Friday, May 30, 2008

Amnesty International 2008 Report Critical of Iran & Egypt

Amnesty International has just released its 2008 report regarding the state of the world's human rights.

Concerning the repression of religious minorities, most prominent were the struggles of the Baha'is of Egypt and Iran.

Regarding Egypt, the report states the following in reference to the identity documents matter:
The legal requirement to specify religion on identity papers, and only religions recognized by the state, continued to have serious implications for some minorities. Baha’is, whose faith is not recognized by the state, cannot obtain identity papers without posing as a Muslim, Christian or Jew. Without the papers, they cannot enroll children in school, drive a car, or open a bank account. The lack of identity papers also leaves them vulnerable during police checks. Converts, especially from Islam to Christianity, also faced difficulties changing their papers.
As to Iran, it reported a brief account of the current escalation of oppressive practices against the Baha'i population of the country by stating:
Baha’is throughout the country continued to face persecution on account of their religion. At least 13 Baha’is were arrested in at least 10 cities and were subject to harassment and discriminatory practices, such as denial of access to higher education, bank loans and pension payments. Nine Baha’i cemeteries were desecrated.
Even though Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice had ruled last January that the Baha'is were entitled to obtain identification documents, thus far not a single Baha'i in Egypt has been able to obtain such documents. This week, Egypt's government-appointed National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) is holding a session that will address the delay in implementing the ruling. It is hoped that following this meeting, the Council will press the case and urge the government to implement the court's ruling expeditiously.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iran Detains More Baha'is

IranVNC just reported the arrest of five [or six] more Baha'is following the detention of the seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i community less than two weeks before. Three of the recent detainees were arrested in the Isfahan area on the 24th of May. The news report writes:
The arrest of the three men, Hooshmand Talebi, Mehran Zini, and Farhad Ferdowsiyan, was first reported yesterday by the Iran-based rights organization Human Rights Activities in Iran.

The same organization also reported that three other Baha’is in Iran’s northern Mazandaran Province had been arrested in recent days.
As to the additional three, the report indicates that a representative of the Baha'is of the United States told IranVNC:
"We have learned that two Baha’is (not three) from Ghaemshahr, Mazandaran province, were taken into custody on May 19, 2008 to commence serving their prison sentences, following the rejection of their appeals last year."
The whereabouts of the seven leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran, detained earlier, remains to be a mystery. They have not been formally charged with any crimes. However, in regards to the six [or five] additional detainees, the report indicates:
...yesterday, in response to a question about the six detained individuals, Judiciary Spokesperson Ali-Reza Jamshidi said they had been charged with participating in “illegal gatherings.”

"The six people have been given a two-year suspended prison sentence for the crime of acting against national security by participating in illegal gatherings," Fars News Agency quoted him as saying in a news conference.
To read the entire report on IranVNC website, please click here....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What is Behind the Escalation of Anti-Baha'i Activities in Iran?

A very revealing and fascinating article, authored by Amil Imani, regarding the background of Iran's president was published in the fall of 2007 in the daily American Thinker. The article carried the title "Who is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?"

In view of the current intensification of Iran's efforts to destroy and eliminate the Baha'i community of Iran, manifested by its most recent action in arresting the entire leadership of Iran's Baha'i community, it may be timely to point out the information contained in that article. It must be pointed out though that Amil Imani is not a Baha'i, but rather is a Muslim, native of Iran.

Mr. Imani begins his article by writing:
To understand Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mindset and behavior require close scrutiny of the elaborate and intricate theology of Hujetieh Shiism, perhaps the most fundamentalist of the numerous Shiite sects.

In the 1950s, a group of Islamic clergy led by Sheikh Mahmoud Halabi (a close associate of Ayatollah Khomeini) formed a society called the Anjoman-e Khayryyehye Hujjatiyyah-ye Mahdaviat (Charitable Society of the Mahdi), based in Mashhad, Iran. The Hujjatyyah membership was mostly composed by the bazaar-i businessmen and fanatical mullahs. Among many things, they were against the communists, Marxists, and atheists. Their overarching "raison d'être," however, was to prepare the world for the upcoming of the 12th Imam -- the Mehdi.
He then addresses the plight of the Baha'i population of Iran, which constitutes the largest religious minority in that country, by stating:
However, the most important immediate agenda item on their list was to harass and persecute the Baha'is, a religious group representing a small percentage of Iran's population. In fact, the Hujjatiyyah-y's alternative name became "The anti-Baha'i Society" (Anjuman-e Zidd-e Baha'iyat). They collectively worked for a single purpose: the eradication of Baha'is.

