Candle-Lit Vigil for Prisoners of Conscience in Iran
Candle-Lit Vigil on 18 June 2013 to Pay Tribute to 10 Heroic Women And in Support of All Prisoners of Conscience in Iran
Hundreds are expected to gather in Aotea Square on Tuesday 18 June to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the hanging of 10 Baha’i women in Shiraz, Iran, in 1983. “We will be paying tribute to the heroism of these women who were killed for teaching religious classes to Bahá'í children,” says co-ordinator, Maxine Chan. “They were equivalent of Sunday School teachers in the West.”
For their membership of the Baha’i Faith (the largest religious minority in Iran) the women were interrogated and tortured in the months leading up to their execution. They were aged between 17 and 57 years, and included two teenagers. Ms Chan explains that “the youngest of the group was Mona Mahmudnizhad, a 17-year-old schoolgirl who, because of her youth and extraordinary courage became a symbol of the group. In prison, she was lashed on the soles of her feet with a cable and forced to walk with bleeding feet. The authorities did their utmost to force her to recant her faith as a Bahá'í, but she was steadfast to the end.”
Mona's story has been the subject of several art works, and a music video Mona with the Children by Doug Cameron. The video was a Canadian hit in the mid 80s, and was effective in bringing the human rights situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran to the attention of the public.
Ms Chan said the women had considered it their duty to teach Bahá'í religious classes, especially after the government had barred Bahá'í children from attending regular school. “The denial of education to Iran's largest religious minority is a grave, ongoing concern. Continuing pressure exerted by the United Nations, international human rights agencies and world leaders is essential if the Bahá’í community is ever to regain access to education, employment, freedom of expression and a range of other human rights of which they have been deprived for many years.”
A campaign to raise awareness of the systematic cradle-to-grave state-sponsored persecution of Baha'is of Iran is being launched in Auckland in August.
Meanwhile, human rights organisations and concerned individuals will join the Baha'is at Tuesday's candle-lit vigil, starting 5.30pm to remember these 10 heroic women and in support of all other prisoners of conscience in Iran.