Human rights abuses in Iran focus of global campaigns

24 May 2010

— A global day of action demanding an end to human rights abuses in Iran has been called for Saturday, 12 June.

The initiative – coordinated by human rights group United4Iran – is being cosponsored by numerous organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women's Initiative, the Baha'i International Community, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, FIDH (Federation Internationale des ligues des Droits de l'Homme), and Pen International.

"In our support for this nonpartisan initiative, we are standing together with ordinary citizens throughout the world to draw attention to the continuing and widespread abuse of human rights in Iran," said Diane Ala'i, representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

The prominent nongovernmental organizations are joining with a wide range of local, student and Internet-based groups to host simultaneous events in cities and on campuses around the globe. Online initiatives include sending messages to specific recipients in support of individual prisoners of conscience. The campaign website can be visited here.

An "overwhelming" response

Earlier this month, United4Iran marked the second anniversary – on 14 May – of the jailing of seven Baha'i leaders in Tehran's Evin prison, calling for individuals to show support by replicating the size of the small jail cells and taking a photograph.

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  • Supporters of the United4Iran campaign on 14 May outlined the cramped dimensions of the cells of the seven Baha'i leaders in Tehran's Evin prison. This photograph… »

  • One of the imprisoned Baha'i leaders, Fariba Kamalabadi, left, is pictured with a former student. This old photograph was sent by the student to the United4Iran… »

"The response was overwhelming," reported the United4Iran website. "Notes, emails, video, old photographs of the leaders, former students, (and) community representatives from all the world participated."

As a gesture of solidarity, supporters were asked to mark off the size of the cells shared by the Baha'i prisoners then occupy the space, so as to better appreciate their suffering.

The cells of the Baha'is in Evin prison do not have beds, forcing the prisoners to sleep on the concrete floor.

A video was posted online to show some of the photos the organization received. View the video here.

United4Iran also published an old photograph of one of the jailed Baha'is, Fariba Kamalabadi, with one of her former students. The student sent the picture to United4Iran along with words from a letter she wrote to her teacher: "Now that you are in prison ... for making the world a better place, ... it brings tears to my eyes. And all I can do is pray. The things you taught me I will always know."

"We are grateful for this outpouring of sympathy being offered to the people of Iran who are subject to oppression," said Ms. Ala'i.

The website of United4Iran can be viewed here.

Other initiatives

Several other organizations have recently launched campaigns in support of Iran's oppressed Baha'i community.

The latest newsletter of the French branch of the organization Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France) includes a call for action in support of the seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders, as well as 12 other Baha'is who have been recently detained.

On 14 March, Amnesty International requested messages of goodwill be sent to prisoners of conscience in Iran in order to mark the traditional Persian new year holiday.

The detained leaders of Iran's Baha'i community were included among seven cases selected by Amnesty International.

To date, almost 600 messages have been received for the Baha'i prisoners – both individually and collectively – from as far afield as Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United States. More details of Amnesty International's campaign can be found here.

The seven Baha'i leaders jailed in Tehran for the past two years are among about 36 Baha'is currently imprisoned in Iran because of their religion.

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