Katrina Lantos Swett, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, writes in CNN Global Public Square , that she was was honored to have the opportunity to address gathered supporters earlier this month when the “Five Years Too Many,” campaign came to Washington, D.C. This campaign is a demand for the release of the Seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Iran for the past five years on account of their faith.
Katrina goes on, ‘Since May 2008, six of them have been jailed on baseless accusations ranging from espionage to “corruption on the earth.” The seventh was arrested and imprisoned in March of that year. Along with other Baha’is jailed on equally groundless charges, these leaders testify to the abuses visited upon the 300,000 members in Iran of this peaceful faith.’ Of the latter she reminds the reader that, since 1979, the authorities have killed more than 200 Baha’i leaders and dismissed more than 10,000 from government and university jobs. Baha’is are also barred from establishing schools, places of worship, or independent religious associations. Their marriages and divorces are not recognized; they have problems obtaining death certificates; they may not inherit property. Baha’i cemeteries, holy places, and community properties are often seized or desecrated, and many Baha’i religious sites have been destroyed.
The public propoganda against Baha’is is vehement. “They are accused of being [imperialist] agents,” it said. “[T]hey face…utterly unfounded allegations of immorality; they are branded as social pariahs…The propaganda is shocking in its volume and vehemence, its scope and sophistication, cynically [targeting]…a peaceful…community whose members are striving to contribute to…society.”
‘Since 2005, they have arrested nearly 700 Baha’is. By the end of 2012, at least 110 were being held solely because of their beliefs, ten times the number in 2005. Rrecently the authorities have been given to imprisoning mothers with small babies.
Baha’is in Iran have done no harm to their country, pose no threat to its people, and seek only to live in peace and worship in accordance with their conscience. As June elections approach, the world should demand that Iran free all Baha’is and drop the charges made against them on account of their faith. Iran should rescind every law permitting Baha’is to be killed with impunity, and Baha’is should be allowed to practice their faith fully.’