Monday, June 30, 2008

Resolution At US Congress Harshly Critical of Human Rights Situation in Egypt

The US Congress will be voting soon on resolution H. Res. 1303 calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf [R-VA] and cosponsored by several other congressmen, was submitted to the US House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 24, 2008.

The Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported today on this legislation and called it "embarrassing" for Egypt. The case of the Baha'is of Egypt was also brought to light in this newspaper report as well as in the resolution itself.

The full text of the legislation is posted below:

HRES 1303 IH

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 1303

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 24, 2008

Mr. WOLF (for himself, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. FOSSELLA, Mr. KIRK, Mr. MCCOTTER, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. PITTS, Ms. WATERS, Mr. PENCE, Mr. MCGOVERN, and Mr. GOODE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


RESOLUTION

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

Whereas the promotion of respect for democracy, human rights, and civil liberties are fundamental principles and aims of the United States;

Whereas the United States attaches great importance to relations with Egypt and considers fair and transparent elections as the only way to make progress towards a more democratic society;

Whereas Egypt plays a significant role in the Middle East peace process and in the fight against international terrorism and fundamentalism;

Whereas the Egyptian authorities have promised to put an end to the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, but this promise has so far gone unfulfilled;

Whereas Shiites, Koranists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious minorities are harassed, arrested, and imprisoned by security services;

Whereas all Baha’i institutions and community activities have been banned in Egypt since 1960, and members of the Baha’i faith are denied government required identification cards solely due to their religious affiliation;

Whereas material vilifying Jews appears regularly in the state controlled and semi official media;

Whereas the Copts, Egypt’s largest religious minority group and the largest Christian population in the Middle East, suffer from many forms of discrimination, including--
(1) a lack of employment in higher positions of the public sector, universities, army, and the security service;

(2) disproportional representation in Parliament and Shura Council;

(3) difficulty in building and repairing churches;

(4) lack of protection and lack of prosecution of perpetrators in cases of sectarian violence;

(5) government harassment of converts to Christianity while the government encourages conversion to Islam; and

(6) the inability to obtain government issued identification cards which reflect conversion to Christianity;
Whereas the opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour is still serving a five-year prison sentence following an unfair trial in 2005 on politically motivated charges;

Whereas his health is deteriorating as a consequence of this imprisonment;

Whereas his numerous appeals for release on the grounds of his medical conditions and his request for a presidential pardon in March of 2008 have all been rejected;

Whereas Egyptian authorities closed the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and its branches, this being the first closure of a nongovernmental advocacy organization by an executive decision;

Whereas the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and its founder, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, have been threatened for their work to promote democratic reforms;

Whereas other civil society development organizations, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, have also been restricted in their work; and

Whereas the recent arrests and action against nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders undermines the commitments entered into by the Egyptian Government concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic process in the country: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes that respect for human rights is a fundamental value, and the bilateral relationship between the United States and Egypt should be a platform for promoting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms;

(2) calls on the Egyptian Government to end all forms of harassment, including judicial measures, the detention of media professionals and, more generally, human rights defenders and activists calling for reforms and to fully respect freedom of expression, in conformity with article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(3) encourages the Egyptian Government to honor its commitment to repeal the state of emergency in order to allow for the full consolidation of the rule of law in Egypt;

(4) encourages the Egyptian Government to take the steps necessary to fully implement and protect the rights of religious minorities as full citizens;

(5) strongly supports measures to guarantee academic freedom, freedom of the media, and freedom of religion or belief in Egypt, including by ending arbitrary administrative measures, such as those taken against the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid;

(6) urges the Egyptian Government not to impose arbitrary restrictions on the peaceful activities of civil society organizations;

(7) calls on the Egyptian Government for--
(A) the immediate release of Ayman Nour, in light of reports of his deteriorating state of health, and calls for an immediate welfare visit, including a visit by qualified medical personnel;

(B) the release of all political prisoners and other activists; and

(C) an end to the harassment of the Koranists;
(8) stresses the need to fully implement the principles of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the 1993 International Convention concerning the rights and the protection of migrant workers and their families;

(9) supports the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers of May 2007, which called for the re-opening of the investigations into the killing of 27 Sudanese asylum-seekers in December 2005;

(10) calls for an end to all forms of torture and ill treatment and calls for investigations when there is reasonable suspicion that acts of torture have occurred;

(11) calls on the Egyptian Government to allow--
(A) a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and

(B) a visit by the the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;
(12) emphasizes the importance of ensuring and strengthening the independence of the judiciary by amending or repealing all legal provisions that infringe or do not sufficiently guarantee its independence;

(13) stresses the need for respect and protection of the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion as ensured in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief;

(14) welcomes the efforts made by Egypt to secure the border with Gaza and encourages all parties concerned to redouble efforts to fight smuggling through tunnels into the Gaza strip; and

(15) urges the President and the Secretary of State to put human rights and religious freedom developments in Egypt very high on the United States Government’s agenda during meetings with Egyptian officials.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Inter-Cultural & Inter-Religious Diversity in Egyptian Society

An Egyptian independent filmmaker, named Nadia kamel, produced an award-winning documentary called "Salata Baladi" which literally means "Native Salad" or "Popular Salad," pointing out the mixing that went on in the Egyptian society.

The film depicts the intertwined history of an Egyptian family dating back several generations.

Even though it is not a common scene in Egypt, this story is definitely not unusual. It represents the diversity that can be seen in many Egyptian families and it shows how the Egyptian society, throughout history, has intermingled with several cultures, religions and civilizations.

Thus far, the film continues to win many international and national awards. Among which was its recent recognition by the Fourteenth National Egyptian Cinema Festival this June.

