Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Persecution of Baha'is

Yesterday I read Elizabeth's blog, and she linked to an article about privilege, asking people to be more aware and comment on the privileges they receive for being who they are/where they are/when they are:

I am privileged to live in a time and place where practicing my religion is not a cause for fear of prosecution or severe prejudice by my government, my friends, or society as a whole.

Unfortunately, even today this is not true in all parts of the world...


NEW YORK, 24 May 2006 (BWNS) -- Iranian officials have arrested 54 Baha'is
in the city of Shiraz, the Baha'i International Community has learned. They
are mostly youth and were all engaged in humanitarian service when they were
arrested. It is one of the largest number of Baha'is taken at once since
the 1980s. The specific charges are not clear, though in the past, Baha'is
have been arrested summarily on false charges.

The arrests occurred on Friday, 19 May, while the Baha'is, along with
several other volunteers who were not Baha'is, were teaching classes to
underprivileged children in a school as part of a UNICEF community service
activity conducted by a local non-governmental organization. At the time of
the arrests, they had in their possession a letter of permission from the
Islamic Council of Shiraz. They also carried the letter of permission in
each of their classes.

The nature of the charges against the Baha'is is unknown at this time. The
day following the arrests, a judge told family members that the detainees
would be freed soon. As of today, it appears that all of the non-Baha'is and
one Baha'i junior youth have been released without having to post bail.

The arrests coincided with raids on six Baha'i homes during which notebooks,
computers, books, and other documents were confiscated. In the last 14
months, 72 Baha'is across Iran have been arrested and held for up to several

"These new arrests in Shiraz, coming after more than a year of 'revolving
door' detentions, bring the total number of Baha'is who have been arrested
without cause to more than 125 since the beginning of 2005," said Bani
Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the
United Nations.

"Taken all together, this pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions amount
to the purest form of religious persecution and reflect nothing less than a
calculated effort by the Iranian government to keep the Baha'i community
utterly off balance and in a state of terror,"
Ms. Dugal said.

The arrests come against a backdrop of increasing concern by international
human rights monitors that the Iranian Government is escalating its
25-year-long campaign of persecution against the 300,000-member Baha'i
community of Iran, the largest religious minority in that country.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on
freedom of religion or belief released news of a secret 29 October 2005
letter from the Iranian military high command ordering police and
Revolutionary Guard units to "identify" and "monitor" members of the Baha'i
community of Iran, saying the existence of such a letter made her "highly

Moreover, since late 2005, more than 30 mostly negative and often defamatory
articles about the Baha'is and their religion have appeared in "Kayhan," the
official Tehran daily newspaper. Radio and television broadcasts have
likewise increasingly condemned the Baha'is and their beliefs.

Since January, in addition to the 54 arrested in Shiraz last Friday, seven
Baha'is have been arrested and held for periods of up to one month in
Kermanshah, Isfahan, and Tehran.

Among those arrested in January was Mrs. Roya Habibi of Kermanshah, who has
reported that she was interrogated for eight hours, with questions focused
on her role as coordinator of a program to provide religious instruction in
the Baha'i Faith.

In the court document that sets out the charges against her, Mrs. Habibi,
who is currently out on bail, "is charged with teaching the Bahaism sect and
acting in an insulting manner towards all that is holy in Islam."

"While it is often difficult to get details on the charges against Baha'is,
there is no doubt that most of them -- like the case against Mrs. Habibi --
are motivated purely by religious intolerance and prejudice," said Ms.

Last year, some 65 Baha'is were arrested and held for periods of time
ranging from a few days to more than a month.

While most were held less than a week, others were jailed for up to three
months. Some of the prisoners last year were held incommunicado, in unknown
locations, while their families desperately searched for them. Last year
also, government agents conducted prolonged searches of many of their homes,
confiscating documents, books, computers, copiers and other belongings.

In the 1980s, some 200 Baha'is were killed or executed. Thousands were
arrested and hundreds were imprisoned, many for long periods. In recent
years, in the face of international monitoring, the executions and long-term
imprisonments have stopped.

For more information go to: http://www.bahai.org/persecution/iran

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Blogger Trope said...

Wow. I've been reading Nafisi's book "Reading Lolita in Tehran", so unfortunately this doesn't surprise me very much. It's amazing how little room there is for diversity or disagreement in most cultures. I think at the bottom line that's what WTTO's story was about on Quench: we get along better when we do what people expect us to do and can reap the benefits of positive stereotyping. When we don't conform, some folks will treat us politely, even though we're outsiders. Other folks want to lock us up. (sigh)

9:47 AM  

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