The Universal House of Justice applauds efforts to promote coexistence

May 14, 2014
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel.

HAIFA, Israel — In a letter issued yesterday, on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders, the Universal House of Justice has spoken of a growing "chorus for justice" inside Iran.

The letter, addressed to the Baha'is of Iran, praised this development: "How pleased we are to see that, through the audacious and selfless deeds of individuals who seek progress for their homeland, the culture of peaceful coexistence among peoples and religions characteristic of the bygone traditions of your venerable nation is undergoing a renaissance."

"Promoters of justice, artists, statesmen, thinkers, and other enlightened citizens of Iran—even prisoners of conscience from within their jail cells—are breaking their silence," wrote the Universal House of Justice.

This letter is issued against a backdrop of ongoing severe repression of the Baha'i community in Iran, the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority.

"This chorus for justice, which began first in the far-flung regions of the world and gradually attracted to itself the voices of Iranians outside their homeland, is now rising to new and unprecedented levels inside Iran," said the Universal House of Justice.

The House of Justice also reminded the Baha'is in Iran that "beyond recognition of the injustice meted out to you, the enlightened minds of your fellow citizens are more and more attentive to the principles you espouse and live by, and which are the means for the rehabilitation of every society. Principles such as the sanctity of human dignity; the oneness of humankind irrespective of tribe, race, or belief; the equality of men and women; freedom from prejudice; commitment to knowledge and learning; the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty; the containment of greed; the harmony of faith and reason—these they increasingly recognize as essential for a progressive future."

It added that the "awakening" of consciousness in Iran "should not be underestimated."

"You know well that, for every reported statement of support for you and for these principles, there are many who voice the same sentiments in private and who are now, in light of the current circumstances, learning how to express their views openly and to join the cohort of those who defend your rights and labour for peaceful coexistence.

"Consider how that spurious narrative, which the ailing minds of the prejudiced and the limited conceptions of the fanatics have concocted and for whose propagation they have, for 170 years, assiduously striven, has within just a few years become widely recognized to be utterly false."

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, said the growing call for justice for Iranian Baha'is kindles a light of hope in the hearts of all oppressed people in Iran.

"The support which has been witnessed over the past several weeks for our Baha'i compatriots in Iran, and which has indeed been growing steadily over the past several years, is unprecedented," said Ms. Dugal.

"Moreover, we laud these courageous women and men who are today speaking out, at considerable risk to themselves, for Iranian Baha'is."

Six of the seven Baha'i leaders were arrested on 14 May 2008 in a series of early morning raids in Tehran. The seventh had been detained two months earlier on 5 March 2008.

Since their arrests, the seven – whose names are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – have been subject to an entirely flawed judicial process that has completely ignored international requirements for human rights and legal protections.

During their first year in detention, the seven were not told of the charges against them and they had virtually no access to lawyers. Their trial, conducted over a period of months in 2010 and amounting to only six days in court, was illegally closed to the public, demonstrated extreme bias on the part of prosecutors and judges, and was based on non-existent evidence.

Their 20-year sentences are the longest given to any current prisoners of conscience in Iran. The harshness reflects the government's resolve to oppress completely the Iranian Baha'i community, which faces a systematic, "cradle-to-grave" persecution that is among the most serious examples of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world today.