The 23rd Munich International Documentary Film Festival introduced the film as follows:
SALATA BALADI

Egyptian director Nadia Kamel's complex family history transcends all boundaries ... a web of cultures and religions – a great, cosmopolitan salad!
Egypt, Switzerland, France 2007 - Director: Nadia Kamel - Original language: Arabic - Subtitles: English

A web of cultures and religions in one family – a great, cosmopolitan salata!

Egyptian director Nadia Kamel's heritage is a complex blend of religions and cultures. Her mother is a half Jewish, half Italian Christian who converted to Islam when she married Nadia's half Turkish, half Ukrainian father. Prompted by the realisation that her ten-year-old nephew was growing up in a society where talk of 'culture clashes' was all too common, she decided to let her mother speak and explore their family history. "The original inspiration for this film was simple enough: a love for my family's stories and a wish to share them. It was a story telling project." But, as she worked on the project, Kamel realised a need for further work to challenge the boundaries between cultures, religions and nationalities that are used to divide us. So she travelled, along with her mother and nephew to Israel and Italy confronting fears and prejudices along the way. "And so my story telling film became a witness to a new story still in the making - a story about my family's efforts to once more climb the wall that unjustly insists on separating our principles from our humanity." [more here....]

The film's trailer is posted here:



This film also shows that the question of "identity" in Egypt is quite a complex one. Recently we have been watching the issue of identity cards and other official documents for the Baha'is of Egypt. The authorities appear to be bent on compartmentalizing the Egyptian population into very restrictive religious identities.

If one, however, examines the realities of several segments of the Egyptian society, it becomes clear, very quickly, that these identities are not what they appear on the surface, or they are not as "pure" as what we are being forced to believe. After all we know what it was like when the Third Reich promoted such rigid, purist, ethnic and racial identities.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is it Like To Be a Minority in Iran?

There are very few articles in the news media that can so beautifully paint a picture of a specific situation while being clear, focused and to the point. Roya Hakakian did just that in her outstanding analysis of the struggle of minorities in Iran. Her article, published in the weekly Forward newspaper, is a perfect example of this type of good writing, remaining a pleasure to read even though the subject matter is quite sad and awful.

What is it like to be a Jew or a Baha'i in Iran these days? In order to fully understand the meaning of this, please read on this essay.

Then They Came for the Bahai
Opinion

By Roya Hakakian
Thu. Jun 19, 2008

If one must master the knowledge that even bigotry is relative and comes in gradations, then I was a premature pupil. I learned this lesson when I was only 10.

In 1977, in an eclectic neighborhood in Tehran, my Jewish family lived on a narrow, wooded alley in what was then an upscale area, alongside two other Jewish families and many more Muslims. There was also a Bahai family, the Alavis, next door.

By then, I had already intuited that my relatives, in the presence of Muslim friends and neighbors, were somehow less flamboyant creatures, quieter and more measured. But the Alavis, debonair and highly educated, were mere ghosts.

Theirs was a corner house on the alley, one of the most beautiful in the neighborhood, and the first to be sold within days in 1979, after the return of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. In a neighborhood so closely-knit that even the mailman dispensed pearls of pedagogical wisdom to our parents, the Alavis simply vanished one day.

No chance for tears, or promises to keep in touch. Not even a forwarding address. My mother insists they said goodbye to her, but my mother considers inventing happy endings a maternal virtue.

American audiences, their eyes brimming with anxiety, often ask me about the condition of Jews living in Iran today. But the hardships they assume to be the burden of the Iranian Jews is really the daily experience of the Bahais.

In a 1979 meeting with five of the Iranian Jewish community leaders, Khomeini summarized his position on the local Jews in one of his quintessentially coarse one-liners: “We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless Zionists.” The line has served as the regime’s position on the Jewish minority ever since. So important were these words that they were painted on the walls of nearly every synagogue and Jewish establishment the day after the ayatollah spoke them.

It did not prevent Jews from being relegated to second-class citizenry, nor did it enable them to thrive in post-revolutionary Iran. But it recognized the legitimacy of the Jewish existence in Iran and allowed the community to live on, albeit extremely restrictedly.

But it is the Bahai community that has been suffering the bleak fate assumed to be that of the Jews. It is the Bahais who are not recognized by the Iranian constitution. Decades ago, Khomeini branded them, among other unsavory terms, a political sect and not a religion, circuitously defining them as plotters against the regime. Iranian Bahais have been accused of espionage for every major power save the Chinese, and simultaneously so. They are not allowed to worship. Their properties are vandalized. Even their dead know no peace, as their cemeteries are systematically destroyed.

Their children cannot attend schools, nor can Bahai academics teach. That is why in 1987, unemployed professors, in an act reminiscent of the Middle Ages, established underground universities to educate the Bahai youth.

Last month, six Bahai leaders were arrested. They had already been accustomed to routine weekly harassments and interrogations, which is why some of their wives have taken up sewing blindfolds to keep the guards from forcing dirty ones onto their husbands’ eyes. What is most alarming about this particular arrest is that they have not returned home and are being kept incommunicado.

What compels me to write these lines is the eerie similarity between this and another historical parallel to which I have been a witness. When the American embassy was seized in Tehran in November 1979, the world took the ayatollah at his word for the egregious act he vehemently supported — that it was solely against America. But for those living in Iran, the hostage taking turned out to be about everything but America.

Newspapers were shut down. Political parties were banned. Opposition group members were arrested and their leaders hauled off to stand before firing squads.

When it was all said and done, the hostages, despite their great suffering during 444 days of captivity, eventually returned home. But the secular opposition of the regime was practically obliterated, and in perfect silence, too, as all attention was focused on the news from the embassy.

The current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has taken a page from Khomeini’s book. He rails against Israel. He denies the Holocaust. Through these means he focuses all attention on Jews, and while the world remains perfectly oblivious his men assault the Bahais.

