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Local community highlight persecution in Iran

17 November 2008

Local community highlight severe persecution in Iran

Wellington’s local Baha’i community is hosting a public forum on Thursday to highlight the persecution of members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.

Baha’i persecution by the Iranian government has been severe over the last two decades. The Iranian government has ordered Baha’is to be prohibited from attending university in Iran, and the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to the Baha’i Faith.

Greg Zemke-Smith, vice chairperson of the Wellington Baha’i local spiritual assembly, said, “The forum aims to raise awareness especially of the denial of education of Baha’is in Iran. Baha’is have always been amongst the most educated in Iran, and the Iranian government intends to undermine the strength of the community. Wellington Baha’is intend to put an end to this systematic denial of basic human rights, and we’d love any help and ideas”.

Three Baha’i youth were also incarcerated in November 2007 and sentenced to four years imprisonment. They were part of a group of young Baha’is and Muslims engaged in humanitarian projects to promote literacy and moral empowerment for underprivileged youth in Iran. After their imprisonment, the Iranian government itself conducted an investigation, and cleared the three Baha’i youth of any wrongdoing. Yet the youths have not been released. Two young women are understood to be in solitary confinement. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently indicated they will see what steps can be taken to counteract this injustice.

In February 2008, the European Union expressed its “serious concern...(at the) ongoing systematic discrimination and harassment of Baha'is in Iran, including the expulsion of university and high school students, restrictions on employment and anti-Baha'i propaganda campaigns in the Iranian media.” The United Nations has added its voice and condemned Iran’s actions, issuing more than 56 pronouncements criticising the execution and imprisonment of Baha’is by the Iranian government.

The Wellington public forum is on Thursday 20 November 2008, 12.30-1.30pm, in the James Smith Building meeting room, Level 2, Cnr of Manners and Cuba Sts, Wellington. The forum will include firsthand accounts of persecution and imprisonment by local Iranian Baha’is.

Background Information

- The Baha'i Faith is an independent world religion, committed to world unity, justice and peace.

- Baha’is in Iran are being denied basic human rights, notably the right to education. This situation has been likened to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany in the early 1900s. Baha’is, like the Jews, are experiencing a systematic persecution and slow withdrawal of human rights; with the intention of exterminating the Baha’i faith in Iran.

- Baha’i persecution in Iran has been severe over the last two decades. The Iranian government’s recent actions are ominously similar to episodes in the 1980s, when Iranian Baha’i leaders were summarily rounded up and killed; Baha’is had their homes burnt and were denied work and education.

- Since 1980, 56 United Nations resolutions have condemned the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and called upon the Iranian government to abide by the international covenants on human rights that the government had freely signed. But still the situation persists.

- Many Baha’is have fled Iran to escape persecution, some settling in New Zealand. The Baha’i community in New Zealand is over 3000 strong, with a mix of Persian, Maori, Pacific and European New Zealanders.

For more information on the Baha'i Faith see www.bahai.org


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