Tag Archives: imprisoned leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran

Pasadena supports the release of the Baha’i prisoners in Iran on January 12, 2010

The Pasadena Baha’i Community is sponsoring a prayer gathering on Monday, January 11th at 7:30pm to pray for the release of the seven Baha’i prisoners facing trial in Iran.  Location will be at a private home:  3330 San Pasqual, Pasadena, 91107.  For more info please contact  John 626-298-1603.

The trial of the seven leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran is currently scheduled for Tuesday, January 12th in Tehran.   To summarize, these individuals have been held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran for well over a year without access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.  The Iranian government’s charges against them are trumped up:  “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic” and “spreading corruption thoughout the earth.”  This is patently ridiculous and part of the insiduous pattern of persecution that have followed the Bahai’s in Iran since the Faith’s inception in the 19th century.

We have been very fortunate to be supported by our national government, but also our two Calfornia Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer who supported Senate Resolution 71 condemning this persecution, Congressman Adam Schiff who actively supported House Resolution 175 here in Pasadena along with Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard on August 12th, 2009.

We also have been fortunate to have received support from the media, both national in Time Magazine, and local, in the Pasadena Star-News.

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Dear Pasadena: please support the Baha’is of Iran on Wednesday, August, 12th 2009

ALL ARE WELCOME

ALL ARE WELCOME

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, and possibly face execution. They have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison for over a year with no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Their crime: being Baha’is.

7 Baha'i Leaders imprisoned in Iran

7 Baha'i Leaders imprisoned in Iran

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.

Support from our Congresspersons

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.” Our Congressman, Adam Schiff, supports it. S. Res. 71, a concurrent resolution to H. Res. 175 regarding the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, was introduced into the U.S. Senate on March 9, 2009, receiving support from our Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

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.

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.  Share this video with them:  http://vimeo.com/5548864
  • Come meet us on Wednesday, August 12th at the Western Justice Center (55 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena 91105).  Attending and/or speaking will be US Congressman Adam Schiff, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Police Chief Bernard Melikian, and the Hon. Dorothy Nelson, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Your friends and neighbors,

The Baha’is of Pasadena, California

Dear Newsweek magazine: Everything You Think You Know about Iran is Incomplete

Mr. Sourpuss

Mr. Sourpuss


On the cover of the latest issue of Newsweek magazine, I was faced with a sullen Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the provocative title, “Everything You Think You Know About Iran is Wrong.” Excited to think that I might discover something new about Iran in this issue, my excitement diminished after reading the same old story again: that the Iranian people are good but misunderstood; that the government is bad, but not as bad as you think, and no, it’s not a dictatoship. This might seem familiar if you followed this blogs’s reporting about Roger Cohen’s articles in the New York times earlier in the year.

So I decided to make a comment to Fareed Zakaria’s article:

“Posted By: alyosha19 @ 06/03/2009 1:54:12 AM

Newsweek should rename this article, ‘Everything You Think You Know About Iran is Incomplete.’ Especially given the fact that the most underreported large story in the West about Iran is the ongoing, unforgiving repression of the Baha’i community there.

Journalist Roxana Saberi may have drawn a lot of attention when she was recently freed in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after a 3 month stay, however some 30 Baha’is remain incarcerated there for over a year, under false pretenses, with no due process and no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Currently the imprisoned 7 member Baha’i leadership in Iran may be facing the death penalty soon, for the crime of simply being Baha’i. Perhaps because these Baha’is were neither American nor journalists is one reason why the Western media avoided covering this story widely.

However the facts behind why the Baha’is are being imprisoned are very important for Westerners to understand — the community’s mere presence in Iran (the largest religious minority, with over 300,000 members, much larger than the Christian and Jewish populations) can be perceived as a threat to the Iranian status quo.

So what do Baha’is believe in that is so threatening to the Iranian leadership?

–the Baha’i Faith believes in the unity of all the world’s major religions as one common faith from God, from Judaism and Hinduism up through Islam and beyond.

–Baha’is reject any clergy and they participate in an elected, spiritual democracy that shuns any form of campaigning or electioneering.

–Baha’is also believe in world peace, the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, the independent investigation of truth, among some of the more famous principles.

–To boot, Baha’is also are to remain obedient to their government, no matter how bad, how corrupt, and even if they throw them in prison. Nice guys seem to finish last.

All of the above principles seemingly conflict with current designs of the Iranian government. And these principles are very appealing to a disillusioned Iranian public–which in turn has led to the severe crackdown on the practice of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.

To imagine that these principles originated in Iran in the mid-19th century, well before they were accepted in the West, may be surprising to Westerners, who may view the Middle East as “backwards” or not progressive. It’s also interesting to note how in the current reporting about all the posturing and threats of war between the East and West, that the Baha’i message–which could arguably illumine the discussion between the two sides–is being silenced amidst the noise.”

If you would have written a better reply, this blog would be grateful to hear about it!

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

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

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