Though Ahmadinejad’s intentions against Israel are gravely alarming, in immediate terms, the community that is paying the most for his pan-Islamist ambitions is the Bahai. Since Ahmadinejad’s election to presidency, there has been a sharp rise in anti-Bahai literature in government-sponsored journals, which has, in turn, led to a rise in gang attacks against the community.

That the Bahais shy away, per religious mandate, from advocacy on their own behalf surrounds their predicament with even greater silence. But for those in the West — especially for Jews, who know the lessons of World War II — the plight of the Iranian Bahais is most urgent: It is an act of destruction, not simply promised, but already underway.

Roya Hakakian, the author of “Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran” (Crown, 2004), is a recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Humor Tells it All in Egypt and Iran

Good humor has its way of making a point. Frequently it can tell much more than pages and pages of discourse. The two cartoons below, published by the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights--a website operated by Muslim youth who took it upon themselves to defend the rights of the Baha'is wherever they are persecuted--illustrate this point very well.

The first comic speaks clearly for the identification document crisis facing the Baha'is of Egypt, and some of its effects on the daily living of these Egyptian citizens. The second one, also initially published on censeo humor site, depicts, in no uncertain terms, the strategy undertaken by the Iranian authorities in targeting the Baha'i population of that country.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Update on the Jailed Baha'i Leaders in Iran

The Baha'i World News Service (BWNS) has just announced that the seven Baha'i leaders held in Iran were able to make brief telephone contact with their families.

Additionally, the Baha'i International Community has just added a new page, named "Iran Update," to its BWNS website that will provide a continuous flow of information on the situation of the Baha'is of Iran. This web-page, "updated regularly, is provided as a service to news media and others desiring details of the situation of the Baha'is in Iran. All information has been verified by the Baha'i International Community."

This much-needed service (Iran Update) will be of great value in officially providing confirmed information--all in one place--to the news media at large, human rights activists, bloggers, government agencies, concerned citizens and any other individuals or organizations interested in following, or acting on, this important human rights situation.

Below is a re-publication of the original announcement, regarding the jailed Baha'is, which can be found on the BWNS website at this link:

Seven jailed Iranian Baha’is make brief contact with families
19 June 2008

NEW YORK — Seven prominent Baha’is imprisoned in Iran have each been allowed a brief phone call to their families, the Baha’i International Community has learned.

The calls were the first contact with the jailed Baha’is since six of them were arrested on 14 May in pre-dawn raids at their homes in Tehran. The seventh was arrested in March in the city of Mashhad.

The Baha’i International Community has learned that on 3 June, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet and Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi were permitted to make short phone calls to their families. Mrs. Sabet had been detained in Mashhad on 5 March but on 26 May was transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran, where it is believed the others are also being held.

Later it was confirmed that Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm also have made brief phone calls to their families.

No charges have been filed against any of the seven, who comprise the entire membership of a coordinating committee that saw to the minimal needs of the 300,000-member Baha’i community of Iran.

In 1980, all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran were taken away and presumed killed as they were never heard from again. A year later, after the Assembly had been reconstituted, eight of the nine members were arrested and killed.

Besides the seven committee members imprisoned in Tehran, about 15 other Baha’is are currently detained in Iran, some incommunicado and most with no formal charges.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

UN Presentations on the Baha'is of Iran & Egypt

The Baha'i International Community, United Nations Office recently posted three videos from its presentations at the United Nations regarding the crisis facing the Baha'is of Iran and Egypt. These videos were all released during the past week.

Regarding the situation in Egypt, this presentation was about "Denial of ID Documents to Egyptian Baha'is", in the form of "Questions to Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Human Rights Council, 7th Session".

Regarding the situation of the Baha'is in Iran, it was presented as "Statement to the Human Rights Council, 7th Session".

Regarding the arrest of the leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran, it was presented as "Oral Statement to the Human Rights Council, 8th Session" about the matter of "Arrest of Seven Baha'is by Iranian Authorities".
_______________________________________

1) ID cards for the Baha'is of Egypt


BIC posed a question to the Independent Expert on Minority Issues about the government's denial of ID documents to Egyptian Baha'is (Human Rights Council, 7th session).



____________________________________

2) The situation of the Baha'is of Iran


The situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran, in the context of the general debate on Human Rights situations (Human Rights Council, 7th session).



____________________________________

3) Arrest of seven leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran


The situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran, in the context of the general debate on Human Rights situations (Human Rights Council, 8th session).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Religious Freedom in Egypt: Intellectually Honest Analysis

One of the most respected senior editors of Egypt's leading newspaper, Al-Ahram, wrote a clear and well thought-out article about the pressing matter of religious freedom in Egypt. In its English version [Al-Ahram Weekly], the author, Mr. Gamal Nkrumah, calls this critical conflict--rightfully so--a "prickly question".

After a short introduction in which he refers to the work of human rights organizations in Egypt, he expounded on recent top-level seminar and a meeting in which these organizations, as well as other activists and officials, explored solutions to the controversy surrounding freedom of belief in the Egyptian society.

After a seminar held on 4 June 2008 under the auspices of the Middle East Freedom Forum, a meeting of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) dug deeper into finding solutions for the current obstacles to progress in the arena of religious freedom. In reference to this, Mr. Nkrumah stated: "The seminar, which touched a raw nerve in Egypt, was followed by a meeting on 5 June at the Egyptian National Council of Human Rights, headed by former United Nations secretary- general Boutros Ghali. Presided over by Coptic MP Georgette Qellini, it also focussed on the theme of religious freedom, especially the predicament of the Bahaais."

As has always been the case in the past, Mr. Nkrumah's editorial is thought-provoking and intellectually honest. One would be amiss if this recent article of his is not carefully studied and contemplated. Readers of this blog are strongly encouraged to examine it in the attached newspaper clipping or at this link.

