Posts tagged Baha'i Faith
Posts tagged Baha'i Faith
LONDON, 5 December 2012, (BWNS) – Government ministers and members of parliament here welcomed more than 80 Baha’is to a unique event to pay tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 100 years after His visit to Britain.
It was the first time the British government has hosted a special reception specifically for the Baha’i community.
‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and His appointed successor as head of the Baha’i Faith. From 1910-1913, following His release from a lifetime of exile and imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Baha made an historic series of journeys to present Baha’u’llah’s teachings to audiences outside of the Middle East. His two visits to the British Isles took place in September 1911, and from December 1912 to January 1913.
The reception was held by the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government on Wednesday 28 November. Welcoming the guests, Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP expressed appreciation for the contribution Baha’is make to UK society. He praised the “little bits of kindness” he had observed among the Baha’is and added, “We wouldn’t tick along quite so well without Baha’is in our community.”
Don Foster MP – who is Minister for Integration – told the gathering that, of all the significant people to come from his home constituency of Bath, he was proud to include Ethel Rosenberg, a founding member of the British Baha’i community.
“You continue to distinguish yourselves in the professions, the arts and particularly in the vital areas of education and conflict resolution,” Mr. Foster told the Baha’is. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s “important truth” that “we should pursue peace together and differences of race and division between religions must cease is as true today as it was then,” he continued.
Kishan Manocha, speaking on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom, thanked Mr. Pickles for hosting the event, describing it as a “tremendous honor and pleasure.”
Writer and actor Annabel Knight – who is a Baha’i – noted that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit was a landmark occasion for the fledgling community which helped the small band of British Baha’is to cement their identity and put service at the heart of their community life.
For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
GENEVA, 2 March 2012, (BWNS) – The Baha’i International Community has noted with alarm a new Amnesty International report that highlights the widening crackdown on dissent in Iran.
The document, titled “‘We are ordered to crush you’: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran,” cites a wave of recent arrests of lawyers, students, journalists, political activists, filmmakers, and religious and ethnic minorities.
Read the full report here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/002/2012/en/2b228705-dfba-4408-a04b-8ab887988881/mde130022012en.pdf
Widespread restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly are described, as well as torture, other ill-treatment and poor conditions in detention.
Particular concern is expressed at the high rate of public executions – around four times more in 2011 than in the previous year – and Iran’s continuing execution of juvenile offenders, which is strictly prohibited under international law.
The Iranian authorities also see the internet and social media as a major threat, said Ann Harrison, Interim Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Anything from setting up a social group on the internet, forming or joining an NGO, or expressing your opposition to the status quo can land you in prison,” she said.
The document reports an increase in the number and severity of attacks against Baha’is – attacks that have ranged from arrests to arson, and the publishing of slanderous articles in the press.
"Non-Muslims, especially the Baha’i community, have been increasingly demonized by Iranian officials and in the Iranian state-controlled media," says the report. "In 2011, repeated calls by the Supreme Leader and other authorities to combat ‘false beliefs’ – apparently an allusion to evangelical Christianity, Baha’ism and Sufism – appear to have led to an increase in religious persecution."
Welcoming the report, Diane Ala’i – the Baha’i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva – said, “What it confirms is something Iranian Baha’is have known for years. Anyone who falls outside the government’s very narrow concept of what is socially or politically acceptable is now an official pariah in Iran, and subject to severe consequences.”
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NEW YORK, 26 January 2012, (BWNS) – The Iranian government’s systematic strategy to drive Baha’is to economic ruin shows no sign of abating.
According to reports received by the Baha’i International Community, a renewed campaign is under way in Kerman, the major city in south central Iran.
"We have learned that the Public Places Supervision Office is denying the renewal of licenses – and revoking some existing ones – for Baha’i-owned businesses in the city," said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.
"A wide range of professions are being targeted – from computer sales and repair shops to real estate brokers. Baha’is involved in the sale of iron alloys, steel, or gold are losing their licenses, as are Baha’i-owned businesses relating to food products, and health and cosmetic services, such as opticians," she said.
Baha’is in Kerman have also been told that they are not allowed to own a large number of shops on the same street.
"The authorities have even gone so far as to revoke the licenses of business partners of Baha’is, who are not themselves members of the Baha’i Faith," said Ms. Dugal.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many thousands of Baha’is have lost their jobs or sources of livelihood. In 1993, the UN disclosed an Iranian government memorandum – endorsed by the country’s Supreme Leader – that explicitly outlines a plan to “block” the “development of the Iranian Baha’i community.”
In addition to the barring of young Baha’is from higher education, said Ms. Dugal, it is clear that the authorities are continuing with a range of other actions to carry out this policy.
"We have received accounts of at least 60 incidents in the past five years, designed to curb the economic prospects of Baha’is," she reported.
