Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More on Haiti

On January 25, 2009, PBS NewsHour Ray Suarez talks with Dr. Paul Farmer (Partners in Health co-founder and the United Nations' deputy special envoy to Haiti) about the obstacles facing aid workers in Port-au-Prince, where thousands require urgent care:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti: Beyond the Surface of Catastrophe

This is an outstanding interview that, not only examines the Haiti disaster, but goes way beyond the apparent surface of the country's catastrophic state.

Katie Couric of CBS News "speaks with Mark Schneider from the International Crisis Group, and Ophelia Dahl, Executive Director of Partners in Health about the disastrous earthquake in Haiti and the relief efforts to help Haitians in need." A must watch!

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Ominous Threat to the Baha'is of Iran

Here is a brilliantly written analysis on CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) about the ominous current threat to the Baha'is of Iran. Its Canadian author is Brian Stewart, whose biography describes him as:
One of this country's most experienced journalists and foreign correspondents, Brian Stewart was, until his retirement in the summer of 2009, a Senior Correspondent with CBC's flagship news program, The National, and the host of Newsworld's international affairs program.

He is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

In almost four decades of reporting, he has covered many of the world's conflicts and reported from 10 war zones, from El Salvador to Beirut and Afghanistan. Though retired, he continues to write a regular column for on international affairs and will be contributing to CBC documentary reports from time to time.

In its introduction, the report prepares the reader to understand the depth and the seriousness of the motives and strategy undertaken by Iran's regime in its grand scheme to isolate and destroy the Iranian Baha'i community. The analysis, published on the CBC website on 13 January 2010, and titled "The scapegoating of Iran's Baha'is", begins by stating:
Oppressive regimes attack human rights on two levels. The most obvious assault, as we have seen in Iran in recent months, aims at suppressing political opponents and protest.

But history teaches us that we need to worry about a secondary level of attack as well, the kind that takes place in the shadows.

That's the persecution directed at weak segments of the population targeted for special repression, the old and sickening story in which minority religious or ethnic groups are singled out as scapegoats of the state, blamed for all its troubles.

This is why we need to be very concerned now for the safety of Iran's approximately 300,000 Baha'is, followers of the gentle, internationalist Baha'i faith, the country's largest minority religion.

The Baha'i religion has been officially banned in Iran since 1979. But now, in a textbook case of scapegoating, Iran's theocratic leaders are blaming the Baha'is for stirring up all the unrest sweeping the country today.

They are even accusing them of stockpiling firearms, which seems ludicrous given the peaceful nature of the religion.

But in an ominous nod to even more persecution ahead, Tehran argues that the Baha'is are doing this in conjunction with Israel, which is really directing the whole conspiracy.

Read the rest of the report here....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iran's Trial of Baha'i Leaders: First Session Ends...No Date Set for Future Sessions

According to the Baha'i International Community, "the trial of seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders began today in Iran. Initial reports indicate that the trial was marked by numerous violations of legal due process."

The report adds: "After about three hours, the hearing ended. Authorities indicated that today’s proceeding was merely the 'first session,' and no date for future sessions was given."

The entire story is posted below with permission:

First session ends in trial of Baha'i leaders in Iran
12 January 2010

GENEVA — The trial of seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders began today in Iran. Initial reports indicate that the trial was marked by numerous violations of legal due process.

After about three hours, the hearing ended. Authorities indicated that today’s proceeding was merely the “first session,” and no date for future sessions was given.

"We understand that no observers were allowed in the court," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva. "We find this completely outrageous, given that these seven have been held purely because of their religious beliefs, in total contradiction to any human rights standards.

"We understand that even the lawyers had to argue their way inside the court – lawyers who in any case had virtually no access to the accused for nearly two years.

"At the same time, the prisoners' interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence and a film crew were seen going in, raising questions about the nature of the trial," she said.

Ms. Ala'i also noted that an Iranian Web site linked to state-run television posted a story Monday evening announcing that the trial had already begun and listing the same baseless accusations made in the past against the seven.

"In any event, all of these accounts point to a trial that is highly irregular, very similar to the show trials that have been held in Iran in recent months," she said.

The seven 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 been held in Tehran's Evin prison ever since, spending their first year there without formal charges or any access to lawyers.

"Whatever happens, it is clear that the trial of these seven innocent people represents the trial of an entire religious community, and is an attempt to further intimidate and ostracize all Iranian Baha'is simply because they hold a different religious viewpoint from those in power."

Note: The headline and article were updated at 9 p.m. on 12 January 2010 (Geneva time).
Blog Update

Some world media coverage, opinions and statements:

1) CNN
2) Washington TV (Shirin Ebadi's statements).
3) Guardian (Cherie Blair's statements).
4) The Globe and Mail (Howard Adelman).
5) US Department of State (Philip Crowley).
6) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
7) BBC (Lembit Opik).
8) CBC (Brian Stewart: extensive article)
9) Canada's Foreign Affairs

Shirin Ebadi's interview:

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Iran: Another Wave of False & Outrageous Allegations

In a statement published today by the Baha'i International Community, the false and outrageous allegations lodged against the Baha'is by Iran's government were categorically rejected.

The story in its entirety is posted below with permission:

Baha'i International Community rejects allegations that arrested Baha'is had weapons in homes
9 January 2010

GENEVA — The Baha'i International Community today categorically rejected new allegations by the Iranian government that arms and ammunition were found in the homes of Baha'is who were arrested in Tehran last Sunday.