Monday, June 16, 2008

White House Spokesperson Demands Immediate Release of Iran's Baha'i Leaders

Based on a statement released by White House National Security Council spokesperson Gordon Jondroe, Iran Visual News Corps IranVNC reported on June 14, 2008 that Mr. Jondroe, who is traveling with President George W. Bush in Paris, slammed Iran's human rights record as "shameful" and called for the immediate release of the leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran.

Referring to some of Mr. Jondroe's statements, the article wrote:
“The Iranian regime’s human rights record is shameful. A month ago today, the regime arrested six Bahai leaders solely on the grounds of their religion,” said White House spokesperson Gordon Jondroe.

“They should be released immediately,” he announced in a statement released today, adding: “Iran should uphold the basic human right to practice religion and should end its persecution of the Bahai community".
Seven individuals, who have been--on an ad hoc basis--managing the affairs of the Baha'i community of Iran, numbered about 350,000, remain incarcerated without access to legal representation or direct contact with the outside world. The world's Baha'i community is very concerned about their safety and fate as their current condition is unknown. They have not been charged with any crime and were arrested solely because of their religious belief.

To read the rest of this story, please click here....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Unlike Iran, Due Process for Baha'is Exists in Egypt

Even though the process is very slow and tedious, Baha'is in Egypt continue to have the liberty of challenging the violations of their civil rights in courts.

This basic right is not even closely attained by the Baha'is of Iran who, every now and then, end up imprisoned or dead at the hands of their government without the luxury of due process or legitimate legal representation.

A case in point is this recent lawsuit brought by an Egyptian university student, Hadi Hosni Ali El-Qosheiry, who was dismissed from Alexandria University simply because of his religious affiliation. He filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian government and the president of the university, Professor Hassan Nadir Kheirallah.

Incidentally, this is the same--renowned--university that, in 1969, altered my final grades on graduation simply because of my religion (confirmed information). The grades were lowered just enough to prevent me from ever pursuing a faculty appointment in its system.

According to the laws of the State, a university (male) student can postpone his military draft service until graduation from the university. In order to attain this postponement, the student is required to report to the military draft board to be processed and provided with a deferral certificate. This certificate allows the student to continue his education until graduation.

Professor Hassan Nadir Kheirallah, President of Alexandria University

In order to be processed by the military draft board, the student must have a national ID number and hold an ID card under the newly established computerized system. Thus far, Baha'is of Egypt have been refused the issue of these ID cards, even though the court had ruled in their favor on 29 January 2008.

Consequently, Mr. Hadi Ali El-Qosheiry, a Baha'i student who could not obtain an ID card required for the draft postponement process, was dismissed from Alexandria University because he does not hold that draft certificate.

The attached newspaper article in Cairo's Al-Dostoor newspaper, dated 12 June 2008, reported on the court session held two days earlier to hear this case. Apparently this student, because of illness, missed a previous court date and was fined 5 Egyptian pounds for that. The judge dismissed the fine after being informed of the student's excuse, but--as usual--postponed the case until 1 September 2008.

Meanwhile, this student remains hanging. He cannot attend classes and his future and aspirations are put on hold. This is the reality facing the Baha'is of Egypt--another form of persecution and suffering, albeit not as drastic as that of the Baha'is of Iran.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran (Episode-5)

This is a continuation of a series on the systematic oppression of the Baha'is of Iran. the four previous episodes can be seen here, here, here & here.

This post begins with a new section, named "Court Judgments Handed Down", that lists recent documented cases in a chronological order.

After the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government sought to destroy the Bahá’í leadership. In August 1980, the entire membership of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran, shown here, “disappeared.” All are presumed to have been killed.

Of note, there are some unconfirmed reports that some of the leaders of Iran's Baha'i community who are currently detained without formal charges since their arrest on 14 February 2008, have had recent limited contact with their families.

B) COURT JUDGMENTS HANDED DOWN

• Sometime in July 2007, the General Court of Law in Abadeh issued an undated court order denying Mrs. Táhirih Bahrámí’s [Tahereh Bahrami] inheritance from her father on the grounds that both she and her late father are Bahá’ís and that “issuance of a decree of heirship for individual Bahá’ís would be considered a form of recognizing Bahaism, which is against constitutional law, established laws, and the common order”.

• In Tehran, sometime during July or August 2007, Mr. Rúhu’lláh Tá’ifí [Rouhollah Taefi] contacted the court in connection with changing the property deed that had been used as collateral for bail for the release of his wife, Mrs. Fariba Kamálábádí Tá’ifí [Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi], who had been arrested in 2005. The judge concerned refused to converse with Mr. Tá’ifí and, in an abrupt and insulting manner, said, “Currently, I do not have the capability and the power to issue death sentences for these fifteen individuals [Mrs. Kamálábádí Tá’ifí and fourteen other Bahá’ís, who had been arrested in Mashhad in 2005], but I will do my best to harm them.”

• The family of Mr. Hamíd Ádharnúsh [Hamid Azarnoush], a Bahá’í from Hamadan whose wife is Muslim, has been placed under intense pressure by the authorities. In 2006, when his daughter intended to enroll in the Faith, the family’s home was searched on the grounds of their having a satellite dish. Items such as Bahá’í books, cassettes, and compact discs were confiscated. Following this incident, on numerous occasions the Intelligence Ministry summoned the family members for interrogation. On 11 July 2007, the Public Court of Hamadan ordered that Mr. Ádharnúsh’s Bahá’í books be destroyed “because the existence of such books is harmful to society”.

• Mr. Húshang Muhammad Ábádí [Houshang Mohammadabadi], Mr. Mihrabán Farmánbardár [Mehraban Farmanbardar], and Mr. Vahíd Zamání Anárí [Vaheed Zamani Anari]—all from Karaj—had been arrested on 8 November 2005, charged with spreading anti-regime propaganda, and released on bail a month later. On 23 July 2007 the court denied the appeal they had launched when they had originally been arrested. All three were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, suspended for a period of four years.

