Nobel laureates call for release of Iranian Baha’i prisoners

June 30, 2008

NEW YORK, United States — Six Nobel Peace Prize laureates have issued a statement calling on the Iranian government to free immediately seven prominent Iranian Baha’is imprisoned in Tehran.

The six Nobel winners, under the banner of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, called on the Iranian government to guarantee the safety of the Baha’is –- being held in Evin Prison with no formal charges and no access to lawyers -- and to grant them an unconditional release.

“We are thankful to these internationally prominent activists for calling publicly for the release of our fellow Baha’is, who are detained for no reason other than their religion,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

The Nobel laureates supporting the statement are:

-- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, founders of the Peace People in Northern Ireland and winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976;

-- Rigoberta Menchu Tum, a leading advocate of ethno-cultural reconciliation in her native Guatemala and Nobel winner in 1992;

-- Professor Jody Williams, international campaigner for the banning of land mines, winner in 1997;

-- Iranian human rights lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi, winner in 2003;

-- Kenyan environmental activist Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, Nobel winner in 2004.

Their statement, issued on the letterhead of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, reads:

“We note with concern the news of the arrest of six prominent Baha’is in Iran on 14 May 2008. We note that Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm are members of the informal group known as the Friends in Iran that coordinates the activities of the Baha’i community in Iran; we further note that another member of the Friends in Iran, Mrs Mahvash Sabet, has been held in custody since 5 March 2008; we register our deepest concern at the mounting threats and persecution of the Iranian Baha’i community.

“We call on the Iranian Government to guarantee the safety of these individuals (and) grant their immediate unconditional release.”

The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by the six women laureates - representing North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa – to contribute to building peace by working together with women around the world. Only 12 women have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Women’s Initiative maintains an office in Ottawa, Canada.