It’s been five years since Iranian authorities arrested the seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community.
It’s been five years since Iranian authorities arrested the seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community. Three years ago, the two women and five men who administered to the spiritual and physical needs of Baha’is in Iran, were given a 20-year prison term after being convicted of security-related charges in what many have said were unfair trials. Their sentences are the longest handed down to any current prisoner of conscience in Iran, according to Baha’i activists.
Marking the fifth anniversary of their detention, a group of United Nations independent human rights experts called on Iranian authorities to release these prisoners of conscience immediately.
Baha’is, who make up the largest non-Muslim minority faith community in Iran, have long suffered severe persecution: their persons and property are attacked with impunity; they are denied access to higher education and employment; and they are subjected to arbitrary arrest. Reportedly at least 110 Baha’is are currently behind bars in Iran, and more than 500 are awaiting an appearance before a court.
Speaking at an event in Washington highlighting the plight of the imprisoned Baha’i leaders, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas Melia called the repression of religious minorities in Iran “unacceptable.” He said that the plight of the seven Baha’i leaders is “emblematic” of the persecution suffered by the entire Baha’i community there and also of other religious minorities in Iran:
“This is a government that also prevents Sunnis from worshipping, flogs Sufis and detains Zoroastrians without charge simply for being who they are, for believing in what they believe. This is a government that raids house churches and arrests Christian leaders for their activities. Converts from Islam and others deemed to be apostates have been sentenced to death.”
“Promoting human rights, including religious freedom, remains a central tenet of United States foreign policy,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia. “We in the United States government are committed to the protection of universal rights for all in Iran.” The U.S., along with its international partners will continue to bring attention to and condemn the Iranian government’s violations of religious freedom. “The government of Iran,” said Mr. Melia, “must be made to know that the world is watching and judging its actions.”