The terrible plight of the Baha'is in Iran is particularly heart-wrenching, since they are the largest non-Muslim population in the country and have been, from day one, severely brutalized by Muslims. Baha'i teachings of tolerance and openness to science are anathema to the Islamofascists on many levels, but the history of the faith includes direct challenges to the theological legitimacy of the mullahs. These slaveholders find the Baha'i faith a threat to their own version of Islam and the absolute theocratic power it puts their hands.
As to President Ahmadinejad aspirations, the author points out:
The egomaniac President Ahmadinejad is a member of Hujjatiyyah. He sees himself as the personal vassal of the Mahdi-Messiah or Hidden Imam, with whom he has fantasized tête-à-têtes frequently.

Ahmadinejad, a man driven by his religion, has a spiritual advisor in Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi (the defacto leader of the Hojatieh). The President's advisor is known for his extremist views on Islam and promotes suicide bombings and attacks on civilians in the West. There is only view of Islam for him. He once said, "...if anyone tells you their own interpretation of Islam, punch them in the mouth!"
After an elaborate analysis of the character and intentions of Iran's president, the author concluded his article with these very alarming and frightening words:
Ahmadinejad and his ilk are not interested in any negotiation, any compromise or any live-and-let-live final solution. They are determined to be the soldiers of Mahdi come-what-may. They have no problem with the total destruction of the world. They are headed for a life of eternal bliss in Allah's paradise. They hardly care, even rejoice, if the rest of humanity is subjected to a tragic death in the nuclear, biological and chemical wasteland of planet earth.

Humanity cannot afford and must not ignore the emergence of the final threat to its very existence on this planet.
To read this informative article in its entirety, please click here....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iran: Baha'i Leaders Held Incommunicado

The fate of the seven leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran, who were arrested on 14 May 2008, is entirely unknown. According to a news release by the Baha'i International Community, the seven leaders are held by the Iranian government incommunicado.

They have no access to lawyers and their families do not know their whereabouts. The Baha’i International Community is increasingly concerned about their fate.

The article states:
"Although initial reports indicated they were taken to Evin prison, in fact we don’t know where they are, and we are extremely concerned," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.
In a pointed appeal, Ms. Dugal also said:
"We appeal to the international community, human rights groups, and people of conscience, as well as the news media, to continue their efforts to press the Iranian government so that the rights of these people as detainees be upheld and that they be allowed access to counsel and general communication with the outside -- as a minimum step."
The seriousness of the situation is clearly expressed by Ms. Duagal's remarks when she said:
"However, in light of the fact that relatives have made repeated attempts to learn more about the fate of the seven, and in all cases have been met with evasion and conflicting stories from government officials, we must now say that we don’t know where they are -- and that our level of concern for their fate is at the highest."
To read more about this press release, please click here....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran (Episode-3)

Mullah Falsafi supervising workmen in the act of destroying the dome of the National Bahá’í Center in 1955, Tehran, Iran.

This is the third episode in the series "Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran". The first two episodes can be seen here and here.

These posts are published in order to expose the actions of the government of Iran in its efforts to systematically harass, monitor and oppress the Baha'i population of Iran. They clearly show the government's intentions and predetermined plan in its attempt to annihilate the Baha'i community of Iran. Baha'is of Iran, numbered over 300,000 individuals, represent the largest religious minority in that country.


• On 28 December 2007, officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards entered four Bahá’í homes in the same neighbourhood complex in Shiraz. They searched the homes and seized Bahá’í books and materials. Mrs. Mándáná Kamálí (Dáná) [Mandana Kamali (Dana)] (the secretary of the local group that coordinates the affairs of the Bahá’í community in Shiraz on an ad hoc basis) was arrested and taken into custody. The search warrant stated: “call upon all assemblies, gatherings, and homes of the Bahaist sect”.

Mrs. Kamálí was interrogated several times. The questions revolved around the administration of the Bahá’í community’s affairs and the Teachings of the Faith.

On at least three other occasions her interrogations began at night and continued until approximately 05:00. Throughout, a high intensity light was shone into her face. The interrogation was filmed, and an officer recorded it in writing. Demands were made that she provide detailed personal information regarding the Bahá’ís in Shiraz, including their financial backgrounds. She was also asked who taught children’s classes and was questioned about the institute process and about the teaching activities of the Bahá’ís.

At another session, the interrogators tried to draw a link between the Bahá’í Faith and Wahhabism (asserting that Great Britain created Wahhabism among the Sunni Muslims and the Bahá’í Faith among the Shiah Muslims with the intention of overthrowing the government of the countries concerned in each case). At one point Mrs. Kamálí was brought before the assistant prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court who stated at the conclusion of her interrogation, “It may be that the Wahhabis did take over the affairs of their government, but we would never give this opportunity to the Bahá’ís.” Mrs. Kamálí was released on 10 January 2008. Her bail was set at 10 million tumans (approximately US$11,000).

