What is it?
Who Are They?
Why Should We Care?
by lyle e davis
How would you like to live in a world where there was no war? Where all people of all races, creeds and cultures were as one, and there was no prejudice? Where women and men were equal? Where there were no extremes of poverty, nor of extreme wealth? Where the family and its unity was recognized as being critically important? Where everyone received an education?
Would that sound like a world you would like to live in and be part of?
Like you, I knew little or nothing about Baha’i. I have now learned that the above elements are but a part of what members of Baha’i seek and work for.
Having lived in Chicago for five years I was struck by the beautiful architecture of the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, and would often take visitors sightseeing and show them the impressive building. I have never entered the temple and I only knew a couple of people who were Baha’is. I knew them as a kindly, gentle people. People who didn’t hassle you. They didn’t pester you in your neighborhood, knocking on your door, trying to recruit you to their way of thinking.
I didn’t really know what they believed, what they practiced, what the basic tenets of the Baha’i faith was. I knew it was a religious philosophy that originated in the Mid East . . . which, for some reason, seems to be where most of the world’s major religions originated. But that was about all I knew of Baha’i.
In Esconiddo I had a good friend, Jacque Smith. Jacque was, and is, very well known in North San Diego County. He’s that guy who, whenever they called for volunteers for any civic or service project, always wound up at the head of the line. He has been a major community asset for Escondido. Jacque was a beloved member of our Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club. He retired from our club a number of years ago and said he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to working for Baha’i.
More recently, I became acquainted with the well known North County chiropractor, Dr. Omid Rahmanian and his lovely wife, Dr. Parisa Rahmanian, a prominent North County dentist. They and their children are Baha’is. In fact, Dr. O’Mead (as most folks call him, and spell his Amercanized name), at great danger to himself, flew home to Iran to help bring his mother and father to America, where they now live. Dr. O’Mead’s father had been imprisoned in Iran for no other reason than being a member of Baha’i. When his father was finally released from prison, Dr. O’Mead took the risk of being arrested himself, flew into Iran and, thankfully, was able to return home to North San Diego County.
So, I knew a few Baha’is fairly well, and I knew about the temple in Wilmette, Illinois. But I really didn’t know much more than that.
Certain events and timing have come together where I felt it would be not only appropriate, but important, to research Baha’i and find out a bit more about what it was and, “just who are these people that belong to Baha’i?”
We propose to share that information with you in this cover story. You may be as surprised as I was. And am. You may be in a position to be of major help to some deserving people who are in grave danger. We will brief you.
Perhaps one of the better and more succinct explanations of Baha’i is that given by the television actor, Rainn Wilson, who plays paper salesman Dwight Schrute in the television comedy "The Office."
Stepping out of character and providing a commentary for CNN, Wilson says:
“I am a member of the Baha'i faith. What is that, you ask? Well, long story short, it's an independent world religion that began in the mid-1800s in Iran. Baha'is believe that there is only one God and therefore only one religion. All of the world's divine teachers (Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Krishna, etc.) bring essentially the same message -- one of unity, love and knowledge of God or the divine. This constantly updated faith of God, Baha'is believe, has been refreshed for this day and age by our founder, Baha'u'llah. There. Nutshell version.”
Now, as I mentioned, this all happened in Iran, and needless to say the Muslim authorities did not like the Baha'is very much, accusing them of heresy and apostasy. Tens of thousands were killed in the early years of the faith, and the persecutions have continued off and on for the past 150 years.
Why write about all this now? Well, I'm glad you asked. You see there's a 'trial' going on very soon for seven Baha'i national leaders in Iran. They've been accused of all manner of things including being "spies for Israel," "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic." They've been held for a year in Evin Prison in Tehran without any access to their lawyer (the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi) and with zero evidence of any of these charges.
The imprisoned in Iran. Their Crime? They are members of the Baha’i Religious Group
When a similar thing happened in 1980, the national leadership of the Iranian Baha'i community disappeared. And this was repeated again in 1981. In fact, since 1979, more than 200 Baha'is have been killed, holy places and cemeteries desecrated, homes burned, civil rights taken away and secret lists compiled of Baha'is (and even Muslims who associate with them) by government agencies.
It's bad right now for all the peace-loving Baha'is in Iran who want only to practice their religion and follow their beliefs. It's especially bad for these seven. They're teachers, and engineers, and optometrists and social workers just like us.
