Series on the Bahá’í Faith Part 1: Bahá’ís in Iran

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Twice a month, Ahva Afnani and I will be posting articles about the Bahá’í Faith here. We are members of the Bahá’í Community of the United States that has in total over 200,000 members. The Bahá’í Faith is a peaceful religion whose major principle is unity. Its history started in Iran in the 19th century. Bahá’ís constitute the largest religious minority in Iran,and one that is intensely persecuted by the Iranian regime. Bahá’ís are routinely denied higher education and public service jobs, their property isfrequently confiscated, and sometimes they are even prevented from burying their dead.

Two years ago, seven leaders of the Iranian Bahá’í community, Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, M. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, were arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.

The two women and five men are kept in tiny cells without beds. Roxana Saberi, the American journalist who was held in the Evin prison last year shared the prison cell with the two women and frequently mentions how the Bahá’í leaders inspired her and gave her support during her time in prison.

The seven leaders, collectively known as the Yaran (Friends) have been denied access to their lawyer, and their court hearings keep getting rescheduled. Their first court session was held on January 12, 2010 (it was first scheduled for July 11, 2009). They were accused of espionage, propaganda, and spreading “corruption on earth.” Some of these charges carry the death penalty. Their latest court session that was scheduled in April was suspended without announcement of a new trial date.

As the Yaran enter their third year of imprisonment, Bahá’ís around the world have been organizing prayer meetings in their support. Bahá’ís and their friends have also been working with their government representatives to raise their voices in whichever legal way they can to support the prisoners as well as all their fellow believers in Iran who are suffering oppression on a daily basis there. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran on October 22, 2009, and the U.S. Senate passed a concurrent resolution S.RES.71 on December 1, 2009.

You can learn about the condition of Bahá’ís in Iran at the website run by the US Bahá’í community, and at Iran Press Watch, a volunteer organization collecting reports from Iranian and world media. We are honored to contribute to the Tiferet Journal. Our future articles will deal with the teachings and history of the Bahá’í Faith. We hope that our posts will inspire discussion, and we would like to encourage any questions or comments you may have.

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