ABN NEWS- It is not the first time Faezeh Hashemi has been at the centre of controversy.
The former MP and women’s magazine editor spent six months in prison in 2012 after being
found guilty of making “propaganda against the system” for her role in the mass protests that
followed the disputed presidential election of 2009.
Hardliners have long used Ms Hashemi’s alleged misdeeds to undermine her father, who is a
leading moderate voice in Iran.
It was during her time in jail that Ms Hashemi met Ms Kamalabadi, one of seven Bahai community
leaders arrested in 2008 and handed 20-year sentences in 2010 after being convicted on charges
including “espionage for Israel”, “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the
Human rights activists said the charges against the seven – who had formed an ad hoc national
administrative group for Bahais called the Yaran – were baseless.
Other former cellmates of Ms Kamalabadi also took the opportunity to visit her during her brief
time back home this week, including the noted human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
But it was only when pictures emerged on social media of Ms Hashemi, a woman from a family at
the heart of the ruling establishment, sitting at home with Ms Kamalabadi and other Bahais, that
the controversy erupted.
Ms Hashemi herself has been unrepentant. She said her time in prison with Ms Kamalabadi had
opened her eyes to the Bahais, who she believed should be accorded full civil and human rights.
“Of course, we form bonds with fellow human beings during the course of our lives, even if they
do not belong to our religion,” she said, arguing the clerics’ treatment of Bahais was contrary to
the teachings of Islam.
“If they [conservatives] were concerned with religion, they wouldn’t commit so much injustice in
[the] name of religion.”
The Iranian authorities deny that the country’s Bahais, whose faith is not recognised by the
constitution, suffer discrimination.
However, Bahai children are denied entry to universities, and Bahai business owners complain of
regular harassment by the authorities.
There have been many attacks on Bahai cemeteries across the country.
One cleric even went on state television recently to say Bahais who died should be collected and
disposed of by the municipal authorities.
Ms Kamalabadi has now returned to jail, but there are signs that attitudes among many Iranians
who previously had ignored the treatment of Bahais in their midst may be changing.
While hardline newspapers and websites castigated Ms Hashemi for her meeting, many Iranians
took to social media this week to praise her for highlighting the plight of the Bahais.
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