This thought has become kind of a cliché', but we take our rights for granted here in America. Imagine if a group of people were rounded up and imprisoned and then disappeared not for anything they'd done, but because they wanted to worship differently than the majority. There is a resolution on the situation of the Baha'is in Iran being sent to Congress. Please ask your representatives to support it. And ask them to speak out about this terrible situation.
We’ll have more information on the “trial” and the accused a bit later on in this story. But let’s examine a little more in-depth of who the Baha’i are, so that we might better understand the issues:
First off, there are a couple of unique features to the Baha’i lifestyle . . . for it is a lifestyle as well as a religious philosophy. They don’t have ministers. They don’t have a “church hierarchy.” No Pope, no Bishops, no ministers, no pastors. They democratically elect their local and national leaders. Every year.
They do not accept funding from anyone outside the Baha’i faith. One of the Rockefellers once wanted to help support Baha’i with a major, large donation. The Baha’is courteously declined the money. You will never see a Baha’i in a political race. They do not believe in partisan political activity because it is divisive and, in the end, that is what the primary goal of Baha’i is. Unity. Not to divide a people, or political parties, or governments, or nations . . . but to unify the world.
While there are many Baha’is in the military, they serve as noncombatants. They avoid violence and would become violent only if it were to save someone else’s life, but not their own. If ordered by a superior military officer in time of war to take military action, they will comply as they are taught the necessity of following the government’s orders.
If you look at the Baha’i beliefs, their tenets, their philosphy, as a lifestyle . . . you’d probably agree with every single element.
What do Baha’is practice?
• daily prayer and communion with God
• high moral principles, including trustworthiness, chastity and honesty
• independent investigation of truth
• a life dedicated to the service of humanity
• fellowship with the followers of all religions
• avoidance of excessive materialism, partisan politics, backbiting, alcohol, drugs and gambling
Hmmmm. Still sounds interesting, doesn’t it? And logical. And practical.
Just what do
• the purpose of life is to know and worship God, to acquire virtues, to promote the oneness of humankind and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization
• all humanity was created by one God and is part of one human race
• work performed in the spirit of service is a form of worship
• the soul, created at the moment of conception, is destined by God to reach the afterlife, where it will continue to progress until it attains the presence of God.
Let’s take a look and get to know some of our neighbors in North San Diego County. They’re pretty much the same as you and me. The only difference? They are Bahai’s. We spoke earlier of Jacque Smith. He has a wife, Gracie, that all of Escondido has loved ever since they’ve been in town. Actually, it was Gracie that led Jacque to Baha’i.
It was on July 6, 1947, that Jacque and Gracie Smith were married in Santa Monica. Jacque was 20, Gracie was 17. (If you’re doing the math, they’ve been married 61 years). They raised three beautiful children and are retired today and living in Escondido.
Gracie became a Baha’i in 1957 in Santa Monica. Her brother had become a Baha’i. She observed, liked it, and joined.
Gracie tells the story: “We had one child, Anita. I had friends all around me who were wanting me to baptize her. Most were Catholics. I prayed every night to be shown the right way. I wanted to bring my child up to believe in the right path to God.
Soon after that, months perhaps, my brother found the faith through his dentist. He became totally enamored of the faith. He and his wife became B’ahai. He brought literature home. It took me awhile to even pick up the literature . . . My mom said, “I was born Episcoplian, I will die an Episcopalian.”
Finally, I had to read the literature. The first thing I read totally convinced me, “this is the truth.” I read it to my mother . . . mother agreed. The two of us then knew it was the truth. . . she and I then declared our faith in Baha’i, together. I invited Jacque to a Baha’i meeting called a Fireside. He went, enjoyed it, and the answers suited him and he began reading on his own. Jacque and my dad became Baha’is a year later.
Jacque Smith picks up the story: “Back then, it was mandatory in order to join Baha’i that you had to study books. You had to know the ground rules. That is no longer mandatory. You do learn, however, that Baha’i is a democratically elected organization. Every 19 days there is a mandatory meeting that you should attend. There is no punishment if you don’t, but it’s for your own good. They consist of spiritual readings, an administrative part of the feast, then comes the part, you meet and great people and we have a meal together.”
Jacque would retire from the Navy where he had served for 25 years as a deep sea and salvage diver. As Jacque explained to me, for a B’ahai, the primary mission is to bring unity . . .to unify the world in peace . . . to not attack your brother, ever.
“Gossip is one of the worst things you can do,” he said. “It is called the ‘Fire of the Tongue.’ Other tenets of the faith include getting written permission from all living and sane parents to marry; because it is not a marriage of individuals but of family. Marriage exists for family.”