• On 1 January 2008, it was reported that Mrs. Símá Raḥmáníyán Laqá’í [Sima Rahmanian Laghaie] and Mrs. Míná Hamrán [Mina Hamran], who had been arrested on 14 September 2005 and released on bail on 2 October 2005, as well as Mrs. Símín Gurjí [Simin Gorji], who had been arrested on 3 August 2005 and released on bail on 17 September 2005, had been imprisoned in Ghaemshahr. On 8 May 2007, the provincial Appeal Court of Mazandaran rejected their appeals and found them guilty of “propagation on behalf of an organization which is anti-Islamic”; all three were sentenced to five months’ imprisonment (the precise date of their imprisonment is unknown).


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iran Justifies Arrests of Baha'i Leaders With Sham Excuses

Finally, the Iranian government, through its spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham, acknowledged the recent arrest of the leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran. Not surprisingly, Mr. Elham alleged two days ago in a press conference that they were arrested "for security reasons and not for their faith."

The principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, Ms. Beni Dugal, strongly refuted this allegation.

A full coverage of this response was published yesterday on the Baha'i World News Service website.

Ms. Dugal rightfully stated:
"The allegations are not new, and the Iranian government knows well that they are untrue.... The documented plan of the Iranian government has always been to destroy the Bahá’í community, and these latest arrests represent an intensification of this plan.... The group of Bahá’ís arrested last week, like the thousands of Bahá’ís who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwise oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs. The best proof of this is the fact that, time and again, Bahá’ís have been offered their freedom if they recant their Bahá’í beliefs and convert to Islam – an option few have taken."

Weren't these the same allegations brought by the Iranian government against the 16-year-old Mona in the early 1980s? She was executed by hanging along with other women and men solely because of their belief.

The only "out" they were given, in order to escape that dreadful fate, was to recant their Faith...clearly, they did not! When they were asked "why would anyone want to die for her or his belief?" The response was quite simple: "if you take our Faith away, you take away the purpose and meaning of our existence..what, then, have we gotten to live for?"

This is how the 16-year-old girl ended her young and promising life. She refused to recant her, she was hanged to die shortly after. This monstrous act was sanctioned and committed by the Iranian government.

Mona and her father were arrested on 22 October 1982, and suffered intense psychological and physical torture for several months. Jamshid, her father, was executed on 18 June 1983 by hanging. Mona's mother, Farkundeh, spent 5 months in the same prison as her husband and her daughter.... For details on these facts, please view this website describing the progress of a feature film, produced by Jack Lenz, called "Mona's Dream".

Now, I would like to ask Mr. Gholam-Hossein Elham and the rest of the Iranian government to explain this to me: what were these young innocent girls, women and men murdered for? Wasn't it simply their belief? How can you justify more arrests and torture?

When compared to the recent or the remote past, there is absolutely nothing about the Baha'is of Iran that is different now. What prompted the recent wave of arrests is simply a predetermined and systematic plan to "destroy the Bahá’í community". This systematic plan was very well described by Ms. Dugal when she said:
"We would ask whether issues of state security rather than ideology were involved in recent incidents such as the destruction of a Bahá’í cemetery and the use of a bulldozer to crush the bones of a Bahá’í who was interred there; the harassment of hundreds of Bahá’í schoolchildren throughout Iran by teachers and school officials in an effort to make them reject their own religion; or the publication of dozens of defamatory anti-Bahá’í articles in Kayhan and other government-sponsored news media in recent months."
She later said:
"Freedom of religion is the issue and Iran itself is a signatory to international covenants that acknowledge the right of individuals to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion."
It is the issue of "freedom of religion" that Mona was hanged for; it is the issue of "freedom of religion" that many other Baha'is were executed for in Iran during the last couple of decades. There was never a thread of evidence in support of any of the allegations that were repeatedly made by the Iranian government in its desperate attempts to justify its ghastly violations of human rights.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ayatollah Montazeri Decrees Baha'is Rightful Citizens of Iran

A decree was just issued by Grand Ayatollah Montazeri declaring Iranian Baha'is as rightful citizens.

As background information:
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri (Persian: حسین علی منتظری), styled His Honourable Eminence, (born in 1922), was one of the leaders of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He is best known as the one-time designated successor to the revolution's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini who fell out with Khomeini in 1989 over government policies that Montazeri claimed infringed on freedom and denied people's rights. He currently lives in the holy city of Qom, and remains politically influential in Iran, especially upon reformist politics. Montazeri is a senior Islamic scholar and a grand marja (religious authority) of Islam.
Translation of the decree:

In the Name of God

With greetings,

The congregation of Baha'ism not having the heavenly book like those of Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in the constitution [of Islamic republic of Iran], are not considered one of the religious minorities. However, since they are the citizens of this country, they have the rights of a citizen and to live in this country. Furthermore, they must benefit from the Islamic compassion which is stressed in Quran and by the religious authorities.

