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Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Hamed Haydara wasn’t even allowed to attend his own sentencing. Credit: Mwatana for Human Rights

The persecution of Bahá’ís in the Yemen continues to intensify. This article by Aleesha Matharu from the Wire  website explains the nature of the most recent developments in the context of its history. Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.

New Delhi: The Baha’i community in Yemen is once again stuck in a fresh nightmare – on September 15, 24 Baha’i’s were indicted at a court hearing in the Houthi-controlled capital, Sana’a.

The pattern is familiar and the charges – ranging from espionage (being agents of the UK, the US or Israel) to apostasy – as absurd and irrational as they have been in the past. Not surprisingly, at the time of the hearing, only the judge, prosecutor and other court officials were present. The Baha’is being charged were not told about the session in court, nor were their lawyers informed.

Among those being charged are a teenage girl and eight women. Many of those who have been locked up hold leadership positions in the Baha’i community in Yemen.

The next hearing is scheduled for September 29. The charges are punishable by death.

“We are seeing trumped up charges and flagrantly unfair proceedings used to persecute Yemeni Baha’is for their faith,” said Lynn Maalouf, head of Middle East research at Amnesty. “It is particularly abhorrent that some of these men and women could face the death penalty for their conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities.” Maalouf said, calling for their immediate release.

“The charges are extremely alarming and mark a severe intensification of pressure at a time when the community is already being threatened and the general humanitarian crisis in the country requires urgent attention,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN.

“We have every reason to be concerned about the safety of the Baha’i community in Yemen. We urge the international community to call upon the authorities in Sana’a to immediately drop these absurd, false and baseless accusations against these innocent individuals who have been maliciously charged simply because they have been practising their Faith,” Dugal said.

In January, when Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara was sentenced to public execution by the specialised criminal court in Sana’a, he too was not allowed to defend himself against the charges that had been hoisted on him, which ranged from “insulting Islam” to “apostasy” and urging Muslims to “embrace the Baha’i religion”. At present, he is among six other Baha’is who have been in jail for more than a year. According to reports, the official charges against some of the current prisoners include ‘showing kindness to the poor’ and ‘displaying good behaviour’.

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At last some good news after so many years of prolonged injustice. Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.

Mahvash Sabet, one of seven members of the former leadership group for Iran’s Baha’i community, was released on the afternoon of Monday, September 18 after serving 10 years in prison. Sabet and six other members of the group known as “the Yaran,” or “the friends,” were arrested in early 2008. Sabet is the first of the group to be released.

Mahvash Sabet was summoned to answer questions in March 2008 and arrested soon after. She was taken to the intelligence ministry’s detention center in Mashhad and kept there for two months and three weeks, although she was occasionally sent to Vakilabad Prison because, according to prison officials, no female guards were on duty at night.

She spent two and half years in solitary confinement, and altogether served time in seven security and general prison wards.

Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Sabet was a school teacher and a school principal and worked with Iran’s National Literacy Campaign. After the revolution, like many other Baha’is, she was expelled from teaching. The Baha’is set up the ad-hoc leadership group the Yaran after the new Islamic government banned Baha’i formal institutions.

Her love for education led her to establish, along with a group of other Baha’is, the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in 1987. As she told IranWire, she was charged with “espionage for hostile governments” and “forming an illegal group” as punishment.

“I did not expect prison,” she told IranWire after her release, “but they arrested me without a warrant. I thought I was to answer questions as the secretary of the Yaran. Instead I was arrested and interrogated every day at the intelligence ministry’s detention center. After that I was transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison and the interrogations started all over again. I went through three periods of intense interrogations each time that I was transferred, and spent the first two and a half years in a closed-door cell. I was in solitary for seven months before Fariba Kamalabadi [another Baha’i leader] was transferred to my cell.”

Two and a half years in a closed cell had damaging psychological and physical consequences. Sabet suffered from osteoporosis even before her arrest, and was denied medical attention in jail. When she did finally get medical attention the doctor suspected that her pelvis had been fractured. She was sent to a hospital under security measures and was hospitalized for 15 days. “They found out that it was not fractured after all,” she says, “but I had problems because I was kept in a closed cell. They gave me some medical attention.”

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Echoing the theme of the poems that were published in honour of the seven Bahá’í prisoners, the Bahá’í Teachings website is running a sequence concerning the ten women executed in Iran in 1983. Below is a short extract from one such post: for the full article see link

All ten of the Baha’i women who willingly sacrificed their lives for their beliefs anticipated the providence that awaited them.

Today, let’s meet another of these shining lights. Cheerful and loveable, Simin Sabiri was born into a large family with eleven children. Only 24 when she wore the necklace of rope that freed her spirit, she was the youngest of five children from her father’s second marriage. Simin had six step-siblings from his first marriage, which ended with the untimely passing of his wife. Simin’s father, who came from a Muslim background, and her mother from a Jewish one, found a common faith as Baha’is.