The Baja’i World Center is in Haifa, Isarel. There, the International Justice Center, comprised of nine elected panel members reside and oversee the worldwide Baha’i faith. They serve five year terms.
Another North County Baha’i neighbor is Eileen Norman. Like Jacque and Gracie Smith, Eileen Norman was not born in the faith but discovered it and embraced it.
“I had a very good friend who had become a Baha’i; we were in our 20’s, raising children. One of my pregnancies was very difficult with the potential for serious consquences which could involve losing my child. I became morose, desperate. My friend gave me a pamphlet called “Open Door.” I read it and it made great sense to me. That took me to my first Fireside meeting. It took about a year, heels dragging, and I asked every question I could think so I could trip those people up. After a year, I realized I was a Baha’i! It was so close to what I believed in all my life that I became a Baha’i. That was 51 years ago, in Los Angeles.”
Eileen, now a widow, had three children. Her daughter, who died at age 29, was a Baha’i prior to her death. Her son is a physicist. He and his wife are both Baha’i, as was her husband, prior to his passing. Her husband was a musician and Eileen was a professional singer, prior to their marriage.
She was invited by the Baha’i National Assembly to go to Wilmette, Illinois, where she managed the International Department and, later, the Education Department. She moved to La Costa in 1982. She has traveled all over the world for Baha’i. Panama, India, Central America, all over Europe. “Wherever you go,” she says, “if you are a Baha’i, there is an instant close, warm, bond. Baha’i is like a giant family, world wide. Perhaps you don’t speak the same language . . but that’s not important. If you are Baha’i . . . you are instant family, wherever you go.”
We asked Eileen about the tenet that requires a Baha’i to not engage in partisan politics.
“That’s true,” she says. “It’s divisive. But, we do vote; we do serve in offices which are not partisan. We just don’t participate in divisive politics. We feel the bedrock of world peace and advancement of civilization is the unity of people.”
What about when a Baha’i dies? Is there a traditional funeral? Or do they burn the dead on funeral pyres as in India?
"Upon death, we do not cremate. Nor do we embalm. We believe that which composes gradually should decompose gradually. The funeral service is anything that is planned by the family; no ritual, no special speeches; there are prayers for the departed.”
Eileen was not born into Baha’i. She acquired it. Her background is Jewish. Her husband also became Baha’i, after Eileen embraced it. All of their combined children and grandchildren are Baha’i . . but they were all free to choose their own religion.
An interesting quote that we heard from several Baha’is we interviewed for this story:
“We don’t make Bahai’s, Bahai’s are found.”
Shahla Mazandarany is one Baha’i in North County who was born into the faith. (Out of an estimated seven million Baha’i members worldwide, only about 800,000 are born into the faith. In Iran, where the Faith began, there are only 300,000 Baha’is. The remaining 500,000 born into the faith are in the rest of the world.)
“I was born in Western Iran. My great great grandfather was one of the first Bahai’s in Iran. All of our family is Baha’i. I am about 4th or 5th generation Baha’i. At age 17, I emigrated to America to study at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, studying chemistry but got married before I graduated. My husband was born into a Muslim family but he does not follow Islam, nor is he a member of Baha’i. After our children were grown I switched my college studies from chemistry to accounting. Today, I am Treasurer of the Bahai’ Assembly of Carlsbad. Our children are not Baha’i. They are not active religiously. We all have freedom of choice in our religious beliefs. We elect nine people every year, on April 21st, to be on our Carlsbad Assembly.”
Yet another Baha’i in North County is a retired psychologist, Dr. Homayoun Mahmoudi. He was born in Iran, coming here for college in 1958. He was of the Muslim tradition and, of all things, attended Brigham Young University, that bastion of Mormonism . . . which is where he became . . . no, not a Mormon, but a Baha’i.
“Prior to that I was an existentialist agnostic. But, while in Provo, Utah, I began to study a variety of religions. As a result, I became a Baha’i in 1961. I Became a psychologist, taking my undergraduate work at BYU, my Masters at Utah State, my Phd at Florida. I had a 35 year practice in Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe, working primarily with schools in the area, counseling students. I also have a Juris Doctor degreee, but never practiced law. My daughter, however, is an attorney. I married an American gal from Kansas. We had three children, all of whom are Baha’i."