God-willing you will be successful,
(Wal Salam–u Alaykum Warahmatullah)
[Peace and Mercy of God be upon you]

25 Urdibehesht 1387 [14 May 2008]

Signature: Montazeri [Seal]

In view of the current crisis facing the Baha'is of Iran, with the recent arrests of the leaders of that community, this development can be seen to be of great significance.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran (Episode-2)

Destruction of the National Baha'i Centre in Tehran, Iran by extremists (circa 1955)

The following is the second episode of the series "Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran" which began in this previous post.

The purpose of these posts is to expose the actions of the government of Iran in its efforts to systematically harass and oppress the Baha'i population of Iran who, numbered over 300,000 individuals, make up the largest religious minority in that country.


• Mr. Sháhridá ‘Abbásí [Shahreza Abbasi] of Hamadan, who had been detained for six days in 2006 and had been treated very harshly at that time, was arrested again on 13 December 2007. He was summoned to the office of the Ministry of Intelligence in Hamadan where he was held while officials searched his house and collected his Bahá’í books, compact discs, and portraits. After having been incarcerated for two days in a 1.5 by 1.5 metre chamber in the detention centre of the Intelligence Ministry in Hamadan, he was transferred to the jail at the local police station. The police refused to accept him as a prisoner and sent him back to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention centre. A few days later, Mr. ‘Abbásí was again transferred, this time to the detention facilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Court. After a long interrogation, he was released on bail that was provided by a non-Bahá’í, on 21 December 2007.

• On 15 December 2007 Mr. Jamálu’d-Dín Khánjání [Jamaloddin Khanjani], who has served for many years as a member of the “Friends in Iran”, the group that coordinates the affairs of the Iranian Bahá’í community, was ordered to meet with Intelligence Ministry officials in Hamadan, where he underwent interrogation. This was the third time since the end of September that Mr. Khánjání had been questioned by officials of the Ministry of Intelligence, each time in a different locale. On 26 November 2007 he had been summoned to meet with officials of the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz. When he arrived there he was arrested and imprisoned. He was released the same day following extensive questioning about the activities of the “Friends in Iran” and of the Bahá’ís throughout the country. Prior to this, on 25 September 2007, he had been directed to present himself at the local office of the Intelligence Ministry while on a personal trip to Isfahan. When he did so, he was detained for five days. He was released on 1 October 2007 having provided collateral as bail.

• Mr. Hurmuz Háshimí [Hormoz Hashemi] of Shiraz was arrested 25 December 2007. Mr. Háshimí has indicated that he had given Bahá’í books and an introduction to the Faith on a compact disc to a few shopkeepers close to where he takes his child for Bahá’í classes. When he returned to the shops the following day to answer any queries these shopkeepers may have had, all the books and the compact disc were returned to him and he was handcuffed and taken to a detention centre. There, he openly admitted that he had been, and would continue, teaching the Faith. He was asked who had given him the materials, and he stated that he had received them from Mrs. Kamálí. Mr. Háshimí was released on 10 January 2008. His bail was set at 20 million tumans (approximately US$22,000).


Monday, May 19, 2008

Systematic Oppression of the Baha'is of Iran (Episode-1)

The following several posts will expose the actions of the government of Iran in its efforts to systematically harass and oppress the Baha'i population of Iran.

These incidents are presented here in a chronological order, and are classified under several main headings, such as "ARRESTS AND DETENTIONS", "COURT JUDGMENTS HANDED DOWN", "AMASSING OF INFORMATION ON THE BAHA’IS", "CONFISCATION OF PROPERTY" etc....

Because the material presented is quite extensive, each category, mentioned above, will be separately posted over several episodes, beginning with the summer of 2007 until the present time.


• In Shiraz, on 4 September 2007, officials from the Intelligence Ministry went to the home of Mr. Mas‘úd Muhibbpúr [Masoud Mohebbpour] with a warrant to search his house and an order for his detention, and they confiscated models of the House of the Báb in Shiraz and the barrack square in Tabriz.

• On 20 October 2007, fourteen Bahá’í youth from a region of Tehran Province were arrested and detained by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence in a mountain-climbing area. Three young women in the group were released on bail; the remaining individuals were released the next day.

• On 11 November 2007, Mr. Mohammad-Ismá‘íl Furúzán [Mohammad Ismael Forouzan] from Abadeh, who had been arrested in May 2007 and questioned extensively about the institute process while he was in prison at that time, was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and ten years’ exile from Abadeh for spreading propaganda against the regime for the benefit of foreign governments. Mr. Furúzán undertook strenuous efforts to secure an attorney to represent him but was unsuccessful in obtaining legal counsel. He was given notice only a day and a half before his appeal hearing, and, when he raised this with the judge, his request for additional time was denied. His sentence was conveyed to him orally; despite his request, he was not permitted to see or receive a copy of the court order.

• On 13 November 2007, Mr.‘Ináyatu’lláh Haqíqatjú [Enayatollah Haghighatjou] was arrested and imprisoned in Shiraz. No further details are known at this time regarding the circumstances of his arrest.