• On 5 August 2007, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Justice in Sari sentenced Mr. ‘Alí Ahmadí [Ali Ahmadi] to ten months in prison followed by one year in exile in the town of Khalkhal. Mr. Ahmadí, one member of the group that coordinates the activities of the Bahá’ís in Ghaemshahr on an ad hoc basis, was accused of involvement in propaganda against the regime. The judicial authorities refused to give him the original verdict, and he was only permitted to take down notes of some paragraphs for the purpose of making an appeal.

• On 6 August 2007, after five months of searches at his home and business premises in Shahinshahr, interrogations, and accusations of acting against national security, Mr. Nímá Imámvirdí [Nima Imamverdi] was acquitted of any wrongdoing.

• On 19 August 2007, the Court of Appeal of the Province of Mazandaran upheld the verdict against Mr. Fayḍu’lláh Rawshan [Feizollah Rowshan] of Sari. Mr. Rawshan was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and four years’ exile to the city of Bijar. Mr. Rawshan began serving his one-year sentence on 20 November 2007.

TO BE CONTINUED....

Monday, June 09, 2008

Egypt: Ministry of Interior Tries to Explain Delays

Cairo's Al-Badeel Newspaper (7 June 2008 edition)

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights held a round-table discussion on 6 June 2008 to examine various pressing human rights violations in Egypt. Among which was the case of the Baha'is and the lack of progress in issuing identity documents. Several prominent activists and government representatives participated in this session.

One of the participants, General Ali Abdel-Mawla, first assistant to the Minister of Interior, stated that "the Ministry wants to implement the ruling of the administrative court [granting the Baha'is the right to obtain ID cards], but the challenge filed by the Islamists prevents [the Ministry] from doing so." He further affirmed that "in case these challenges were turned down [by the court], the Ministry will expeditiously implement the administrative court ruling."
N.B. These statements were made a day before the most recent court hearing that addressed the procedural challenge by the Islamists. The Ministry of Interior's lawyers asked for a postponement in order to prepare their memorandum supporting the Baha'is. The court postponed the case until 1 November 2008.

So, it is clear, according to these statements, that the Ministry of Interior has no hesitation in applying the court ruling in favor of the Baha'is. It should be also understood that the fact a challenge was filed by a third party--who was not even a party to the lawsuit--should not prevent the Ministry from implementing the ruling. A further delay (until 1 November 2008) can only lead to further extreme hardships for the Baha'is of Egypt.

Another important point is that this challenge was not an "appeal" of the ruling itself, but rather a challenge to the judge's competency--a strategy that has been frequently used by this particular Islamist extremist lawyer (Hamed Saddiq) to obstruct many other--irrelevant--cases.

My questions to General Ali Abdel-Mawla are: if the court upholds the Islamists' challenge on the first of November, what would the Ministry do then? Would it ask for another postponement? Would it sue the Islamist challenger? Would it not implement the ruling? Would it implement the ruling?

The real issue here is: what are the true motives of the Ministry of Interior? Supposing that the motives are sincere and intended to solve this crisis, then the Ministry should do so without any further delays.

Allowing such illegitimate procedural challenges--whose malicious intentions are very clear--to interfere with the due process of the law can only lead to anarchy. The Ministry knows what is needed to be done; using these frivolous challenges as an excuse to explain such unrealistic delays cannot be justified.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Letter to the Baha'is of Iran

In response to the recent developments in Iran manifested in the escalation of systematic oppression of the Baha'is by the Iranian government--including the arrest of their entire leadership, the supreme governing body of the world's Baha'i community (The Universal House of Justice), located in Haifa, Israel, wrote a direct letter to the Baha'is of Iran.

Previously, in December 2006, when the Baha'is of Egypt were faced with a disappointing court decision that deprived them of their civil rights , the same body wrote a letter to the Baha'is of Egypt that had great impact on the progress of their case, sending a clear message to them, their supporters as well as to their oppressors and detractors.

The following is an English translation of the letter to the Baha'is of Iran, provided by the Department of the Secretariat (click on the letter below to read in Farsi):
[posted with permission]

TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN

(Department of the Secretariat)

3 June 2008

To the believers in the Cradle of the Faith

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

Almost three weeks have passed since the recent arrest of the members of the distinguished body termed the “Friends in Iran”. No reliable information regarding their circumstances or whereabouts is available. This lack of news and the fact that these dear ones are deprived of access to their families and to legal counsel to defend their rights are causes of deep concern to the Bahá’ís of the world and to all those who seek justice and equity.

What is a source of comfort to our grief-stricken hearts is the courage and steadfastness you have manifested in the face of this crisis. You continue to discharge your spiritual obligations in unity and resolutely adhere to the Divine Teachings. Relying on heavenly grace, you are exerting efforts to protect and safeguard the interests of the Faith. The support that the press and other mass media have given to the oppressed believers in Iran, the advocacy of their cause undertaken by social activists, and the sympathy voiced by Iranian intellectuals evoke our hope and deep gratitude.

Observe how an increasing number of Iranians, who in honouring their ancient traditions, value human rights, believe that the time has now passed for ignorant prejudices to cause division and discrimination amongst people, and recognize that the true exaltation of the nation of Iran is to be attained through unity in diversity. Rest assured that the Iranian people will exert themselves to fulfil such a vision. How regrettable that a small band of those, their hearts darkened by the clouds of prejudice, have yielded to hatred and animosity, are incapable of comprehending the truth that Bahá’ís have no intention but to serve the world of humanity and to assist in the establishment of a spiritual civilization, attribute to you baseless conspiracies, persecute you for your religious beliefs and practices, and seek to inflict harm upon you. Yet, you recall the counsels of Bahá’u’lláh, Who asserts: “That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”

Strive, then, to exemplify these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “It behoveth the loved ones of the Lord to be the signs and tokens of His universal mercy and the embodiments of His own excelling grace. Like the sun, let them cast their rays upon garden and rubbish heap alike, and even as clouds in spring, let them shed down their rain upon flower and thorn.” Despite the current crisis, pay no heed to oppression and cruelty and, inspired by the Divine Teachings, act in the opposite manner. Focus your thoughts on being a source of good to those around you.