Another North County Baha’i family is Patty and Dick Yant. Dick was in college and at age 24 when he became a Baha’i in 1970. In 1977 Patty became a Baha’i.
Dick was in college and was searching for his religious identity. He had been raised a Methodist, his great grandfather was a Methodist minister. In high school, he decided he didn’t like the hypocrisy and exlusivity (one religion is right, all others are wrong) that was taught by his Methodist clergy, as well as all other Christian faiths. He became an agnostic. Then, at UC Davis, there was an anti-war rally that he attended. The UC Davis student body had invited a Baha’i to speak. “The things he spoke of drew me to the faith,” said Dick. “It seemed like a lifestyle I had been looking for all my life. The things he spoke of were things I believed already. I soon became a member of Baha’i.”
Patty: “I stumbled into it; was in a down side of my life, learned it was a way to world peace, learned all the tenets . . what I had gleaned from other Christian faiths was that we were going to be damned and going to hell; also, if we didn’t believe the way they did then we were totally lost. I just couldn’t buy that. I looked at all the Buddhists and Muslims in the world. What about them I wondered? But Baha’i . . . unified the world. I came into Baha’i from my head, then after a time, my head and heart came together.”
These, then, are just a few of the members of Baha’i who live, work and love in North San Diego County. There is no proselytizing within Baha’i. If the subject of religion comes up . . .they will discuss it, if asked. They believe the best way to teach is by example. “If you don’t walk the walk you shouldn’t talk the talk,” said Gracie Smith.
You will see occasional ads in newspapers. This is not considered proslyetizing. While amongst the approximate seven million Baha’is in the world there are some wealthy patron/members, the faith is supported largely by its members who are just ordinary citizens.
Members of Baha’i include people who were Muslims, Jews, Christians and those of no organized religion at all.
In keeping with their goal of unity, Baha’i members are urged to “consort with the followers of all religions . . . with the utmost affection and love.
Whatever you have, you offer it as a servant offering to the king, a gift. If the gift is accepted, your mission is accomplished. If not, you should pray for them and move on.”
Above, The Shrine of the Báb
Oceanside has a Baha’i Center, as does San Diego. Each continent has a Baha’i temple. For America, the national temple is in Wilmette, Illinois. It’s the goal of every Baha’i to to go Haifa, Israel, once in a lifetime. Upon completion of the pilgrimage, they meet with members of The Universal House of Justice and other Baha’is. There are many prayers and meditations, and they visit holy sites which includes the tombs of its founder, Bahá’u’lláh and the messenger who announced the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, The Bab.
Now . . . just what is this religious philosphy? Where did it come from? Who started it?
It’s a comparatively new religion, having started in 1844. The Bahai’s believe that throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine Messengers, each of whom has founded a great religion. The Messengers have included Jesus, Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad. The latest, the Baha’is believe was Bahá’u’lláh.
In 1844, a youth named Siyyid 'Alí-Muhammad arose in Iran to proclaim that the great day of God awaited by all religions had come. He called Himself the Báb, which, in Arabic, means "the Gate." His teachings shook the country to its core and spread rapidly among its most notable people.
At that time there was a young and prosperous man, Husayn Ali, the son of a wealthy government minister, Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri. Husayn Ali had been born on 12 November 1817 in Tehran, Iran. The family could trace its ancestry back to the great dynasties of Iran's imperial past. The young man led a princely life, receiving an education that focused largely on calligraphy, horsemanship, classic poetry, and swordsmanship.
Much later in life, after the Prince had a son, his son would remark: “From earliest childhood He was distinguished among His relatives and friends.… In wisdom, intelligence and as a source of new knowledge, He was advanced beyond His age and superior to His surroundings. All who knew Him were astonished at His precocity. It was usual for them to say, 'Such a child will not live,' for it is commonly believed that precocious children do not reach maturity."
Mirza Husayn Ali Mohammed, a prince of Nur, became one of the most active followers of the Báb. At the village of Badasht, in 1848, the Prince hosted a gathering of the most eminent followers of the Báb, known as Bábís. The meeting established for the growing number of believers the independent character of the Bábí religion. In 1848, in Amul in the province of Mázindarán, the Prince was arrested and bastinadoed (beaten with a rod on the soles of His feet) for being a follower of the Báb.
Before he died the Báb identified the Prince, Mirza Husayn Ali Mohammed, a prince of Nur, as the true Messenger of God. He gave the Prince a new name, Bahá’u’lláh. The name, translated, means:
Baha’ = Glory, u = of, llah = God. “Glory of God.”