• In Shiraz, Mr. Díyánat Haqíqat [Diyanat Haghighat], who was taking steps to have the expulsion of his child from high school nullified, was arrested on 13 November 2007. Mr. Haqíqat’s child had been one of several Bahá’ís expelled from school, and he had served as the spokesperson for the Bahá’í parents in their efforts to follow up the matter with the school authorities so that their children could be reinstated. Later that day, an official from the Intelligence Ministry came to Mr. Haqíqat’s home and searched it for three hours. All books, booklets, and papers related to the Bahá’í community were collected, and Mr. Haqíqat was arrested. Before his interrogation at the Intelligence Ministry’s detention centre, he was physically assaulted. He was questioned three times. In each session, the questions focused mainly on the teaching activities of the Bahá’ís. On the third occasion, he was requested to state on film, his name and family name, religion, occupation, the Teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, the reason for his child’s expulsion from school, the meaning of teaching the Bahá’í Faith, and his expectation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He provided detailed responses on each of these points. With respect to the final point, he expressed his expectation of the Islamic Republic of Iran as follows: “I, as a Bahá’í, have only one expectation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this, based on the law, as a citizen, to have the right of freedom of speech about my belief.” He was then interrogated twice by the assistant to the public prosecutor general of the Revolutionary Court of Justice, along the same lines as the questioning he had faced by Intelligence Ministry officials. He was told that he was accused of spreading propaganda on behalf of anti-regime groups and threatening the security of the country. Mr. Haqíqat was freed on 27 November 2007. No further information is available at this time regarding the terms of his release.

[UPDATE on Mr. Haqíqat]
On 13 November 2007, Mr. Díyánat Haqíqat [Diyanat Haghighat] of Shiraz had been arrested in conjunction with his efforts to obtain redress on behalf of seven Bahá’í students, including his daughter Nasím, who had been expelled from their school for having spoken out in defence of the Faith. Mr. Haqíqat was released on 27 November. It has now been learned that at that same time, Nasím and another student, Názanín Farvardín [Nazanin Farvardin], were charged with having insulted the beliefs of Islam. On 4 March 2008, Miss Haqíqat and her father attended an investigative meeting at the Assistant Prosecutor’s Office, where they were informed formally of the accusation, which Nasím denied. She was permitted to remain free on the basis of a business licence having been given as surety for her release. At this time there is no information available regarding the disposition of the case against Miss Farvardín.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

We Are One!

Thanks to George Wesley Dannells who blogs "Baha'i Views" for making known this recent piece of news about Iran Visual News Corps (IranVNC), which produced a video two weeks ago about the Baha'is of Egypt and Iran.

The video begins with an interview with an Egyptian-American Baha'i (Mr. Nabil Hanna) who spoke about the reasons behind his departure from Egypt about 40 years ago. It also interviews Mr. Joe Stork, Director of the Middle East Division of Human Rights Watch, who spoke about the legal aspects and the specifics of the ID card dilemma in Egypt. This is followed by another interview with Mrs. Kit Bigelow, the director of the Office of External Affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. Mrs. Bigelow spoke of the escalating recent waves of persecution of the Baha'is of Iran.

This video is yet another example of the link between the struggles in Iran and Egypt...a video made by an Iranian company mostly about the Baha'is of Egypt, just two weeks before the recent wave of arrests of the leaders of the Baha'i Community of Iran.

People from around the world, regardless of their national origin, their ethnicity or religious affiliation, will always stand together when faced with oppression and injustice. We can be sure of that.

Here is the video (in English), titled "Baha'is reclaim citizenship rights in Egypt" with the interviews mentioned above:

And here is another video (in Farsi) describing what IranVNC is:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The World Condemns Iran for Arresting Baha'i Leaders

Please note that the title of this blog has been changed to: "Baha'i Faith in Egypt & Iran". The changed blog description states:
The Baha'is of Egypt and Iran have been subjected to extremes of persecution and systematic oppression. While the case of Egypt has been evolving over the past two years, with hopeful resolution of that struggle on the horizon, the human rights of the Baha'is of Iran are being increasingly violated by an extremist rule. Thus, while Egypt's case will remain to be actively pursued, from now on, there will be more emphasis in this blog on the case of the Baha'is of Iran.

As to the current crisis, a simple "google" search will yield plenty of coverage that will reflect the world's outrage at the recent developments in Iran. The whereabouts or fate of the seven leaders of the Baha'i community of Iran remains unknown. Not surprisingly, there has not been a word uttered by the government of Iran explaining its most recent malicious act.

