ABN NEWS- A storm of furious denunciation, in reaction to a simple meeting between two friends
in a private home, has dramatically exposed the duplicity of the Iranian authorities who have
repeatedly claimed that their treatment of Baha’i is not motivated by religious prejudice.
The encounter which has generated the controversy was the visit of Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of
former president of Iran Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to the home of Fariba Kamalabadi, one of the
seven former Baha’i leaders who have been in prison since 2008.
Tens of senior clerics and political figures were quick to denounce Ms. Hashemi, with a Grand
Ayatollah even calling for her prosecution because of her meeting with a Baha’i. Another high-
ranking figure described “friendly relations” with Baha’i as “treason against Islam and the
Revolution”. “Consorting with Baha’is and friendship with them is against the teachings of Islam”,
said one Ayatollah whilst another described the Baha’is as “deviants” who must be “isolated” and
asserted that meeting with a Baha’i is itself “an absolute religious deviation”. The head of the
judiciary as well as its first deputy have confirmed the possibility of Ms. Hashemi’s prosecution
which has been specifically demanded by many clerics as a lesson to the rest of society.
Speaking in New York, Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community
to the United Nations said: “What is surprising is the candour, the scale, and the high-profile of
the regime’s reaction. From a Grand Ayatollah, designated as a ‘source of emulation’, to senior
religious and political figures as well as the executive organs of the government, consistent
statements have now shown, beyond the shadow of doubt, that it is religious prejudice which
motivates their treatment of the Baha’is. And in doing so, this collective reaction has laid bare the
mendacity of the Iranian government’s representatives in international human rights forums and
has flatly contradicted their claims.” Ms. Dugal added: “Let this be a moment of absolute clarity
for the whole world”.
“Just imagine what it is like to be a Baha’i in Iran when even those who visit you in your home are
publicly condemned in this way and are threatened with prosecution”.
The meeting between the two women came about during a five day period when Mrs. Kamalabadi
was allowed to leave prison before being required to return for the completion of her ten-year
Ms. Hashemi, who is also a former member of the Iranian parliament, spent six months in the
same prison as Mrs. Kamalabadi in 2012 after being convicted of “spreading propaganda against
the ruling system”. The women who had not seen one another since Ms. Hashemi’s release were
renewing their friendship forged in prison.
“Despite the furore of criticism that has greeted this humanitarian gesture, a simple interaction of
two citizens, there have also been countless fearless individuals—human rights activists,
journalists, academics, and ordinary citizens—who have defended the right of Baha’is to normal
human relations in their own country” said Ms. Dugal. “But we hope more such voices will be
raised so that the efforts aimed at the systematic isolation and ‘othering’ of the Baha’i community
in Iran does not succeed.”
Ms. Dugal added: “The extraordinary threats and condemnation expressed by many clerics and
authorities stand in contrast with the courageous statements and actions in recent years by
several senior clerical figures and religious thinkers in Iran and beyond who have spoken out in
favour of coexistence, tolerance, and equality for every citizen. We hope that the voice of
conscience will lead the rest of the clerics to end their silence and to show that true religion
cannot condone cold-hearted hatred, estrangement and apartheid.”
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