Exert every endeavour to serve your fellow citizens—heirs to a culture rich and humane—who themselves suffer from many an injustice. Avoid all divisiveness and conflict, consort with everyone with kindliness and sincerity, and engage with your compatriots in the discussion of ideas and the exchange of thoughts on matters with which they are anxiously concerned. Ignite in their hearts the flame of hope, faith, and assurance in Iran’s glorious future and in the bright destiny of humankind which you well know is sure to come to pass.

We supplicate in the Holy Shrines for the protection of the believers in the Cradle of the Faith.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Egypt: More Court Delays...No IDs...No Birth Certificates Yet!

Today, a Cairo court (Administrative Court, First Degree, District-7) heard a challenge to the court ruling of 29 January 2008 allowing the Baha'is of Egypt to obtain ID cards and birth certificate with dashes "--" or "other" entered for religious classification in these documents.

This court challenge is not an appeal per se, but rather a procedural challenge intended to stall the implementation of the court's ruling. This challenge was filed shortly after the ruling by a lawyer named Hamed Saddiq, acting on behalf of Egypt's Islamic Research Council which is under the auspices of al-Azhar University. He did not appeal the ruling itself but he criticized the judge on procedural matters. In his criticism, he harshly and rudely insulted the judge and questioned his competency, which led the judge to throw the case out of his court, referring it to another judge in order to eliminate bias.

Today, in court, the government lawyers representing the civil records department sided with the Baha'is and made it very clear that they want to proceed with the ruling and apply it as it was. They stated that they will present a memorandum to the court documenting their position and stating that they are supporting the ruling and wish to apply it. They were not, however, ready to present their memorandum today and requested a postponement in order to allow them time to prepare. Thus, the court decided to postpone the hearing until 25 October 2008. [update: date changed by judge to 1 November 2008]

Meanwhile, the Baha'is of Egypt remain without ID cards, birth certificates or other official documents. The consequences of such state of existence are quite obvious and have been clearly described in several previous posts and media publications.

It must be understood, however, that it is entirely up to Egypt's government (Ministry of Interior & the Civil Records authorities) to proceed with implementing the initial court ruling regardless of any challenges or appeals. They can...today...issue ID cards and birth certificates to all the Baha'is of Egypt.

Since the government has no objections, whatsoever, to the ruling itself, and since the government (Ministry of Interior) has been the principal party to this lawsuit, one fails to understand the reasons for such delays in implementation. These delays can only contribute to the continuing suffering of the Baha'is of Egypt.

Furthermore, it is also in the government's interest to apply this ruling to all the Baha'is of Egypt and not only to those involved in the lawsuits. Otherwise, complex and extended litigations and unrest can result from such tactics.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Prominent Iranian Professors Demand Release of Baha'i Prisoners

Baha'i leaders detained in Iran since 14 May 2008

Canadian Baha'i News Service reported yesterday an important development in the matter of the detained Baha'i leaders in Iran.

Prominent Iranian academics from leading universities in Canada have expressed their outrage at the deteriorating human rights conditions in Iran, issuing specific demands to the UN Secretary-General, the Honourable Ban Ki-moon, for the release of the Baha'i leaders. These professors are not members of the Baha'i Faith.

The article reports the following:
Toronto, Ontario, 3 June 2008 (CBNS) — Five Toronto-based Iranian leaders of thought have asked the UN Secretary General to press the Iranian authorities to release the Baha'is arrested three weeks ago. Though not themselves members of the Baha'i community, in a strongly worded letter (below), they have expressed their concern at the arrests along with other human rights violations in Iran.

The five are Professors Amir Hassanpour, a prominent Iranian Kurdish scholar and researcher teaching at the University of Toronto; Haideh Moghissi, founder of the Iranian National Union of Women before leaving Iran in 1984, prominent sociologist at York University and author of the three volumes “Women and Islam”, “Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism” and “Populism and Feminism in Iran”, published by Routledge, Oxford University Press and Macmillan Press; Shahrzad Mojab, author and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto; Saeed Rahnema, frequent commentator in the media, professor of political science at York University and former director of the York School of Public Policy and Administration; and Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, author of “Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentialism and Nationalist Historiography”, among other books and articles, and Professor of History and Middle East Studies at the University of Toronto.

Their letter reads as follows:

Monday, June 02, 2008

To the Honourable Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations

Your Excellency:

As Iranian-Canadian academics we are writing to express our concern at the arrest two weeks ago of leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community. While we are not, ourselves, members of that particular faith community, as Iranians we feel it unacceptable that the regime in Iran has neither communicated the whereabouts of those arrested nor disclosed the formal charges under which they are being held.

This latest affront to universally accepted human rights joins a growing list of violations the Iranian government has committed against a wide range of those who wish merely to have the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of Iran: journalists, student leaders, those working to advance the rights of women, labour leaders, and other members of what should be a vibrant Iranian civil society.

In this latest incident, we understand that on Wednesday 14 May 2008 officers of the Iranian Ministry of the Interior raided the homes of six of the seven members of the group that coordinates the affairs of the Baha'i community. This group has functioned with the knowledge of the Iranian government since the outlawing of the formal Baha’i administration in 1983. The seventh member had been arrested in early March.