Numerous blogs and websites, as well as world media outlets, government agencies and human rights organizations have condemned Iran's government for its crime committed against the Baha'is. While the following list is by no means near complete, it may provide a glimpse of some of the worldwide coverage and condemnation:

1) PR Web Press Release Newswire
2) Amnesty International (HTML) (PDF)
3) Payvand's Iran News
4) CNN International
5) Los Angeles Times
6) Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
7) US Department of State
8) Barnabas Quotidianus
9) Wendi's Wanders
10) Baha'is of Iran
11) Canada.Com "Times Colonist"
12) Canada News Centre
13) Mideast Youth
14) Persian Journal
15) American Jewish Community
16) Prudent Press Agency
17) Worldwide Faith News
18) Iranian.Com
19) Conger Blog
20) Edmonton Journal
21) US Commission International Religious Freedom
22) Religious Intelligence
23) International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
24) Goliath
25) The Grieboski Report
26) Yahoo News
27) Radio Sedaye Iran
28) All the Beirut News
29) The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights
30) National Review
31) Dhimmi Watch
32) Richard Dawkins.Net
33) AFP
34) Global Voices Online
35) Reuters
36) BBC
37) CanWest News Service
38) WestEnder (Australia)
39) BBC (Arabic)
40) Iran VNC
41) Anti-Defamation League
42) Globe and Mail
43) European Union
44) CNN (more)
45) International Herald Tribune
46) Times Online
47) Iranian.Com (more)
48) House of Lords
49) Associated Press (AP)
50) Haaretz
51) Miami Herald
52) Fox News
53) CNN (more)
54) Las Cruces Sun News
55) Salon.Com
56) Le Monde
57) The Wall Street Journal
58) The Canberra Times
59) National Post (Canada)
60) The New York Times

Updates on news coverage can be seen HERE....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

As if Natural Disasters were not Enough!

As the entire world wept for the tens of thousands of deaths and injuries caused by the recent horrific natural disasters in Myanmar and China, some human beings manage to show their cruelty--entirely oblivious to the suffering surrounding them--towards their fellow innocent humans.

A case in point is the distressing news of the arrest of the entire leadership of the largest religious minority in Iran by the Iranian authorities in the early hours of 14 May 2008.

The International Bahá’í Community announced today:
Six Bahá’í leaders in Iran were arrested and taken to the notorious Evin prison yesterday in a sweep that is ominously similar to episodes in the 1980s when scores of Iranian Bahá’í leaders were summarily rounded up and killed.

The six men and women, all members of the national-level group that helped see to the minimum needs of Bahá’ís in Iran, were in their homes Wednesday morning when government intelligence agents entered and spent up to five hours searching each home, before taking them away.

The seventh member of the national coordinating group was arrested in early March in Mashhad after being summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence office there on an ostensibly trivial matter.
Since the extremist Iranian authorities had outlawed the Baha'i religion at its country of birth, Baha'is in Iran have been deprived of their official administrative bodies for the past quarter of a century. Because they were forbidden from electing their National Assembly that could have administered their affairs, a group of seven devoted and experienced Baha'is "helped see to the minimum needs of Bahá’ís in Iran" on a national-level.

Remembering the recent history of this large religious minority in Iran makes this recent development appear even more ominous. This is sadly pointed-out in the news release by the Baha'i International Community in its article of 15 May 2008:
On 21 August 1980, all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran were abducted and disappeared without a trace. It is certain that they were killed.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran was reconstituted soon after that but was again ravaged by the execution of eight of its members on 27 December 1981.

A number of members of local Bahá’í governing councils, known as local Spiritual Assemblies, were also arrested and executed in the early 1980s, before an international outcry forced the government to slow its execution of Bahá’ís. Since 1979, more than 200 Bahá’ís have been killed or executed in Iran, although none have been executed since 1998.
It takes unusual qualities for the leadership of a modern State to entirely ignore the cries of humanity caused by so much go out of its way in the midst of such catastrophes and selectively violate the rights of its law-abiding peaceful citizens--simply because of their religious affiliation that is known to promote peace, equality and unity of humankind.

What sort of leaders are these and what kind of government is this? How long could the rest of the world afford to wait to find out what happens next? Didn't we learn from our recent history? Doesn't Iran deserve to join the rest of the world in quest for liberty and justice? Clearly that cannot be realized under the current rule.... The people of Iran deserve to join their fellow humans in pursuing happiness, prosperity and freedom from all shackles of superstition and oppression.

It is worthwhile to recall the words of the renowned philosopher Jorge Santayana (1863-1952) who was once quoted saying "those who forget the past are condemned to relive it".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Domain for "Baha'i Faith in Egypt"

This blog "Baha'i Faith in Egypt" has now acquired its own domain name:

Links to the previous URL will be automatically redirected to the new URL.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Egypt Placed on "Watch List"

Egypt has been included by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its "Watch List" for this year.

Besides the 11 other "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) the Commission explained the watch list, in its press release of May 2, 2008, as follows:
The Commission has also established a Watch List of countries where conditions do not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation but which require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments. Countries on the Commission's Watch List for 2008 are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
The full report was presented by the Commission to President Bush and the Honorable Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, on May 1, 2008.

