Parliament of the World's Religions
Preface from Parliament Executive Director Dr.
Parliament of the World’s Religions is committed to cultivating harmony among
religious and spiritual communities across the globe. That, in turn, demands
that we stand and speak against actions that contribute to the conflict,
disrespect, and oppression of faith communities throughout the world.
observe the 8th anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders
and the oppression inflicted on other members of the Baha’i community in Iran,
the following statement expresses our dismay that these conditions continue to
exist and conveys our encouragement for actions that will bring an end to this
kind of abuse in Iran and anywhere it occurs across the globe.
of the World’s Religions
Seven Mark Eight Years Behind Bars in Iran
marks the eighth year of imprisonment for seven Baha’i leaders in Iran.
during their first four months in prison, the seven leaders were held in
solitary confinement and denied meaningful access to their lawyers. After a
series of short, closed-door sessions in 2010, they were formally charged with
espionage, propaganda activities, and corruption on earth, among other related
Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who was one of the lawyers for the seven, stated that
there was no evidence to sustain any of the charges against them. Nonetheless,
each of them was sentenced to twenty years in prison – the longest sentences of
any prisoner of conscience in Iran today. In the last few months, those
sentences have reportedly been reduced to ten years with the application of
provisions of Iran’s new penal code issued in 2013. Nevertheless, even one day
more behind bars is a gross injustice. Independent observers around the world,
recognizing their innocence, have advocated for the seven leaders’ immediate
release. Yet they remain behind bars.
treatment of these leaders is indicative of the widespread, systematic
repression of Baha’is in Iran, stemming from the highest ranks of Iran’s
clerical and political establishment. In the last two years, hate speech and
anti-Baha’i propaganda have risen to disturbingly high levels from an average
of 22 anti-Baha’i articles per month in 2010 and 2011 in the state-controlled
media to 340 on average in 2014 and 2015. Baha’i youth are barred from the country’s
system of higher education and eight Baha’i educators remain behind bars for
daring to provide tertiary education to them. Harassment by police, cemetery
and property destruction, job loss, and business closure are some of the harsh
tactics used against this peaceful and law-abiding community.
heartening that in December 2015 and March 2016 respectively the U.N. General
Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted these abuses in their
respective resolution and report on human rights in Iran, which included not
only Baha’is but also the persecution of journalists, advocates of women’s
rights, lawyers, and political dissidents as well as ethnic and other religious
minorities. The diverse faith communities around the world would do well to
urge their political leaders not to waiver in their pursuit of human rights in
Iran. Improvement in this area is a moral imperative and would be the most
solid foundation for improved relations with the West as well as between the
government of Iran and its own citizens.