We feel that the international community, especially through the offices of the United Nations should do all it can to press Iranian Government authorities to establish human rights protections for the security and the freedom of all the Iranian people.

We ask that your Office take immediate action to demand the release of the Baha’i leaders, and that steps be taken, perhaps with the assistance of appropriate United Nations agencies provided to the Iranian authorities, to safeguard the human rights of other groups currently under attack in Iran in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a signatory.

Yours sincerely,

Professors Amir Hassanpour, University of Toronto
Professor Haideh Moghissi , York University
Professor Shahrzad Mojab, University of Toronto
Professor Saeed Rahnema, York University
Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto

Copies:
-The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran c/o Embassy of the Islamic Rep. of Iran
-Iran’s Representative to the UN, Ambassador H.E. Mr. Mohammad Khazaee
-Geneva Permanent Mission, Islamic Rep. of Iran, Amb. H.E. Mr. Ali Reza Moaiveri
-Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mme Louise Arbour
-United Nations Human Rights Council

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

HRW & FIDH: Open Letter to President Ahmadinejad on Baha'i Detainees

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights [Fédération internationale des droits de l'homme] (FIDH) have just issued a joint open letter to President Ahmadinejad regarding the detained leaders of the Baha'i Community of Iran.

The letter, linked here (Persian copy here), states the following:

Open letter to President Ahmadinejad on Situation of Baha'i Detainees

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Paris, June 1st, 2008

Excellency,

We are writing to you to express our utmost concern regarding the fate of seven members of the Baha’i community who are currently in prison.

Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm were arrested in Tehran on 14 May 2008, by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. They are members of the national coordinating group of Baha'i in Iran, an informal body that was formed with the knowledge of the government to assist the 300,000-member Baha'I community in the country. Another member of the same Committee, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, has been arrested in Mashhad in March 2008 and is reportedly still detained.

We urge the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran to communicate the place of detention of those seven persons, the exact charges brought against them and the date of their trial. We also urge you to allow independent international observers to observe their trial. The right to a fair trial, including public hearings, the prohibition of discrimination based on religious beliefs and the right to freedom of religion are all enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), that has been ratified by Iran.

We express the hope that you will take those elements into consideration and are looking forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,

/s/

Ms. Souhayr Belhassen
President of FIDH


/s/

Mr. Joe Stork
Deputy Director
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

Monday, June 02, 2008

International Commission of Jurists: Immediate Press Release on Baha'is of Iran

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has just issued an urgent press release regarding the detained Baha'i leaders in Iran.

The ICJ is an international non-governmental organisation comprising sixty of the world's most eminent jurists and has a worldwide network of national sections and affiliated organisations. It is "dedicated since 1952 to the primacy, coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights."

The entire ICJ press release is reposted below with permission (may also be viewed or downloaded at this link):
(PDF download here)

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE – COMUNICADO DE PRENSA
For immediate release

Geneva, 2 June 2008


Iran – ICJ calls on Iranian authorities to cease harassment of Baha’i faith leaders

"The Six leaders of the Baha'i faith in Iran, who were arbitrarily arrested in Tehran on 14 May 2008 and are being held incommunicado, must be released immediately or legally charged with a recognisable offence," said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.

An Iranian official told a local news agency that “the six unofficial leaders of the Baha'i faith in Iran were working against the national interest." He added: "They are arrested for security reasons, not for their faith". However, according to reliable information, the ICJ consider there to be sufficient evidence to show that they may have been arrested in relation to their peaceful activities as members of the national coordinating group of Baha'is in Iran.

The detainees, reportedly being held in the offices of the General Intelligence Service, do not have legal representation and are not allowed to communicate with their families. "Unless the Iranian authorities charge them with a recognisable criminal offence and bring them before an independent and impartial tribunal, they must be released at once," said the ICJ. "The grounds for their detention must be immediately made public, and they must be allowed to communicate with their lawyers and their families."

The ICJ calls on the Iranian authorities to conform with its international human rights obligations and to ensure that these individuals are not detained on the basis of their faith. Baha’is freedom of conscience and religion are severely restricted, in clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran has ratified and is obliged to uphold. The ICCPR specifically stipulates in its article 18 that "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."

The ICJ urges the Iranian authorities to also respect its Criminal Procedure Code, which gives the arrested person the right to be promptly notified of the reasons for their arrest or detention.

The ICJ calls upon the Iranian authorities to ensure that all the detainees are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and given regular access to their families, their lawyers and any medical attention they may require.

For more information, please contact Saïd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Legal Officer, at 00 41 22 979 38 17

Address: 33, rue des Bains, P.O. Box 216, 1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland
Tel: +41(0) 22 979 3800 – Fax: +41(0) 22 979 3801 – Website: http://www.icj.org - E-mail: info@icj.org

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran (Episode-4)

This is a continuation of the documented recent events that paved the way for the current actions of the Iranian government in its efforts to annihilate the Baha'i community of Iran.

Its unabated wave of arrests clearly points to its systematic and predetermined lines of action, leading up to the arrest of the entire leadership of the Baha'i community of Iran on 14 May 2008. The whereabouts of these detained leaders remains to be unknown. They have not been formally charged, and are held incommunicado. Worldwide condemnation of these actions is faced with indifference and denials by the Iranian authorities.

To view previous episodes, please click here, here & here.

The demolition in June 2004 of the house of Mirza Abbas Nuri, a renowned 18th century Iranian calligrapher (father of Bahá’u’lláh), reflects the Iranian government’s willingness to destroy its own cultural heritage to eradicate the Bahá’í Faith from Iran.

