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Vote registers “deep concern” over Iran’s human rights violations

UNITED NATIONS, 27 November 2012, (BWNS) – Citing a long list of abuses, a UN committee today expressed “deep concern” over “ongoing and recurring” human rights violations in Iran.

By a vote of 83 to 31 with 68 abstentions, the General Assembly’s Third Committee called upon Iran to stop such violations, to release prisoners of conscience, and to open its doors to international human rights monitors.

Among other things, the resolution noted Iran’s alarming use of the death penalty, the systematic targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, and the “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women.” It also expressed concern over continuing discrimination against minorities, including the persecution of Iranian Baha’is.

The resolution was the 25th on human rights violations in Iran by the Third Committee since 1985 – and its length and specificity reflected the international community’s continuing alarm over increasing violence against Iranian citizens by their government, said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

"The atmosphere in Iran continues to worsen for all Iranian citizens," said Ms. Dugal. "If your viewpoint is different from that of Iran’s authoritarian regime, you are fundamentally in grave danger."

"For the Baha’is – who are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority – there has been persistent and worsening persecution at the hands of the government and its agents," she said.

"This has been accompanied by increasing violence and a deliberate intensification of pressure aimed at disrupting Baha’i community life as a whole and destroying their viability."

Ms. Dugal noted that more than 115 Baha’is are currently behind bars for their religious beliefs, and that hundreds more are in the legal system waiting to know their fate.

The text of the resolution – which was put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 42 other countries – also calls on Iran to better cooperate with UN human rights monitors, particularly by allowing them to make visits to Iran, and asks the UN secretary general to report back next year on Iran’s progress at fulfilling its human rights obligations.




To read the article online, view photograph and access links:
http://news.bahai.org/story/931

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/

Filed under Baha'i Iran human rights religious tolerance religious freedom gender equality women's issues religious persecution

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World Day of Action: United4Iran

United4Iran group in Delhi

NEW YORK, 3 April 2012, (BWNS) – The plight of Iran’s seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders has been capturing the public’s attention in 12 of the world’s major cities, where a day of action marked the combined total of 10,000 days that the seven have so far spent in prison.

In an initiative coordinated by human rights organization United4Iran, the image of the seven was widely displayed on Sunday 1 April – on mobile billboards, buses, bicycles, a canal boat, and T-shirts.

The billboard image of the Baha’i leaders was a mosaic of smaller photographs of hundreds of people currently jailed in Iran including journalists, trade unionists, politicians, student and women’s activists, and religious leaders.

"The plight of these seven is representative of the countless Iranian men and women who have been jailed for defending their freedom and human rights," said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s director and founder. 

"Our message to the seven is this:  The world has not forgotten you, and we will continue to fight for your freedom and that of other Iranian prisoners of conscience."

In New Delhi, India, around 200 campaigners carrying banners marched across the city in an action that was co-supported by the Trans Asia Alliance and the Asian Center for Human Rights. The Center’s director Suhas Chakma said, “Iran has failed to respect international human rights standards on fair trial and therefore must release the seven unconditionally.”

In South Africa, buses displaying the image of the seven prisoners are following routes in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria.

A large truck bearing the same image toured Brazil’s federal capital, Brasilia. Brazilian supporters wore T-shirts that spelled out “Libertem Baha’is Irã” (“Free Baha’is Iran”).

In Berlin, Germany, the picture of the seven was displayed around the city on special bicycles. The initiative was launched by German Member of Parliament Serkan Tören, who is a Muslim of Turkish origin. “I urge the Iranian Government to grant the Baha’i Faith community the right of religious freedom to which Iran has an obligation under international law. I urge the international community to maintain pressure on Iran in order to fulfill its international obligation,” said Mr. Tören.

In the Netherlands, the poster of the prisoners travelled by barge on Amsterdam’s canals while mobile billboards also generated interest as they toured Sydney (Australia), Paris (France), Wellington (New Zealand), London (England) and Washington D.C. (U.S.A).

The seven Baha’i prisoners are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Prior to their arrests in 2008, they were members of an ad-hoc national-level group which attended to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s Baha’i community. They are each serving 20-year jail terms handed down after six brief court sessions characterized by a lack of due legal process. The seven categorically denied such charges as espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic and the establishment of an illegal administration.

"The seven were, and remain, totally innocent of any wrongdoing," said Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations.

"Ten thousand days of their lives have literally been stolen from them forever – days which they would have dedicated to the service of their fellow countrymen," she said. "The day is long overdue when these prisoners are freed to be able to make their contribution to the country they love."

Filed under Bahai's in Iran religious persecution religious tolerance Religious freedom Iran

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Amnesty International report condemns Iran’s human rights abuses

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.”







To read the article online, view photographs and access links, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/story/893

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/

Filed under Baha'is in Iran Baha'i Faith Iran and human rights Amnesty International religious freedom religious tolerance

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Senator highlights “warning signs” in Iran’s treatment of Baha’is

Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire

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.

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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.”







To read the article online and access links, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/story/872

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/

Filed under Baha'i Faith Baha'is in Iran religious tolerance Religious persecution human rigts Romeo Dallaire Iran Iranian governent genocide

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Attacks on Baha’is continue as Iran’s human rights record comes under further UN scrutiny

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.

— 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.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.

Filed under Baha'i Faith Iran Baha'is in Iran persecution in Iran Ahmedinejad Iranian government United Nations human rights religious tolerance