Some recent examples include:
– From 2 to 12 January 2012, more than 70 percent of Baha’i-owned businesses in Sari and Ghaemshahr (Mazandaran province), and a number in Gorgan and Gonbad (Golestan province), were searched in order to find some excuse on which to threaten or arrest Baha’is. Authorities even searched the houses of Baha’is that are working from home, in some cases more than two years since they closed up their stores;
– In July 2011, the Baha’i owner of a shop in Abadan received a notice from the Union for Retailers and Manufacturers of Jewelry, Watches and Glasses asking him to return his work license and liquidate his assets within 24 hours;
– In June 2011, an optical shop was sealed on the pretext of transferring the license to a new location. The head of the Public Places Supervision Office indicated that the order to seal the shop was issued by the higher authorities. The shop had been previously closed by the authorities in December 2008, along with four other Baha’i shops in Nazarabad. But after a legal battle, the owner managed to reopen in a new location – only to have it sealed again.
– After a wave of arson attacks on a dozen Baha’i-owned businesses in Rafsanjan, Iran, in late 2010, some 20 homes and businesses were sent a warning letter demanding that Baha’is sign an undertaking to “refrain from forming contacts or friendships with Muslims” and from “using or hiring Muslim trainees.”
– In early 2009, in the city of Semnan, the association of Trade Unions passed a by-law stating that no Baha’i should receive a business license. Soon after, a number of Baha’i-owned businesses and shops throughout the city were subsequently sealed or shut down.
– In an example of another kind of economic pressure, a Baha’i in Isfahan – shortly before being fired from his work – requested from the social security agency that he be allocated the amount that had been deducted from his wages for his pension. He received notice that his request was not being pursued as it was a “non-issue,” given the fact that the reason for his losing his job was his membership in “the deviant Bahaist sect.” The notice specified that he and another 14 individuals were fired based on the legal prohibition on their being hired in the first place, and thus their claims were of no account.
"International law firmly spells out the right of individuals to be free to work and earn a livelihood, without discrimination," said Ms. Dugal.
"Last month, the international community voted overwhelmingly at the UN to condemn Iran for its ongoing and recurring human rights violations. Surely it’s time that Iran realizes that it can no longer get away with oppressing its citizens and thinking that no one will notice."
For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
Among the 259 messages in my email box this morning, was this article from the Baha’i World News Service. Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, who was head of the peacekeeping force in Rwanda, has found uncomfortable parallels between what the world saw in Rwanda just prior to the genocide there, and what is currently happening to the Baha’is in Iran.
We’ve been here before with the Iranian government—many times since the birth of the Faith there in 1844, but only in the initial violent reaction to the Iranian people’s interest in the teachings of Baha’u’llah—a reaction that caused the deaths of around 20,000 adherents—has there been anything that even bore a passing resemblance to genocide. Given the senator’s experience with the symptoms of genocide, I find I must listen to what he has to say.
I hope it will not fall on deaf ears.
OTTAWA, 2 December 2011, BWNS – Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, the former UN peacekeeping force commander who tried to stop the 1990s genocide in Rwanda, has said that Iran’s current actions against Baha’is remind him of what he witnessed in Africa.
"The similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal…and in fact applied with seemingly the same verve," said Senator Dallaire.
"We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide," he warned.
Senator Dallaire’s remarks came as part of a Senate inquiry into the persecution of Iranian Baha’is. The imprisonment of Baha’is for no reason other than their belief, he told the Senate, is comparable with the Rwandan situation.
Read Senator Dallaire’s speech here: http://bahainews.ca/images/Dallaire-statement.pdf
"The prisons of Rwanda were filled with Tutsi people for almost the same reasons, except their crime was based on their ethnicity, rather than their religion," he said.
Another parallel can be found in the persecution of Baha’i educators who try to teach young community members in the face of government efforts to ban them from university.
"Any Iranian who identifies as Baha’i is barred from higher education, from holding a position in the government, or from partaking in the political process," he said.
"These attacks against the Baha’i leaders and teachers are troubling enough as human rights violations. However, they are even more disturbing because they took place in the context of the Iranian state’s severe repression of the entire Baha’i community. A similar scenario played out in Rwanda where the Tutsi ethnic minority was not allowed access to higher education in their country. They had to leave the country in order to access higher education."
In 1994, Senator Dallaire commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda that was ultimately unsuccessful in preventing the mass slaying of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans. He has since become honored and respected around the world for his humanitarian work and his courageous defense of people under threat. He has also been a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention.
When the facts and trends of the persecution of Iranian Baha’is are put together, he said, it amounts at a minimum to something he called “ideological genocide.”
"An essential element of ideological genocide is the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Baha’i community as a separate religious entity. It is this intent…that requires our urgent and deliberate attention."
Beyond that, he said, there remains the possibility of mass atrocities if Iran’s repression of Baha’is is not checked.
"The alarming increase in incarceration among the Baha’is and, most particularly, among their leadership, the disproportionate sentences and unreasonable bail and the vile propaganda that paints Baha’is as cultish and part of a Zionist conspiracy to undermine the Islamic state of Iran is all…false. It is all an instrument to excuse the deliberate actions by that government to destroy that religion within their boundaries."
"Make no mistake, these are not only indices of past and present persecution; they are warning signs of mass atrocities, of genocide. Let us not witness another one, fully conscious of what the consequences are," he said.