A) ARRESTS AND DETENTIONS (continued)

• On 15 January 2008, Mr. Fu’ád Ágáh [Foad Agah], a twenty-one-year-old Bahá’í from Isfahan was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence along with his Muslim friend, Mr. ‘Alí Karímí [Ali Karimi] when they went to pick up photocopies of a Bahá’í pamphlet that had been made by a person recommended by Mr. Karímí. It appears that the Basij Resistance Force had become aware of this activity while the pamphlets were being printed and had the shop under surveillance until Mr. Ágáh and Mr. Karímí came to take delivery of the order. They were arrested as they were leaving the shop, taken to the police station, and then to the Ministry of Intelligence. Mr. Karímí was released within twenty-four hours. Mr. Ágáh was held for two days, interrogated, and sent to Dastgerd Prison where he stayed for another four days while his bail was being set. He was released on bail (his business permit was used as collateral) on 21 January 2008.

• On 27 January 2008, Mr. Púríyá Ḥabíbí [Pouriya Habibi] and Miss Símín Mukhtárí [Simin Mokhtari] of Tehran were arrested while in a public park. The authorities accused them of teaching the Faith subsequent to their having been searched and found to be in possession of a Bahá’í book of scriptures and a card with details of the Bahá’í Persian-language radio programme, Payám-i-Dúst [Payame Doust] that is broadcast from the United States and accessible in Iran via satellite. After two days of trying to ascertain their whereabouts, their families were able to locate them in Evin prison and to visit them there. The authorities set the bail for each at 50 million tumans (approximately US$55,000). When the families went to the prosecutor’s office, they were informed that the prisoners could not be released because their names had not yet been entered in the computer system by their interrogator.

• On 31 January 2008, officers of the Hamadan police department (in civilian clothing) searched the homes of ten Bahá’í families (four in Hamadan and six in surrounding localities), under judicial orders. They confiscated Bahá’í books, pamphlets, and compact discs and arrested Mr. ‘Azíz Púrḥamzih [Aziz Pourhamzeh], from Hamadan; Mr. Kámrán Aqdasí [Kamran Aghdasi], from Hamadan; and Mr. Fatḥu’lláh Khutb Javán [Fathollah Khatbjavan], from Mirza Hesari. These three Bahá’ís remain in prison.

• On 31 January 2008, Mr. Fu’ád Ittiḥádu’l-Ḥaq [Foad Ettehadolhagh], who serves as a member of the small group that coordinates the affairs of the Shiraz Bahá’í community on an ad hoc basis, was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence at the highway police station on his return from Tehran to Shiraz, after a meeting with the “Friends in Iran”, the group that coordinates the work of the national Bahá’í community. The bus Mr. Ittiḥádu’l-Ḥaq had been travelling on was stopped at 08:00 by the Shiraz highway police, and he was asked for his identification card. When he gave them his driver’s licence he was told to get off the bus because the licence was forged. He was then taken to the office of the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz. An official told Mr. Ittiḥádu’l-Ḥaq that he had been under surveillance since the meeting in Tehran and that they wanted to know what had been discussed there. Mr. Ittiḥádu’l-Ḥaq was interrogated until 15:00 and required to explain in detail the contents of the various documents he was carrying from the meeting. All the documents were copied and the originals were returned to him when he was released following the interrogation.

• On 9 March 2008, Messrs. Túraj Amíní [Touraj Amini], Íraj Amíní [Iraj Amini], and Paymán ‘Amú’í [Payman Amoui] were arrested on the charge that they had been teaching the Faith at their place of work. Messrs. Íraj Amíní and Paymán ‘Amú’í were released following a court hearing the next day, having been required by the court to submit their birth certificates as surety. Mr. Túraj Amíní was released on Monday, 17 March 2008. It is not yet known what bail may have been stipulated for his release.

• On 17 March 2008, Mr. Mohammad-Ismá‘íl Furúzán [Mohammad Ismael Forouzan] from Abadeh, who had been arrested in May 2007, and whose appeal had been heard in November 2007, was called to the office of the Ministry of Intelligence and immediately detained upon his arrival. Officials informed him that his appeal had been denied and that his one-year imprisonment had begun on that same day. For the first two weeks he was not permitted to have visitors, but is now able to receive two visits weekly (separate days for male and female visitors). Mr. Furúzán is forty-two years of age, married, and has two children.

Haleh Rouhi, Sasan Taqva and Raha Sabet were taken into custody in November 2007. They are serving a four-year sentence on charges connected entirely with their belief and practice in the Baha'i Faith.

• The fifty Bahá’ís from Shiraz whose three-year prison sentences were suspended conditional upon their regular participation in classes conducted by the Islamic Propaganda Organization began these sessions on 3 March 2008. Separate classes are held for men and women and on different days. The three-hour long sessions, which consist mainly of recitation of Qur’ánic verses followed by discussion in a question and answer format, are held once every two weeks. To date, the Bahá’ís have avoided any discussions related to the Faith. In one of the classes, the instructor, who teaches both the men and the women, asked them specifically whether they had studied certain Bahá’í books, naming two well-known Persian works; they did not respond. The instructor also encouraged the Bahá’ís to read more and investigate the truth; in a seemingly friendly gesture, he expressed a desire to be invited to their homes.

• On 9 April 2008, Miss Hálih Rúḥí (Haleh Rouhi), Mr. Sásán Taqvá (Sasan Taqva), and Miss Rahá Thábit (Raha Sabet)—the three young Bahá’ís from Shiraz who had been incarcerated on 19 November 2007 on the wholly unjustified grounds that the social service activities in which they and fifty other Bahá’ís as well as a number of their Muslim friends had been engaged, were being used as a subterfuge to teach the Bahá’í Faith—were granted temporary release for five days, with permission to extend this release. It is understood from reports received from their families that the three Bahá’ís did remain free for the additional five days, at the end of which they returned to the detention centre of the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz, where they continue to be confined. Mr. Taqvá, who requires surgery for the painful injury he had sustained to his leg prior to his incarceration, was able to obtain some medical attention during this brief reprieve.

TO BE CONTINUED....