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U.S. Blasts Iran Over Baha’i Trial

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. State Department lambasted Iran on Monday (Jan. 11) for deciding to try seven members of the Baha’i Faith on charges of spying for Israel, and called on Iran to release all religious minorities imprisoned because of their faith.
“The United States strongly condemns the Iranian government’s decision to commence the espionage trial against seven leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community,” Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said in a statement.
Crowley said the seven Baha’is have been imprisoned for 20 months, with no public evidence presented against them and little access to legal counsel. Reports indicate as many as 48 Baha’is are currently imprisoned in Iran, Crowley said.
The trial began Tuesday. Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i Faith’s United Nations representative, told Baha’i World News Service that no observers were allowed in court.
“We are deeply concerned about Iran’s ongoing persecution of Baha’is and treatment of other members of religious minorities who continue to be targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs,” Crowley said.
Six of the seven Baha’i detainees were arrested in their Tehran homes in May 2008; the other was arrested in March of that year. All seven have been held in prison ever since. Iranian authorities have charged them with espionage and “corruption on earth,” an Islamic term for crimes punishable by death in Iran, according to The Associated Press.
The Baha’i Faith, which was founded in 1860 by a Persian aristocrat, counts some 5 million members worldwide. It has been banned in Iran since 1979, when Islamic clerics seized power.
The U.S. Commission on International Freedom, an independent watchdog group appointed by Congress and the White House, also said it is “extremely concerned about the fate of the seven Baha’is.”
“It appears that the Iranian government has already predetermined the outcome,” said USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo, “and is once again using its courts as an instrument of religious persecution.”
— Daniel Burke
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • TY

    The persecution of this religious minority is nothing new. In the mid 19th century some 40,000 Baha’is (then called Babi’s) were tortured to death. This was well documented in European journals of the day and etchings of these torture sessions were published along with the articles.
    This persecution has taken place regardless of regime. In the 1950’s the government demolished the Baha’i national house of worship in Tehran. The revolution in the late ’70s saw a renewal of this. Any government worker who was identified as a Baha’i was fired and commanded to pay back every penny in salary. Baha’i students are expelled from schools and universities. If Baha’is do marry, the marriages are not recognized and the couple are condemned as being immoral.
    Over the past decades the victims of execution and murder by mobs fronted by government agents have included the elderly (one of whom was burned alive) and teenage girls guilty of teaching children’s sunday school classes (hung in the middle of the night). Their holy places have been demolished. They have destroyed Baha’i cemeteries and scattered the remains on the ground.
    Despite this, they Baha’is have clung to their fundamental scriptural principle, which include obedience to the government (including the dissolution of all administrative bodies at the command of the government), non-participation in political demonstrations or political parties, the rejection of violence.
    The seven on trial have been denied legal counsel (even their lawyer – who is not a Baha’i was arrested). Everything is kept away from the media. If the government is so certain that what they are doing is praiseworthy in the eyes of God, why is this so?
    One day things will be different. The light of truth will illuminate the darkness, the forbearance of this persecuted minority will become known, and the shame of the injustices perpetrated by the unenlightened antagonists will wilt the hearts of the oppressors.
    We should pray for these and all other oppressed peoples, whatever their faith, nationality or ethnicity.

  • Alexander M Zoltai

    The twin dates of “founding” for the Baha’i faith are 1844 and 1863…
    Also, calling Baha’u’llah a Persian aristocrat is a bit off the mark:
    His father was a noted member of the government’s structure and His family was well-endowed but Baha’u’llah Himself took no part in activities for the government even though many expected Him to become involved and he had all His inherited riches confiscated by government and clergy…

  • nnmns

    “the seven Baha’is have been imprisoned for 20 months, with no public evidence presented against them and little access to legal counsel”
    Before George Bush and his Republican administration we could point to something like this from a position of honor because we didn’t do it. Now half the world probably laughs out loud at the US trying to accuse someone else of doing that because they know we do it, too. That’s just one of the very many ways Bush and his Republican Administration have hurt America.
    My sympathies go out to the Bahais. It’s my understanding they suffer a lot for their religion, which is a relatively positive one.

  • demise

    This reminds me very much of the large scale attempts to eradicate the Baha’is in Iran that took place in the 80s. If the Iranian government is allowed to sentence these 7 people to death based on their religious beliefs, then I am fearful of the fall-out that will ensue. We are so fortunate to have religious freedom here in the United States.

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