Open letter speaks out for the rights of all Iranians

7 December 2010

— In an open letter to the head of Iran's Judiciary, the Baha'i International Community today contrasted the country's persecution of Baha'is with Iran's own call for Muslim minorities to be treated fairly in other countries.

"We...request that the Baha'is in that country be granted their full rights of citizenship, in order that they may be able to fulfill their heartfelt aspiration to contribute, alongside their fellow citizens, to the advancement of their nation," says the letter.

"This, indeed, is no more than what you rightfully ask for Muslim minorities who reside in other lands. Baha'is merely seek the same treatment from you," the Baha'i International Community states.

Respecting the rights of Iranian Baha'is now would "signal a willingness to respect the rights of all the citizens of your country," the letter says.

The document, dated 7 December and addressed to Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq Larijani, states that the injustices meted out on Iran's Baha'i citizens are a "reflection of the terrible oppression that has engulfed the nation." Redressing the wrongs suffered by the Baha'is would "bring hope to the hearts of all Iranians that you are ready to ensure justice for everyone."

"Our call, then, is in reality a call for respect of the rights of all the Iranian people," the Baha'i International Community says.

"How can a just society, or a just world, be built on a foundation of irrational oppression and the systematic denial of basic human rights to any minority? Everything your country overtly professes to seek on the world stage is contradicted by your treatment of your own people at home."

Read the full letter in English

Read the full letter in Persian

"Reprehensible measures"

The letter catalogs in detail the "many reprehensible measures" resorted to by officials during the detention, trial, sentencing and appeal, of the seven Baha'i leaders, who formerly served as the members of a national-level group that – with the Iranian government's knowledge – helped see to the minimum spiritual needs of the Baha'is of Iran.

The seven were accused of propaganda activities against the Islamic order and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations. All the charges were categorically denied.

The letter charts how the prosecutors at the trial of the seven were “ultimately unable to present any credible evidence in support of their claims.” The trial, it observes, "was so devoid of the impartiality that must characterize judicial proceedings as to render the process a complete mockery." "How was it," the letter asks in this respect, "that the verdict issued by the judges could refer to the religion of the defendants as a ‘misguided sect’?”

"...[W]hat is now starkly visible to all is the willingness of the authorities to trample the very standards of justice they are mandated to uphold on behalf of the peoples of Iran," the open letter states.

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations says that there was never any foundation to the charges that the seven had acted against the interest of Iran.

"To add to this manifest injustice, the judiciary has not yet formalized the appeal verdict," says Ms. Dugal, "thus depriving the prisoners of the right to seek bail or to be granted leave from prison."

"In defiance of all reason, the prisoners are now in the third year of what is still termed a ‘temporary’ detention," she says.

Appalling conditions

After receiving their sentence, the seven Baha'i leaders – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – were moved from Evin Prison to Gohardasht prison in Karaj.

"They are now effectively placed in exile in contravention of Iran's statutes governing the transfer of prison inmates," says Bani Dugal. "Amongst other indignities, they are forced to endure appalling filth, pestilence, exposure to disease, and quarters so crammed that it is difficult for them to lie down or even to perform their daily prayers."

"It is clear from recent reports that their health has deteriorated and they have no access to adequate medical treatments," she says.

Reports of the trial and sentencing of the seven provoked a chorus of condemnation from governments around the world. The European Union and the President of the European Parliament also joined the protest, along with prominent religious leaders, numerous human rights organizations, and countless other groups and individuals.

"We join with governments and well-meaning people throughout the world, as we call upon Iran's Head of the Judiciary to immediately set these seven innocent Baha'is – and, along with them, all of the Baha'is incarcerated across the country – free," says Ms. Dugal.

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