Iran’s Jews Say”, you stated: “Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.” I suggest you examine Iranian “civility” toward its gentle Baha’i minority before pronouncing judgment whether Iran is a totalitarian regime. More to the point, go back and try writing an op-ed “What Iran’s Baha’is Say”. I am confident “the consistent warmth” (your description) with which you were received in Iran by this savage theocracy will dissipate with the speed of a uranium enriching centrifuge.”

— JG, Caesarea

Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers!

Flowers and Candles

In response the situation of the seven falsely imprisoned Baha’is in Iran (read: http://iran.bahai.us), we held a devotional gathering to say prayers for their well-being on Thursday, February 19th at the Western Justice Center.  4o were in attendance.  Program was:

It was a deeply spiritual atmosphere.  I wish you could have been there!

Good people of Pasadena: the Baha’is need your help!

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’re writing you because seven of our dearly loved Baha’i brothers and sisters in Iran are in grave danger this week, and possibly face execution in a matter of days.   They have been held in prison for over a year with no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. 

The US State Department, the UK Foreign Office Minister, Amnesty International and others have roundly condemned the imprisonment and trial of the Baha’is:  http://iran.bahai.us

On February 13th, 2009, a bill was introduced in Congress, H. Res. 175, “Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

Why should you care?

The Baha’i Faith is a peaceful religion that seeks to promote the unity of mankind.  Our principles are in alignment with American values:  http://www.bahai.org.    

We may be small in number (about 6MM worldwide), but we are spread out across almost every country in the world and are trying to be of service to humanity.  Baha’is have been  in Pasadena since the early 20th century.

A Familiar Pattern of Religious Persecution

We shun violence and believe that all the world’s major religions are from God.  For that, we suffer.  The Baha’is face repression in Iran and other parts of the world, ominously mirroring an insiduous pattern of behavior not seen since the years leading up to World War II. 

We need your help

You were probably unaware our situation until now, but we need advocates beyond the Baha’i Community: 

  • Please let your friends, neighbors, and coworkers know about our situation
  • Please urge our Congressman Adam Schiff to co-sponsor  H. Res. 175, “Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights”  626-304-2727 http://schiff.house.gov/HoR/CA29/Contact+Information/Contact+Form.htm
  • Please urge our Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to consider introducing in the Senate a resolution similar to H. Res. 175  https://boxer.senate.gov/contact/email/policy.cfm    http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactUS.EmailMe
  • If you’d like to join us in prayer for the seven imprisoned Baha’is ithis Thursday, February 19th @ 7:30pm, please join us.  We’re working on getting the Western Justice Center (55 S. Grand Ave., at the intersection of Green Street and Grand Ave.).  Location confirmePlease stay tuned to this blog for updates.   Location confirmed:  7:30pm Thursday, February 19th, Western Justice Center 55 S. Grand Ave. at the intersection of Green Street and Grand Ave.

This isn’t exactly the way we wished to kick off our blog, but being the optimists we are, maybe this will give us a chance to become closer.

Your friends and neighbors,

The Baha’is of Pasadena, California