The press release of May 2, 2008, describes the situation in Egypt as:
In Egypt, the government has taken inadequate measures to stop repression of minority religious adherents and "unorthodox Muslims" or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. Despite some increased public space to discuss religious freedom issues in the media and other fora as well as some positive, but limited, judicial rulings on some religious freedom cases, serious religious freedom violations continue to affect Coptic Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Baha'is, as well as members of minority Muslim communities, all of whom are also subject to religiously-motivated attacks. The government has also done too little to combat rampant anti-Semitism in the state media.
The following are some excerpts from the full report regarding religious freedom in Egypt:
Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as non-conforming Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. Over the past few years, the Egyptian government has adopted several measures to acknowledge the religious pluralism of Egyptian society, including increased efforts to promote interfaith activity. Yet the government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against religious believers, including the indigenous Coptic Orthodox Christians, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. The government also has not taken adequate steps to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media. On a positive note, in January 2008, Cairo’s Court of Administrative Justice overturned the ban on providing official identity documents to members of the Baha’i faith by allowing Baha’is to put “other,” dashes (--), or not list their religious affiliation at all on their identity documents. There was also increased public space to discuss and debate a wide range of religious freedom concerns in the media and other public fora, which, in previous years, was discouraged and prevented by Egyptian authorities. Nevertheless, due to persistent, serious concerns, Egypt remains on the Commission’s Watch List and will continue to be monitored to determine if the situation rises to a level that warrants designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC.
Other paragraphs concerning the Baha'i case are quoted below:
Members of Egypt’s non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Christians and Baha’is, report discrimination, interference, harassment, and surveillance by the Egyptian state security services.
All Baha’i institutions and community activities have been banned since 1960 by a presidential decree. As a result, Baha’is are unable to meet and engage in group religious activities. Over the years, Baha’is have been arrested and imprisoned because of their religious beliefs, often on charges of insulting Islam. Almost all Baha’i community members are known to the state security services, and many are regularly subject to surveillance and other forms of harassment. Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Center has issued fatwas (religious edicts) in recent years urging the continued ban on the Baha’i community and condemning Baha’is as apostates. There has been increased intolerance of Baha’is in both the independent and government-controlled media in recent years.

In a positive development, in January 2008, Cairo’s Court of Administrative Justice overturned the ban on providing official identity documents to members of the Baha’i faith by allowing Baha’is to put “other,” dashes (--), or not list their religious affiliation at all on identity documents. The Egyptian government’s requirement that religious affiliation be included on national identity cards has particularly affected the Baha’i community, as it has been the case up until this ruling that only the three “heavenly religions” (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) are recognized and protected under the Constitution. Although no such limitation appears in the Constitution itself, the state has interpreted the text in this way because only three religions are recognized in Islam. Since “Muslim, Jew, or Christian” are the only choices, Baha’is have been prevented from obtaining identity cards, which are needed for many basic transactions, such as opening a bank account, buying a car, or obtaining a driver’s license. Moreover, the Egyptian government has made it illegal to be in public without an identity card. Because the Baha’i faith is banned, the community also has difficulty obtaining birth and death certificates, as well as obtaining or renewing passports. If fully implemented, this new ruling could potentially address one of the longstanding discriminatory polices related to freedom of religion or belief for Baha’is in Egypt. In April 2008, a press report indicated that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior decided not to appeal the January verdict, but planned to weaken it such that Baha’is would have the option only of putting dashes (--) in the religious affiliation section, and not writing “other” or leaving the section blank.

There have been attempts in the past to address this issue. In April 2006, a lower Egyptian administrative court ruled that a Baha’i couple should be permitted to identify their religious affiliation on official government documents. This positive development proved short-lived, as the Interior Ministry appealed the ruling following the advice of religious authorities and some parliamentary members. A higher court suspended the original decision in May 2006, creating a renewed sense of insecurity in the Baha’i community. In August 2006, Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), a government-appointed advisory body, held an unprecedented public symposium in Cairo focused solely on the Egyptian government’s policy requiring citizens to list their religion on national identification cards. At the symposium, human rights and civil society groups testified that the Egyptian government should reverse its policy. Nevertheless, in December 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the Egyptian government’s discriminatory policy of prohibiting members of the Baha’i community from obtaining national identity cards. Because Baha’is were forced to choose between claiming adherence to a religion other than their own or foregoing an identity card and other official documents, the court’s ruling effectively denied Egyptian Baha’is their rights as citizens of Egypt and subjected them to particular hardship in obtaining education, employment, and social services. The recent law requiring all citizens to carry new, computerized identity cards means that those who do not carry them face detention and arrest. Although no such arrests have been made, in 2005 – 2006, a Baha’i was dismissed from a job and at least two Baha’is (a student and lecturer) were expelled from universities because they were unable to obtain identity cards.
In February 2008, the Commission issued a statement calling on the Egyptian government to respect the judicial rulings on identity cards for Baha’is and Christian converts, as discussed above. In June 2007, the Commission issued statements expressing concern about the May and June detention of five Koranists, and an appeal to the highest Egyptian court by 45 Coptic Christians requesting that their national identity cards officially recognize their return to Christianity. In May 2007, the Commission met in Washington, DC with the Deputy Chair of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights to discuss ongoing religious freedom concerns in Egypt. Also in May, then-Commission Vice Chair Nina Shea testified at a Members’ briefing of the Task Force on International Religious Freedom of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus entitled “Religious Freedom in Egypt: Recent Developments.”