The Báb was executed in 1850, by 750 soldiers. Nearly all the leading exponents of His religion were killed by fanatical clergy and government troops. Bahá’u’lláh was spared the fate of His companions but was falsely charged, in 1852, with complicity in an attempt on the life of the Shah.
Without shade, under a blazing August sun, Bahá’u’lláh was forced to walk to the place of imprisonment in Tehran.
In Tehran, Bahá’u’lláh was cast into a dungeon known as the Black Pit, notorious for its foul air, filth, and pitch-black darkness. It was in this prison that He received the first intimations of a divine revelation within Him.
He later wrote: "I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven."
The tomb of Bahá’u’lláh
However, the time to publicly announce this revelation would be later.
The Baha’is believe Bahá’u’lláh brings new spiritual and social teachings for our modern age. He taught that there is only one God, that all of the world’s religions are from God, and that now is the time for humanity to recognize its oneness and unite.
During His visit to Mount Carmel in 1891, Bahá’u’lláh stood near a circle of cypress trees and showed his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, where the tomb of the Báb should be built.
The sacred remains of the Báb had been carefully hidden in Iran since His execution in 1850. In 1899, at the instruction of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, they were brought to the Holy Land and, in 1909, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fulfilled his Father's wishes by placing them in their final resting place on Mount Carmel.
The Prince would now be known as Bahá’u’lláh forever more. Bahá’u’lláh wrote 100 volumes of books himself; His books have been said to be “sent by God,” a revelation.
One book. . . a book of laws - the major book is known as - “Aghdas” - “the most holy.”
His son wrote almost 250 volumes of books as well. His grandson, who was “Shoghi Effendi” - (which means guardian or friend) was named as Guardian of the Faith.
Since that time the Universal House of Justice has become the Guardian of the Faith. This organization is comprised of all Bahi’as. There are nine members, all democratically elected. They serve for five years and must live in Haifa.
The passing of Bahá’u’lláh
In the early hours of May 29, 1892, Bahá’u’lláh passed away at the Mansion of Bahjí. Nine days later His will was unsealed. It designated ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as His successor and head of the Bahá'í Faith — the first time in history that the founder of a world religion had made explicitly clear whom should follow after His death. This declaration of a successor is the pivotal provision of what is known to Bahá'ís as the "Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh." It has enabled the Bahá'í Faith to remain united around one central authority for over a century.
After Abdu’l-Bahá died, Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of Bahá’u’lláh became the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. He passed away in 1957.
With a religious belief that promotes unity, equality, justice, and that is opposed to war and political power, why, then, have the Bahai’s been persecuted down through the years and, indeed, even in the present time?
It is because the Muslims consider the Baha’is heretics. Baha’is came from Islam. They left Islam to form their new religion. As a result, the Muslims have killed thousands of Baha’is in the name of their religion. Most of the persecution comes from Iran, but wherever there is a large community of Muslims, there is strong sentiment against Baha’is which often results in violence, sometimes deadly.
Even though members of Baha’i have no real interest in political, military or financial power, those members of Islam who are fanatics, are bound to “destroy all heretics.” Chief amongst this list of heretics are Baha’is.
And that is where we are now. As mentioned earlier in this story, time and circumstance dictated that now was an appropriate and important time to learn a bit more about the Baha’i faith.
Because, today, there are seven innocent members being held and persecuted in Iran because they have committed no crime but that of being Baha’i.
The chief Iranian prosecutor says, “the seven Bahai followers will be tried on charges of ‘espionage for Israel, desecrating religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic."
Upon hearing this, the US State Department condemned the action, saying the espionage charges were “baseless.”
“Bahai organizations are illegal and their connections to Israel and their enmity toward Islam and the Islamic system are absolutely certain and their threat against the national security is a proven fact,” added the Iranian cleric.
Followers of the Bahai sect — founded in Iran in 1863 — are regarded as infidels and have been persecuted both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Meanwhile, The Baha’i International Community has issued a statement of gratitude to the Iranian intellectuals, scholars, writers, journalists, activists, and artists throughout the world who signed an open letter apologizing for their silence during Iran’s long-running persecution of the Baha’is.
The open letter from the Iranians - dated 3 February 2009 and signed so far by 243 men and women living in 19 countries - had asked Baha’is to forgive them “for the wrongs committed against the Baha’i community of Iran” over the last century and a half. “We will no longer be silent when injustice is visited upon you,” the letter said after enumerating some of the ways Baha’is have been persecuted, from “barbaric murders” to depriving youth of higher education.