Simin studied at secretarial college and then found work with an agricultural firm. But she and her family had to flee when, in November of 1978, many Baha’is were forced from their homes by marauding mobs seeking to drive them out. Relatives managed to make room for Shirin’s big family.

Simin’s arrest came on October 26, 1982. Like all the others, she had done nothing to deserve her imprisonment—other than being a Baha’i and believing in the oneness of humanity.

Fearless in front of her interrogators, she was outspoken about her Baha’i activities and dared to lecture them about the validity of the teachings of Baha’u’llah. In jail she was known to be strong and resilient and never to have expressed sadness. Her strength amazed her fellow prisoners.

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Mona Mahmudnizhad

Echoing the theme of the poems being published currently in honour of the seven Bahá’í prisoners, the Bahá’í Teachings website is running a sequence concerning the ten women executed in Iran in 1983. Below is a short extract from one such post: for the full article see link

She was vivacious. She was joyous. She was focused. She dreamed of becoming a doctor. She was a 17-year old high school student. They hanged her.

She was Iranian, but she was first and foremost a Baha’i. She was devoted to God and to her Faith. She loved children; she taught Baha’i children’s classes. She was bold and audacious. She was named Mona—Mona Mahmudnizhad. Her name will never be forgotten.

It may seem odd, but when I think of Mona, the lyrics of a Beatles’ tune runs through my head:

Well, she was just 17. You know what I mean. And the way she looked was way beyond compare. – The Beatles, I Saw Her Standing There.

It’s just a love song about a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman, you might think. Instead, though, it can be about an inspiration—and those she inspires.

On the 23rd of October 1982, when the Revolutionary Guards came to her home to arrest her, “Well, she was just 17.” She was a young woman whose crime had been to teach children’s classes to young Baha’is who were not then allowed to attend school. It seems unfathomable. “You know what I mean.”

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Shahin (Shirin) Dalvand

Echoing the theme of the poems being published currently in honour of the seven Bahá’í prisoners, the Bahá’í Teachings website is running a sequence concerning the ten women executed in Iran in 1983. Below is a short extract from one such post: for the full article see link

All ten of the Baha’i women who willingly sacrificed their lives for their beliefs anticipated the providence that awaited them.

Shahin Dalvand, called Shirin, was only 25 years old, like Akhtar Sabet who we met in the last essay in this series. She had earned a graduate degree in sociology from the University of Shiraz—and Shirin’s excellent scholarship was at such a high level that, despite knowing she was a Baha’i, some professors dared to quote from her thesis.

Shirin loved flowers, and when she was free a single blossom or a green leaf could always be found in her room. She also loved the ocean and visited the beach as often as possible.

Her family lived in England, and repeatedly entreated her to leave Iran and its attendant danger for Baha’is and join them. Despite that awareness and the knowledge that she could be free of the prejudice and persecution in her home country, Shirin chose to remain with her grandparents in Shiraz in order to continue her services to the Baha’i community. Her thoughtfulness extended to the families of Baha’i prisoners, as well as those who had already been executed. She made every effort to visit all of them often.

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The plight of the seven imprisoned Bahá’í ‘leaders’ continues. So does the campaign to secure their release. The latest development in the UK  is described at this link.

As the ‘Yaran’, the seven Baha’is in Iran who have been unlawfully imprisoned since 2008, enter their ninth year of incarceration, a campaign all over the world has begun, bringing attention to the plight of these friends and calling for their immediate release. From India to the United States to South Africa to the United Kingdom, the hashtags #ReleaseBahai7Now and #NotAnotherYear are being used across social media to highlight the efforts made.

This year much focus has been given to the ‘years missed’, reflecting on the fact that “…during these nine years, the seven have endured awful conditions that are common in Iranian prisons. In human terms, they have also missed out on the numerous day-to-day joys – and sorrows – that make life sweet and precious” (Baha’i International Community).

In the UK, in response to this campaign, various artists have come together to participate in the ‘Prison Poems Project’, a series of short film clips that give voice to the poems of Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven prisoners.

Over the next few weeks, a poem will be recited once a day by a different artist.

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The plight of the seven imprisoned Bahá’í ‘leaders’ continues. So does the campaign to secure their release. The latest development in the UK  is described at this link.

As the ‘Yaran’, the seven Baha’is in Iran who have been unlawfully imprisoned since 2008, enter their ninth year of incarceration, a campaign all over the world has begun, bringing attention to the plight of these friends and calling for their immediate release. From India to the United States to South Africa to the United Kingdom, the hashtags #ReleaseBahai7Now and #NotAnotherYear are being used across social media to highlight the efforts made.

This year much focus has been given to the ‘years missed’, reflecting on the fact that “…during these nine years, the seven have endured awful conditions that are common in Iranian prisons. In human terms, they have also missed out on the numerous day-to-day joys – and sorrows – that make life sweet and precious” (Baha’i International Community).

In the UK, in response to this campaign, various artists have come together to participate in the ‘Prison Poems Project’, a series of short film clips that give voice to the poems of Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven prisoners.

Over the next few weeks, a poem will be recited once a day by a different artist.

Read Full Post »

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