UN condemns Iranian Government violations against Baha’is

To understand fully the implications of the worsening of the attacks against Baha’is in Iran, is to understand that one of the teachings of the Baha’i Faith is obedience to Government. From the head of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi (1897 – 1957) “The attitude of the Bahá’ís must be two-fold, complete obedience to the a duly constituted government, whatever that government may be in form, of the country they reside in, and no interference whatsoever in political matters or questions. We must obey in all cases except where a spiritual principle is involved, such as denying our Faith. For these spiritual principles we must be willing to die.”

Baha’is know and adhere to this principles very strongly. There is no doubt that Baha’is are the strongest supporters of the peaceful progress of Iran in the world. This story highlights that, even when constrained by severe policy and laws, Baha’is will always look for ways to serve their fellow, and help the progress of the nation in which they live.

Fifty-four young Baha’is and a number of Muslim friends, had been engaged since 2004 in a series of humanitarian projects to promote literacy and moral empowerment among underprivileged youth in and around Shiraz, mostly through small-group classes organized on Friday mornings in poor neighborhoods. An official report now out confirms that the group were teaching moral education, drawing, calligraphy, social skills, and that there had been no discussion concerning politics, or discussions which were against religious, legal and cultural standards.

Members of the group were rounded up by government agents on 19 May 2006. 53 Baha’is were held for periods ranging from several days to more than a month.

Then, in mid 2007, they were convicted on spurious charges, apparently relating to accusations that they had been engaged in the “indirect teaching” of the Baha’i Faith, considered illegal in Iran despite international laws upholding freedom of religion.

Later, in January 2008, while speaking to journalists about the imprisonment of three of the group, a government spokesman said they had been engaged in anti-government “propaganda

However a confidential report, issued 16 June 2008 and addressed to the “representative of the Supreme Leader in the province (of Fars) and the Imam Jum’ih of Shiraz,” states that all of those interviewed for his investigation indicated there was no mention of the Baha’i Faith during the classes – essentially contradicting the government’s claim. “Not only was there no mention of religion in their activities, but that youths who attended the classes told him they wanted to continue. They stated, ‘We … truthfully learned a lot from this group and would like them to come back to us again,’ “.

The three Baha’is sentenced to four-year prison terms are Haleh Rouhi, Raha Sabet, and Sasan Taqva. Last January, Amnesty International issued an action alert on their behalf, suggesting they were prisoners of conscience, held solely for their religious beliefs.

Seven other Baha’i leaders are also currently being held in Evin prison.

On the 22nd October 2008, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over human rights violations in Iran against Baha’is, other minorities, women and juveniles.

In a 20-page document released on Monday, Mr. Ban stated that although Iran’s constitution guarantees a wide range of fundamental freedoms, “in practice there are a number of serious impediments to the full protection of human rights.”

His report expressed concern about the use of torture, a “high incidence of executions,” and “an increase in rights violations targeting women, university students, teachers, workers and other activist groups.”

The report points out that Article 14 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran stipulates “protection for non-Muslims.” Yet, “reports continue to be received about members of the Baha’i community being subjected to arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of property, denial of employment and government benefits, and denial of access to higher education,” Mr. Ban’s report said.

“A significant increase has been reported in violence targeting Baha’is and their homes, shops, farms and cemeteries throughout the country. There have also been several cases involving torture or ill-treatment in custody.”

Mr. Ban expressed concern over the harassment of Baha’i schoolchildren and the arrest of seven Baha’i leaders earlier this year.

The report points out that the government of that country has committed many clear and egregious violations of human rights against Baha’is and others.

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