The letter was particularly significant in that it rejected the milieu of intimidation created by Iranian authorities throughout the decades that served to silence “those fair-minded and informed individuals who had always wished to rise up” in support of the Baha’is.
The mansion of Bahji, where Bahá’u’lláh passed away
Indeed, in a press statement recently, the organizers behind the letter said that many more people would like to sign. “We are confident,” their statement said, “that many more individuals, responsible and humane individuals, both inside and outside Iran, will add their seal of approval to it, as they become aware of such a letter, and we hope that the independent and committed Iranian media will join us in disseminating this message.”
The open letter began with the heading “We are ashamed! A century and a half of oppression and silence is enough! We are ashamed that during the last 30 years, the killing of Baha’is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over 200 Baha’is have been slain on this account,” said one clause. “We are ashamed that a group of intellectuals have justified coercion against the Baha’i community of Iran,” the letter continued.
The letter ended thus: “We stand by you in achieving all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. Let us join hands in replacing hatred and ignorance with love and tolerance.”
Meanwhile, The United States House of Representatives has introduced a resolution, H.Res.175, on the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Mark Kirk, James McGovern, Brad Sherman, Dan Burton, Bill Foster, Maurice Hinchey, Frank Wolf, and Jim Moran.
The resolution reads, in part:
Whereas in November 2007, the Iranian Ministry of Information in Shiraz jailed Baha’is Ms. Raha Sabet, 33; Mr. Sasan Taqva, 32; and Ms. Haleh Roohi, 29; for educating underprivileged children and gave them 4-year prison terms, which they are serving;
Whereas Ms. Sabet, Mr. Taqva, and Ms. Rooshi were targeted solely on the basis of their religion;
Whereas, on January 23, 2008, the United States Department of State released a statement urging the Iranian regime to release all individuals held without due process and a fair trial, including the 3 young Baha’is being held in an Iranian Ministry of Intelligence detention center in Shiraz;
Whereas in March and May of 2008, Iranian intelligence officials in Mashhad and Tehran arrested and imprisoned Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, the members of the coordinating group for the Baha’i community in Iran;
Whereas, on February 11, 2009, the deputy prosecutor in Tehran, Mr. Hassan Haddad, announced that those seven leaders will go on trial at a Revolutionary Court the week of February 15, 2009, on charges of ‘espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic’’;
Whereas the lawyer for these seven leaders, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Laureate, has been denied all access to the prisoners and their files;
Whereas these seven Baha’i leaders were targeted solely on the basis of their religion; and
Whereas the Government of Iran is party to the International Covenants on Human Rights:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) condemns the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights;
(2) calls on the Government of Iran to immediately release the seven leaders and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion;
(3) calls on the President and Secretary of State, in cooperation with the international community, to immediately condemn Iran’s continued violation of human rights and demand the immediate release of prisoners held solely on account of their religion.
Above, the Universal House of Justice, Haifa, Israel
International reaction to news that Iran may soon put on trial seven Baha’i leaders for espionage and other charges came swiftly last week as governments, parliamentary leaders and human rights organizations expressed strong criticism of any such trial. Many called for the immediate release of the Baha’is. A spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community last week stated emphatically that the seven are innocent of all charges and are being held solely because of their religious belief.
“The accusations are false, and the government knows this,” said Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “The seven Baha’is detained in Tehran should be immediately released.”
In its “urgent action” appeal last Thursday, Amnesty International said it “considers the charges to be politically motivated and those held to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely because of their conscientiously held beliefs or their peaceful activities on behalf of the Baha’i community. If convicted, they would face lengthy prison terms, or even the death penalty,” the organization said.
Other human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations made similar statements.
The Freedom House published a condemnation of Iran over the possibility of a trial for the seven, saying: “The five men and two women should be released immediately, along with dozens of other Baha’is who are in prison for exercising their human right to religious freedom.”
In one of his latter day messages, Bahá’u’lláh stated:
"… That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this? … Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come.… Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind."
If you would like to learn more about Baha’i, or learn how you can help the seven Baha’s imprisoned in Iran, there are assemblies in all North County areas:
Escondido - 760.745.0086
About 135 Escondido members
San Marcos - Randall or Cheryl Kaizer
55-60 members in San Marcos
Vista - Judy Maddox
About 25-30 members in Vista
Carlsbad - Eileen Norman
About 150 adults