Iranian Baha'i leaders may face new accusation on anniversary of imprisonment

The seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Iran are facing new and extremely grave accusations, after spending a year in jail without formal charges or access to their lawyer, Shirin Ebadi.

“Despite their obvious innocence and the call by many for their immediate release, these seven men and women have been in legal limbo for a year now, against all international human rights standards,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“Moreover, their families have recently been told of a possible new charge - ‘the spreading of corruption on earth,’ which goes by the term ‘Mofsede fel-Arz’ in Persian and carries the threat of death under the penal code of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

Canada’s House of Commons passed a strongly worded motion, 30 March 2009, demanding the immediate release of the Baha’is, echoing similar demands from the EU, German, Australian, US governments and leading human rights organizations over the past few months.

Canada’s 30,000 Baha’is are watching the situation in Iran anxiously. Ottawa resident, Naeim Tavakkoli, son of one of the Baha’i leaders in prison, and his wife Neda are two among more than 9,000 Iranian-Canadian Baha’is with strong connections to the persecuted Baha’i community of Iran.

The Government of Iran appears to have strengthened its determination to carry out its intention of eradicating the Baha’i community in the land where it first emerged as a religion in the 19th century, and where it is that country’s largest religious minority. Baha’is are being summoned to the local offices of the Ministry of Intelligence, forced to undergo interrogation, and then pressured to sign an undertaking that they will not engage in any Bahá’í activity. They are declining to sign such a document. Government officials are making efforts to identify and monitor the Baha’is. There is constant demonization of Baha’is, a systematic, long-running campaign of incitement to hatred through state-controlled mass media, gross misrepresentation of the Faith’s history and teachings in school text books, systematic efforts to impoverish the Bahá’ís through denial of access to higher education and to earning a livelihood, systematic exclusion of Bahá’ís from employment in the civil service, educational institutions, the legal profession, and the denial of employment in over two dozen types of business on the grounds that Baha’is are either “unclean” or pose a security risk, systematic efforts to drive all the Bahá’ís out of certain villages and rural areas, and persistent official denials that the Bahá’í Faith is a religion.

See the Baha’i International Community story .

Contact Gerald Filson at 416-587-0632.