A Statement of Concern: Baha’i Seven Mark Eight Years Behind Bars in Iran


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A Preface from Parliament Executive Director Dr. Larry Greenfield

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is committed to cultivating harmony among religious and spiritual

communities across the globe. That, in turn, demands that we stand and speak against actions that contribute

to the conflict, disrespect, and oppression of faith communities throughout the world.

As we observe the 8th anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders and the oppression

inflicted on other members of the Baha’i community in Iran, the following statement expresses our dismay

that these conditions continue to exist and conveys our encouragement for actions that will bring an end to

this kind of abuse in Iran and anywhere it occurs across the globe.

Larry L. Greenfield
Executive Director
Parliament of the World’s Religions

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Baha’i Seven Mark Eight Years Behind Bars in Iran
May 14 marks the eighth year of imprisonment for seven Baha’i leaders in Iran.

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In 2008, during their first four months in prison, the seven leaders were held in solitary confinement and

denied meaningful access to their lawyers. After a series of short, closed-door sessions in 2010, they were

formally charged with espionage, propaganda activities, and corruption on earth, among other related

charges.

Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who was one of the lawyers for the seven, stated that there was no

evidence to sustain any of the charges against them. Nonetheless, each of them was sentenced to twenty

years in prison – the longest sentences of any prisoner of conscience in Iran today. In the last few months,

those sentences have reportedly been reduced to ten years with the application of provisions of Iran’s new

penal code issued in 2013. Nevertheless, even one day more behind bars is a gross injustice. Independent

observers around the world, recognizing their innocence, have advocated for the seven leaders’ immediate

release. Yet they remain behind bars.

The treatment of these leaders is indicative of the widespread, systematic repression of Baha’is in Iran,

stemming from the highest ranks of Iran’s clerical and political establishment. In the last two years, hate

speech and anti-Baha’i propaganda have risen to disturbingly high levels from an average of 22 anti-Baha’i

articles per month in 2010 and 2011 in the state-controlled media to 340 on average in 2014 and 2015. Baha’i

youth are barred from the country’s system of higher education and eight Baha’i educators remain behind bars

for daring to provide tertiary education to them. Harassment by police, cemetery and property destruction, job

loss, and business closure are some of the harsh tactics used against this peaceful and law-abiding

community.

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It is heartening that in December 2015 and March 2016 respectively the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N.

Human Rights Council highlighted these abuses in their respective resolution and report on human rights in

Iran, which included not only Baha’is but also the persecution of journalists, advocates of women’s rights,

lawyers, and political dissidents as well as ethnic and other religious minorities. The diverse faith

communities around the world would do well to urge their political leaders not to waiver in their pursuit of

human rights in Iran. Improvement in this area is a moral imperative and would be the most solid foundation

for improved relations with the West as well as between the government of Iran and its own citizens.

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