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Posts Tagged ‘Persecution’

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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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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lavasani-278x300Yesterday a moving piece was posted on Iran Press Watch by Masoud Lavasani, a journalist now living in Turkey. Below is an extract: for the full post see link.

I was six or seven years old, walking with my father and mother along the winding alley of the “Imamzadeh Yahya” neighborhood to my Grandfather’s house. A narrow street with a small stream in the center, which passes by “Pesteh-Bak” outdoor market place with a ceiling and the smell of fresh baked sheermal bread was so inviting.

Just before the alley to get to my grandfather’s house was an old public bath with ten to twenty steps down to a basement, where scenes from the movie “Qeysar” were shot at that location, directed by Masoud Kimiai. Also there was a small mosque, which was modest relative in those years. An old mullah was performing his daily obligatory prayers there. He was a popular man in the realm of my childhood, with his tall white beard and black turban full of dignity, though he seemed unreachable.

People were saying that this mullah had forced some Baha’i families to recant their faith and become Muslim in the heat of the Islamic revolution in 1979.

My first encounter with this word (Baha’i) was at the same age. When I got older, I once went to a sandwich shop,  I saw written on the windows: “This deli is owned by religious minorities”. I asked my father, “What is a religious minority?” He said: “Christians’, Jews and Baha’is live amongst the Shi’ite majority. I asked my father about the Baha’is. He explained that unlike the Shi’ites, they believe that Imam Mahdi has emerged, and then he told me the story about his contact with Baha’is.

Before the revolution, my father had  a Baha’i friend, who was born into a Shi’ite family. However, he was curious about the Baha’i faith and asked his friend about his faith and their religious traditions. My father told me that it was very strange having a Baha’i friend in his family, especially as he had been unaware of what Baha’is were before. Even before the revolution, a lot of negative propaganda had been promulgated against Baha’is. Among these illiterate and ignorant people, a common belief was that Baha’is do not forbid marriage between brother and sister.

My father heard from his friend about some of the traditions and beliefs of the Baha’i religion, but most of all he was attracted to the idea that Baha’is don’t tell lies.

Although my father was showing me his perception through the eyes of a Shi’ite Muslim, I understood it was coming from a caring, humanitarian viewpoint that no Bahai’s would tell a lie.

That’s why I always ignored the anti-Baha’i propaganda.

Years passed by, and I never had to deal with any Baha’i, until in 2009 circumstances threw me into a corner where I met some of them. I first became acquainted with a Baha’i, Peyman Kashfi, in section 350 of Evin prison; he was a few years older than me. Engineering graduate (if I am not mistaken) from the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). Because he was a Baha’i, he was denied entry to any regular University. He was arrested for holding a religious ceremony and imprisoned with a heavy sentence. Once Peyman was brought in, I heard from the inmates that he was a Baha’i. His presence didn’t phase me, but only because I had never encountered any Baha’i until that day.

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Trucks line up to demolish the Bahá'í cemetery in Shiraz, Iran.

Trucks line up to demolish the Bahá’í cemetery in Shiraz, Iran.

Yesterday’s Guardian featured a piece on the latest in a long series of outrages against the Bahá’ís by the Iranian government. Below is an extract: for the full post see link.

Britain has expressed serious concerns about the ongoing destruction of a historic cemetery in southern Iran, where members of the country’s most persecuted religious minority are buried.

Iran’s elite revolutionary guards have begun demolishing the Bahá’í cemetery in Shiraz, in the southern province of Fars, which is seen as an attempt to delete a dark episode from the history of mistreating Bahá’ís in the Islamic republic.

The Bahá’í faith, which accepts all religions as having valid origins, was founded in Iran in the 19th century by its prophet, Bahá’u’lláh. There are about 300,000 Bahá’ís believed to be living in Iran, and about 6 million worldwide.

At least 219 Bahá’í in Iran were executed because of their religious allegiance after the 1979 Islamic revolution, and some are believed to have been buried in Shiraz. Many were put to death because they refused to recant their faith. Nearly 200 square metres have been excavated and 50 lorries lined up to remove material, but it was not clear on Thursday whether Iranian forces had reached the point of unearthing tombs. In Persian, Bahá’ís refer to the cemetery as Golestan-e-Javid (eternal garden).

Britain’s Foreign Office urged the Iranian authorities this week to stop the destruction and release seven leaders of the Bahá’í faith who have been imprisoned in Iran for the past six years, each serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The Foreign Office’s minister for the Middle East, Hugh Robertson, said: “Six years ago today, seven leaders of the Bahá’í faith in Iran were imprisoned for 20 years each for practising their religion. I call on the Iranian authorities to release them as a matter of urgency. I was also deeply concerned to learn of the recent reports of the desecration of a Bahá’í cemetery in Shiraz, where approximately 950 Bahá’ís are buried.”

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An Iranian woman stands in front of a Pa

Two days ago the Huffington Post published a profoundly moving article by Payyam Akhavan on the suffering of people in Iran. Below is an extract: for the full article see link.

What does this reality of suffering mean for the future of Iran? Where is its promise and power in the face of hatred and violence? The answer comes from the simple voice of a grieving mother that has lost her children. The Mothers of Khavaran, the Mothers of Laleh Park, remind us of a different conception of power, like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who demanded answers from the Argentine military dictatorship for their “disappeared” children. What power can stand in the way of a mourning mother?

Consider the story of Esmat Vatanparast. She was one of the approximately 100 witnesses before the Iran People’s Tribunal — an unprecedented truth commission held in London and The Hague in 2012, at the request of the Mothers of Khavaran. Its purpose was to ensure that the stories of the victims could be told to the Iranian nation and to the world so we learn from the past and build a better future.

There was one moment when all understood the power of empathy to heal us as a nation. As Mother Esmat told the unspeakably terrible story of the many family members she had lost in the mass-executions of 1988, tears streamed from her eyes. Almost everybody in the large audience was crying along with her — green reformists,  monarchists, leftists, nationalists, Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Baha’is, and so on. The entire Iranian nation was represented in that room and and all were feeling the pain of Mother Esmat. Nobody asked if her 11-year-old nephew, who was hanged together with his father, was of this or that ideology or religion.

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