Senator Dallaire’s comments came as part of a Canadian Senate inquiry into the issue of Iran’s persecution of Baha’is, initiated by Senator Mobina Jaffer. In remarks made on 21 June, Senator Jaffer called for “new steps” by Canada to “call Iran to account for its unacceptable treatment of the Baha’is.”
In October, Senator Hugh Segal also addressed the inquiry describing the suffering heaped on Baha’is as “systematic and brutal,” especially when they are known as a “peaceful faith that embraces the sanctity of all religions.”
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We’ve gotten used to bad news out of Iran with regard to the Baha’i Community there, but these days it seems to be escalating. I don’t think there have been as many Baha’is in prison or charged with everything from spying for Israel to “spreading corruption in the earth” since the 1979 revolution. The good news is there haven’t been any executions as there were back in the early 1980s.
Occasionally, people ask “Why don’t these people leave the country?” Many have. But these are people who have lived in Iran all their lives. They love their country. They love their fellow Iranians. Most have been living in their towns and cities for generations.
The persecutions also come in waves—sometimes less; sometimes more. During the Pahlavi regime, being a Baha’i in Iran was a mixed bag. The Shah and his staff sent their children to Baha’i run schools … but destroyed Baha’i holy places and vandalized Baha’i cemeteries. The current regime has been more consistent in its attitude toward Baha’is, but the persecution has followed a rather spiral path. Right now, it’s escalating and, as the article below indicates, is causing international alarm among non-Baha’is.
GENEVA — As a United Nations body concluded that Iran’s persecution of Baha’is is clearly violating one of the world’s major human rights treaties, the Baha’i International Community has learned of a recent wave of attacks on Baha’is and their property.
In Rasht, three women were arrested on charges of activity against national security following terrifying raids on 16 Baha’i homes. In Semnan, around ten Baha’i-owned shops were sealed up by the authorities and two business licences were cancelled. In the city of Sanandaj, it has been reported that authorities have attempted to persuade groups of Baha’is to give an undertaking not to participate in gatherings – known as the Nineteen Day Feast – held in the homes of their co-religionists.
"These recent events have all the appearance of being centrally coordinated," said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, "and clearly contradict statements we often hear from the Iranian authorities that Baha’is are entitled to the same rights as others and that activities related to personal beliefs and community affairs are permitted."
More than 100 Baha’is are currently held in Iranian prisons. They include the community’s seven leaders – each serving 20-year jail sentences on trumped up charges – and seven educators imprisoned for their involvement in an informal initiative established to help young Baha’is barred by the government from higher education. But that is not the whole story.
In addition to those already behind bars, more than 300 Baha’is who have been previously arrested and then released are either awaiting trial or the call to begin serving out their sentences. The sums they have been required to post for bail – most often using property deeds or business licenses as collateral – are exorbitant. Hundreds of Baha’i homes have been raided and personal belongings – including books, computers, mobile phones, photographs and documents – have been confiscated.
All of this constitutes a further drain on the resources of Baha’is who are already being subjected to wide-ranging and systematic efforts to impoverish them through tactics such as: being debarred from owning – or working in – more than 25 types of business; the summary cancellation of business licenses; the sealing up of Baha’i-owned shops; the threatening of employers against hiring Baha’is; and the banning of young Baha’is from higher education.
Yesterday, the UN Human Rights Committee – a body of 18 independent experts – criticized Iran’s non-compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the country has signed and ratified.
The Committee’s findings came two weeks after a hearing at which an Iranian government delegation sought to defend their human rights record. The delegation’s 27-page written report claimed that “no Iranian citizen enjoys priority over others due to his/her race, religion or particular language.”
During the hearing, numerous questions were posed by the Committee about Iran’s treatment of Baha’is. One Committee member, Ahmad Fathalla of Egypt, said that since religion and conviction or belief are given the same status in the ICCPR, Iran must allow Baha’is the right to manifest their beliefs “both individually and in community with others, both in public or in private,” even if the authorities do not consider the Baha’i Faith to be a religion.
Concern was also expressed over a wide range of other human rights violations, including the high rate of death sentences, the lack of women in top government positions, and the widespread use of torture.
Among its conclusions, the Committee urged Iran to “take immediate steps to ensure that members of the Baha’i community are protected against discrimination in every field, that violations of their rights are immediately investigated, that those found responsible are prosecuted and that they are provided with effective remedies.”
Welcoming the Committee’s report, Diane Ala’i said, “The UN Human Rights Committee is telling Iran to stop making excuses and to live up to its commitment to protect the rights of all its citizens to enjoy complete freedom of religion.”
Baha’i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran
The Baha’i World News Service has published a Special Section which includes further articles and background information about Iran’s campaign to deny higher education to Baha’is. It contains news of latest developments, a summary of the situation, profiles of imprisoned Baha’i educators, feature articles, case studies and testimonials from students, resources and links.
Another Special Report offers articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing – and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community. The International Reaction page of the Baha’i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha’is of Iran.
Another Special Report offers articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing – and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.
The International Reaction page of the Baha’i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha’is of Iran.
The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.