"This is nothing less than a blatant lie," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva. "Baha'is are by the most basic principles of their faith committed to absolute nonviolence, and any charge that there might have been weapons or 'live rounds' in their homes is simply and completely unbelievable.

"Without doubt, these are baseless fabrications devised by the government to further create an atmosphere of prejudice and hatred against the Iranian Baha'i community. For more than a century Baha'is have suffered all manner of persecution in Iran and have not resorted to armed violence, and everyone knows this. Unfortunately, the Iranian government is once again resorting to outright falsehoods to justify its nefarious intentions against the Baha'i community. It should know that these lies will have no credibility whatsoever.

"We are particularly concerned by the fact that these accusations come just days before the scheduled trial of seven Baha'i leaders, who have been locked up for nearly two years on equally unfounded charges," she said.

"All of these latest accusations are so far-fetched as to be ludicrous if they were not so obviously aimed at putting innocent lives at risk," she said. "As we have said before, rather than accepting responsibility for the turmoil in the country, the Iranian government seeks to lay the blame on others, including foreign powers, international organizations and media outlets, students, women, and terrorists."

On Friday, several news agencies reported that Tehran's general prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, said the Baha'is who were arrested on Sunday "were arrested because they played a role in organizing the Ashura protests and namely for having sent abroad pictures of the unrest."

"They were not arrested because they are Baha'is," said Mr. Dolatabadi, according to Agence France Presse. "Arms and ammunition were seized in the homes of some of them."

Ms. Ala'i also rejected Mr. Dolatabadi's assertions that Baha'is were involved in the planning of the Ashura demonstrations, or in any violent or subversive activity related to the recent turmoil in Iran.

"For the past 30 years, Iranian Baha'is have been subjected to the worst forms of persecution, ranging from arbitrary execution to the exclusion of their children from school," said Ms. Ala'i. "Yet they have responded only through means that are peaceful and legal."

Seven Baha'is leaders are scheduled to go on trial on Tuesday on trumped-up charges of espionage, "insulting religious sanctities," and "propaganda" against the government. They have been held in Evin prison since mid-2008. The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.

On Sunday, 13 Baha'is were arrested in early morning raids on their homes in Tehran. Three have been released but 10 remain detained at Evin prison.

They are: Leva Khanjani, granddaughter of Jamaloddin Khanjani, and her husband, Babak Mobasher; Jinous Sobhani, former secretary of Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, and her husband Artin Ghazanfari; Mehran Rowhani and Farid Rowhani, who are brothers; Payam Fanaian; Nikav Hoveydaie; and Ebrahim Shadmehr and his son, Zavosh Shadmehr.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Baha'i Named as One of Egypt's Most Influential Women

Cairo's newspaper "Al-Youm Al-Sabeh" [The Seventh Day], in its end of the year edition, has just named 15 women whose influence in Egypt has been most noticeable, most controversial and most thought provoking for the year that had just ended.

Among these 15 women, and named in the article's primary title, is Dr. Basma Moussa, who is publicly known in Egypt as a Baha'i. The other names mentioned in the title are: Hayda Alaa Mubarak (wife of the President's son), Dr. Nawal El-Sadaawi (a prominent activist & former Cabinet Minister during the Nasser rule), Muna Zaki (a well known actress), and the Virgin Mary.

In a detailed article, the writer (Nahed Nasr) expounded on the struggle Basma Moussa has endured over the years, simply because of her religious affiliation, and her constant refusal to submit to oppression no matter what the cost is or the involved risks were. Regardless of the various tests and difficulties she had been subjected to, she remained steadfast in her Faith and continued unabated to serve the Egyptian society with absolute dedication and devotion to her profession, her students and to the progress of science in her own field of medicine. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Cairo University's Faculty of Dentistry. She is subspecialized in oral and maxillofacial surgery. She has exemplified the good citizen who loves her country and who is committed to serve its citizens.

Despite the Egyptian Government's current efforts to address the civil status inequities in the country by ensuring that every Egyptian enjoys his or her full and unrestricted civil rights--most recently by granting several Baha'is their identity documents--there remain some procedural barriers that have prevented several Egyptian Baha'is from the acquisition of their ID cards.

One of these obstacles concerns married couples who have not been able to obtain their identity documents while the authorities continue to search for a mechanism by which the civil status department can officiate their marital status prior to granting these documents.

A married individual must submit a proof of marriage in order to obtain an ID card, which must state the person's marital status (thus far, Baha'i marriages are not recognized by the Egyptian authorities).

In naming Basma Moussa, the newspaper has also indicated that she was unable to obtain her ID card because, as a married woman, she refused to state on the application that she was celibate, as instructed to do so by an official, if she desires to obtain her document without any further delays.

A few weeks ago, however, Egyptian media reported that a senior government official has stated that he is actively pursuing a solution to this procedural obstacle. Fortunately, one can be optimistic that a solution will be found, just as has been the case with previous impediments, even though the process might be tedious and complex.

This demonstration of excellence is yet another acknowledgment by an independent Egyptian media outlet of the contributions to the well-being of the Egyptian society effected by Egyptian Baha'is. Even though they are a tiny minority, they have shown, once again, that they are integral threads to the the fabric of the Egyptian society, whose only aspiration is to assist in promoting its well-being and to serve it to the best of their abilities.