Australian MPs call upon Iran to protect human rights

February 14, 2012

CANBERRA, Australia — In a motion supported by both government and opposition MPs in Australia's House of Representatives, parliamentarians have urged their counterparts in Iran to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of Iranian citizens.

Iranian MPs are also called upon specifically to investigate the denial of access to higher education for student activists, Baha'is and others, and to seek a judicial review of the trials of the seven former Baha'i leaders, as well as human rights defenders and lawyers.

Read the motion and transcript of the debate here.

Opening yesterday's debate, Melissa Parke – the MP for Fremantle – noted an increase in serious human rights violations in Iran since the subject was last debated in Australia's Federal Parliament on 15 November 2010.

"In 2011, Iran was cited repeatedly, including by the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the major international human rights NGOs for violating international human rights law," she said.

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Melissa Parke – the Member of Parliament for Fremantle – who moved the motion debated by Australia's House of Representatives on 13 February 2012. Ms. Parke said it is "difficult to understand the degree of hostility by the authorities in Iran" towards Baha'is.

Ms. Parke noted eight areas – reported last September by Ban Ki-moon – in which the Iranian government is committing serious, systematic violations against the human rights of its own people, including the failure to protect freedom of religion.

"But the Iranian state has perhaps been most savage in its oppression of the Baha'is...In my experience, they are gentle and peace loving people, so it is difficult to understand the degree of hostility by the authorities in Iran towards them," said Ms. Parke.

Several of the Baha'i prisoners have family members who are Australian citizens, she added, "brother, sister, aunts, nephews and nieces – who wonder if they will ever see their loved ones again."

Welcoming the motion and debate, Australian Baha'i Community spokesperson Natalie Mobini said, "Our community has immediate relatives of some of those unjustly imprisoned and they will be heartened at this forthright motion from our nation's MPs."

During the debate, the MP for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, noted a claim by an Iranian representative at the UN that the Baha'i organisation in Iran was political rather than religious, that it was illegal and that its organisation had been 'closed.'

"This quite blood-curdling response clearly displays a contempt for the basic concepts of freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of religious expression," Mr. Thomson said.

Kelly O'Dwyer, MP for Higgins said she stood together with somebody from the opposite side of the chamber in condemning Iran's human rights abuses.

"There must be no more serious and heinous act in this world than a government turning on its own people and committing violent atrocities on its own citizenry," said Ms. O'Dwyer.

Baha'i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran

A Special Section includes detailed information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is.

Another Special Report offers articles about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing.

The International Reaction page is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.