In November 2006, the Commission issued a statement calling for the Egyptian government to reverse its discriminatory policy on national identity cards. In December, the Commission expressed deep regret over a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt to uphold the Egyptian government’s discriminatory policy of prohibiting Baha’is from obtaining national identity cards.
Among other lines of action, the USCIRF is recommending to the US government to urge the Egyptian government to:
II. Implementing Additional Reform in Order to Comply with International Human Rights Standards

The U.S. government should also urge the Egyptian government to:
. repeal a 1960 presidential decree banning members of the Baha’i community from practicing their faith;
. exclude from all educational textbooks any language or images that promote enmity, intolerance, hatred, or violence toward any group of persons based on faith, gender, ethnicity, or nationality, and include in school curricula, textbooks, and teacher training the concepts of tolerance and respect for human rights, including religious freedom, ensuring that textbooks meet the standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
. cease all messages of hatred and intolerance, particularly toward Jews and Baha’is, in the government-controlled media and take active measures to promote understanding and respect for members of these and other minority religious communities;
. take all appropriate steps to prevent and punish acts of anti-Semitism, including condemnation of anti-Semitic acts, and, while vigorously protecting freedom of expression, counteract anti-Semitic rhetoric and other organized anti-Semitic activities;
. fully implement the January 2008 ruling of Egypt’s Court of Administrative Justice, which overturned the ban on providing official identity documents to members of the Baha’i faith by allowing Baha’is to put “other,” dashes (--), or not list their religious affiliation at all;
. remove the designation “formerly declared Muslim” from identity cards for those Christians who have converted back to Christianity from Islam, which makes the persons involved vulnerable to official harassment and societal violence;
. ensure that every Egyptian is protected against discrimination in social, labor, and other rights by modifying the national identity card either to (a) omit mention of religious affiliation from identity documents, or (b) make optional any mention of religious affiliation on identity documents, since currently, individuals must identify themselves as adherents of one of the three faiths recognized by the state—Islam, Christianity, or Judaism—or, as a result of the January 2008 ruling, put dashes (--) in the religious affiliation section;
. more actively investigate religious-based violence against Egyptian citizens, particularly Coptic Christians, prosecute perpetrators responsible for the violence, and ensure compensation for victims;
. investigate claims of police negligence and inadequate prosecution of those involved in the Al-Kosheh case, as well as other past instances of violence targeting individuals on account of their religion or belief, particularly members of the vulnerable Coptic Orthodox Christian community;
. request the National Council for Human Rights to investigate allegations of discrimination against Coptic Orthodox Christians as a human rights issue and to publish its findings and recommendations; and
. implement the 2002 recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture, as well as other relevant international human rights treaties to which Egypt is a party.
Through its efforts to correct and improve its human rights record, it is now in Egypt's interest to not only remain off the the list of "Countries of Particular Concern", but to also strive to come off this "Watch List".

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reuters Critical of "Official Foot-Dragging" in Egypt

An article authored by Cynthia Johnston, just published in Reuters, underscores the continuing struggle of the Baha'is of Egypt in their attempts to obtain their government-issued official documents.

It reports that, according to the human rights organization--Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), "official foot-dragging means Egypt's Baha'i religious minority is still struggling to get identity papers, despite a landmark court ruling...."

The 29 January 2008 ruling allowed the Baha'is to obtain ID cards and birth certificates without having to lie about their true religious affiliation. The ruling fell short, though, of permitting the Baha'is to indicate their own religion on the required sections of these documents...instead, it allowed them to enter dashes "--" in the indicated fields. The Ministry of Interior accepted that solution without any challenge to the decision rendered by the court.

The Baha'is of Egypt, however, have not been able to obtain their official documents since the ruling. They remain without ID cards and birth certificates. No clear reason or explanation, regarding the delay, had ever been given to them.

Another ruling in favor of Christian converts in Egypt remains to be implemented. It allowed those who have returned to Christianity to indicate their true faith correctly on their ID documents.

EIPR, represented by Mr. Hossam Bahgat, expressed its great concern with such delays and has been actively pursuing all means to help propel the authorities to expedite the implementation of these new policies.