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Government Supports Human Rights Resolution

11 November 2008

Government Supports Human Rights Resolution

The director of the Middle East and Africa Division at the Ministry of Trade Affairs and Trade, Darryl Dunn, has indicated that the Government will follow up with the New Zealand Embassy in Tehran to see what steps can be taken to counteract an injustice perpetrated against three Bahá'í youth in Shiraz. The youth were incarcerated in November 2007 and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Adrienne Jervis, spokesperson for the New Zealand Bahá'í community said the youth were part of a group of 54 young Bahá'ís and a number of Muslim friends who, since 2004, had been engaged in a series of humanitarian projects to promote literacy and moral empowerment among underprivileged youth, mostly in poor neighbourhoods.

"In 2006 government agents rounded the group up and accused the Bahá'ís of using this social service project as a guise for the indirect teaching of the Bahá'í Faith. While their Muslim colleagues and one Bahá'í were released immediately, 53 Bahá'ís were held for varying periods. All but three were later released, many of them having paid large sums for bail."

Mrs Jervis said it has since come to light that the Office of the Representative of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the province of Fars undertook an investigation into the activities of the Bahá'í youth in Shiraz. A report, dated 16 June 2008 and published online in October by the Human Rights Activists in Iran, confirmed what the Bahá'ís have stated all along: that their activities were strictly humanitarian in nature.

"The report not only completely vindicates the Bahá'ís of any wrongdoing, but is actually complimentary about the educational methods they employed."

Though cleared of any wrongdoing the youth have not been released. Two young women are understood to be in solitary confinement.

Mr Dunn has confirmed that the Government will follow up with the New Zealand Embassy in Tehran and see if something can be done. He said, "We have raised Iran's treatment of religious minorities in the United Nations General Assembly in New York and are, as usual, actively co-sponsoring the Canadian resolution on human rights in Iran."

ENDS

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