Human Rights Day in Germany puts spotlight on Iran

December 9, 2009
A member of the People’s Theater gestures as the group performs for Human Rights Day at the National Baha’i Center in Germany. The troupe often gives presentations for young people, demonstrating ways to cope with conflict in schools.

LANGENHAIN, Germany — Youth from a drama troupe joined with local dignitaries this week to address themes of exclusion and prejudice as they commemorated Human Rights Day with the Baha'i community of Germany.

The program took place at the Baha'i National Center, on the grounds of the European Baha'i House of Worship, with more than 200 people in attendance.

The performance by the People's Theater, a youth project in the city of Offenbach, took a look at relationships between native Germans and immigrants, while other parts of the program focused on the situation of the Baha'is in Iran, especially a group of some 50 young people in Shiraz who are being punished for organizing activities for underprivileged children. Three of the Shiraz group are serving four-year prison sentences.

"I find it deeply shocking that the Baha'i youth in Shiraz engage in social activities in the same way as we do in Offenbach, but with one difference – whereas here in Germany our efforts are rewarded with prizes, the Baha'i youth in Shiraz must pay for their services to Iranian society with prison sentences and other coercive measures," said Peggy Habermann, coordinator of the People's Theater.

Kamal Sido, head of the Near East division of the Society for Threatened Peoples, attended the gathering and offered words of support for those persecuted in Iran.

The chairwoman of the Green Party in the German federal state of Hesse, Kordula Schulze-Asche, expressed indignation over the human rights violations perpetrated in Iran, as did Gisela Stang, mayor of Hofheim, which encompasses Langenhain.

Over 200 people attended the Human Rights Day program at the Baha'i National Center in Germany on 6 December 2009. The building is near the European Baha’i House of Worship. Slideshow
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Over 200 people attended the Human Rights Day program at the Baha'i National Center in Germany on 6 December 2009. The building is near the European Baha’i House of Worship.

Messages were read from two members of the German Federal Parliament, Erika Steinbach of the Christian Democratic Union and Omid Nouripour of the Green Party.

Ingo Hofmann, representing the Baha'i community of Germany, presented an overview of the current situation of the Baha'is in Iran. In Shiraz, he said, Haleh Rouhi, Raha Sabet, and Sasan Taqva, had organized, with permission from authorities, an educational program for underprivileged children. They were later accused of having propagated the Baha'i Faith, even though a report commissioned by the government concluded that their activities were strictly humanitarian. The three were sentenced to prison terms.

Before performing "Souls of Shiraz," a piece composed for the occasion, musician Anke Keitel spoke of the invisible ties she feels with those imprisoned in Iran.

"Haleh, Raha, and Sasan believe just like me in the universality of human rights. They strive to foster the well-being of humanity, just as I do. And they are just as young as I am," she said.

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually around the world and marks the anniversary of the adoption – on 10 December 1948 – by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.