Saturday, August 29, 2009

Egypt Protects the Rights of Displaced Baha'is

We vividly recall the events leading to the burning of the homes of the Baha'is in the southern Egyptian village of Showraniyah near the end of last March.

Even though there have been efforts directed at resolving the matter by the Egyptian authorities, these families have been displaced since that incident and have been temporarily housed in Northern Egypt. A couple of days ago Reuters news agency reported "Egyptian police arrested 70 villagers on Thursday who were protesting against the relocation of Baha'i families to their area after they were chased out of another village in southern Egypt, security sources said."

The story goes on to state the following:
About 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag province gathered outside regional government offices to voice opposition to the relocation of 25 Baha'i families to government-sponsored housing near their homes, the sources said.

Baha'is, who number between 500 and 2,000 in Egypt, call their faith's 19th-century founder a prophet -- anathema to Muslims who believe Mohammad was God's final messenger.

Rights activists say Baha'is face systematic discrimination in the conservative Arab country, which does not officially recognise the faith.

In April, Muslims attacked houses belonging to Baha'i residents of another village in Sohag over a period of three days, forcing 30 families to flee the mainly Muslim village of Shuraniya.

Some villagers from Ezba said the protesters had gathered from Wednesday after word spread that some of those displaced from Shuraniya had settled in the area two weeks ago.

However a rights group advocating on behalf of the Baha'i families said no permanent homes had been found for them.

Soha Abdelaty, the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the families were still negotiating with the government.

Baha'is, in an important ruling for members of unrecognised religions, last year won the right to obtain government identity papers so long as they omit any reference to their faith. But the faith is still vilified by some media, activists say. (Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Alastair Sharp and Maha el Dahan)
If what happened is indeed true and if it becomes confirmed through other sources, then this development would illustrate the seriousness of Egypt's commitment to maintain law and order and its determination to protect its persecuted Baha'i minority, who have been facing unjustified persecution by the ill-informed and the misguided. In fact, this would be the first time that Egyptian authorities take such a firm and decisive action in order to stop harassment of Baha'is on its land. A nation is often judged by its resolve to respect its weakest and its underprivileged.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Iran: Trial of Baha'i Leaders Postponed

A story published on the Baha'i World News Service has reported today that the trial of the seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran has been postponed until 18 October. The following is the full text of the article:
Trial of seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders postponed
17 August 2009

GENEVA — The trial of seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran has been postponed until 18 October, the Baha'i International Community learned today.

According to Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, following a request for postponement of the trial from Mr. Hadi Esmaielzadeh and Ms. Mahnaz Parakand – attorneys from the Defenders of Human Rights Center who are representing the seven Baha'is – the court has decided to delay the hearing for two months.

Two senior members of the legal team, Nobel laureate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, were unable to attend the hearing as Mrs. Ebadi is out of the country and Mr. Soltani is in prison, having been detained on 16 June 2009 in the wake of the civil unrest following the presidential election in Iran.

"Our hope now is that our seven innocent co-religionists will be released on bail," said Ms. Ala'i.

The seven Baha'i prisoners are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. All but one of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 while in Mashhad. They have since been held at Tehran’s Evin prison without formal charges or access to their lawyers.

Official Iranian news accounts have said the seven are to be accused of "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic."

The Baha'i International Community categorically rejects all charges against the seven, stating that they are held solely because of religious persecution.
These innocent individuals must be released immediately pending their trial. They clearly do not pose any threat to anyone and they have been wrongly accused with trumped-up charges.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iran Has No Evidence!

CNN has just published a story based on its interview with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, who is the lawyer representing the detained seven former leaders of Iran's Baha'i community. The article, titled, "Lawyer: Iran has no evidence against Baha'i prisoners" was published today on CNN's world website. It starts with the following:
(CNN) -- Iran should release seven Baha'i prisoners accused of espionage because it does not have any evidence against them, their lawyer Shirin Ebadi told CNN on Saturday.

"In the files, in the case basically, there is nothing, no reason that basically convicts them," said Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The trial will begin Tuesday despite the fact that one of their lawyers is behind bars and Ebadi is outside the country.

Other attorneys can be appointed, Hassan Haddad of the Prosecutor's Office in Tehran told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

But the court must recognize the replacements, who are colleagues of Ebadi at her Tehran-based Defenders of Human Rights Center, not appoint other lawyers, Ebadi said.

The imprisoned lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, is a well-known advocate with the human rights center. He was arrested in the aftermath of Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election and is being held at Evin prison, the same place where his clients are detained, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights.

He is being held on charges of taking "measures against national security," Ebadi said. "Mr. Soltani is completely innocent."
Read the rest of the story here....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Exposing Human Rights Violations Through Art

This is the newest artwork by Shahriar AZ, the contemporary Persian artist from New Zealand. The concept, World Art Collective, was launched by Shahriar in March 2008. The website has become the vehicle for raising awareness of human rights violations, injustices and persecution. Shahriar has always been interested in the power of technology, particularly the internet, in opening broad avenues of interaction among the world's diverse populations. He aims to engage those who have been previously unexposed to what contemporary art can achieve socially and expand beyond the confines of a traditional art gallery setting.

The artwork is from the series called the "The Truth behind the persecution." This is an interview sound artwork about Human Rights violations against the Baha'is in Iran.

Most recently, Shahriar exhibited his artwork in an international show in Poznan, Poland in March 2009. The exhibition, titled “STAND-UP Art about Human Rights,” focused on human rights through art. It reflected the growing need for acceptance of, and respect for diversity, dialogue and social engagement. The show comprised the work of eleven artists and activists from different countries, societies and cultures. More information about the STAND UP exhibition can be found here....

Saturday, August 01, 2009

US Government's Views on the Crisis Facing Iran's Baha'is

Approximately two weeks ago, Voice of America (VOA) published the following editorial reflecting the views of the US government:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bi-partisan government body known as USCIRF, is calling for the release of 7 leaders of Iran's Baha'i community who have been imprisoned for over a year. The seven – 2 women and 5 men – were reportedly due to stand trial on July 11. According to the Baha'i World News Service, their families were recently informed by authorities that the trial was delayed.

The seven Baha'i leaders – Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Affif Naeimi and Mahvash Sabet – have been charged with a variety of crimes, according to official Iranian news reports. They include "propaganda against the system," "insulting religious sanctities," and "being corrupt on earth," a charge that is punishable by death. The 7 have not been allowed to see a lawyer.

"The charges against these imprisoned Baha'is are baseless and a pretext for the persecution and harassment of a disfavored religious minority. They should be released immediately," said Leonard Leo, chair of USCIRF, in a written statement. The statement was issued after USCIRF received a letter from Roxana Saberi, the Iranian American journalist who spent almost four months in Tehran's Evin prison earlier this year.

Read more here....