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Hateful propaganda sparks concern for Baha’is of Rafsanjan

Hateful propaganda sparks concern for Baha’is of Rafsanjan

1031_03NEW YORK, 16 December 2014, (BWNS) — Against the backdrop of increasing economic pressures, a recent anti-Baha’i demonstration and a hateful speech delivered by a cleric have raised concerns for the safety of the Baha’is of Rafsanjan, a city in Iran.

Hojatoleslam Abbas Ramezani-Pour, the Friday prayer Imam of Rafsanjan, declared in a speech at the end of November that, according to religious fatwas, Baha’is are “unclean” and that it is “forbidden” to conduct business and trade with them.

“The rightful wishes of the people, which are that they [the Baha’is] should not be in this city, must be realized,” Mr. Ramezani-Pour stated.

“This Imam has, in fact, called for the Baha’is to be expelled from Rafsanjan,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “Such negative remarks by a known cleric in the city are extremely worrisome and show a deep level of discrimination.”

“The closure of businesses in that city and the economic harassment of Baha’is are already causing immense hardship for Baha’is there,” said Ms. Dugal

Several days before the speech of Mr. Ramezani-Pour, an anti-Baha’i demonstration was held in front of the governor’s office in Rafsanjan.

Reports from pro-Iranian government media allege that these demonstrations were spontaneous and initiated by the local population. However, photos show instead a clearly planned event, using pre-printed placards obviously prepared in advance. Some placards read “The Baha’is are inherently unclean”, and others “no room for faithless sneaks in Muslim bazaars”.

“Hateful remarks and the dissemination of falsehoods against the Baha’is in Iran are not new”, said Ms. Dugal. “But these incidents are ominous because of past occasions where statements by religious leaders and efforts to incite hatred against a certain group led to serious consequences.”

For example, on 24 August 2013, Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, a well-known Baha’i in the city of Bandar Abbas was shot and killed in his car.  It is of note that a few years before his murder, the Friday prayer Imam had incited the local population against the Baha’is, referring to them as “un-Islamic.”  He further called on the people of the city to “rise up” against the Baha’i community.

Of course, Baha’is are not the only group to be identified from the pulpit.  More recently, the Friday prayer Imam of Isfahan gave a provocative speech in which he stated that warnings were no longer enough in the fight to ensure the proper use of the Hijab – or the head scarf – by all women; force and violence were now necessary.  Shortly after his address, several women had acid thrown at their faces for not wearing what the authorities regard as appropriate attire whilst out in public in the city.

“The statements of clerics in Iran have an influence on the thoughts of those who follow them”, said Ms. Dugal. “Where is the government? Can the complicity of the government be seriously denied?”

In October of this year, 50 Baha’i shops were closed in the city of Kerman, 23 in Rafsanjan and six in Jiroft – all in the same province. In recent months, an increase in the number of closures of Baha’i businesses and shops shows a coordinated plan for inflicting further pressures on the Baha’is of Iran.

● A business closure in July resulted in 20 locals in Ghaemshahr being left jobless.

● In September 2014, a Baha’i in Yazd whose business license had been refused despite her repeated representations to the Public Places Supervision Office (PPSO), was told by a director of the PPSO in Yazd Province that he had received a circular from the higher authorities instructing his office not to issue a business permit to any Baha’i applicant and that this would be undertaken gradually, presumably in an effort to prevent adverse publicity in the international media.  It should further be noted that, at one point in her efforts to retain the business, she was advised by the local trade union to have it registered under the name of a Muslim.  When she did so, the individual concerned was threatened by PPSO officials, who pressured him, albeit unsuccessfully, to sign an undertaking pledging that neither the Baha’i nor any of her Baha’i colleagues would ever show their faces inside the store.

● In August 2014 it was reported that three veterans, who had been prisoners of war and who were receiving the pension to which they were entitled had been summoned to the Veterans’ Affairs Foundation and told that if they did not write their religion as Muslim, their pensions would be stopped.  They refused to recant their faith and are now receiving no pension.

● In October 2014, it was reported that business licenses of four Baha’is in the city of Yazd were not renewed.

● In November 2014, in Isfahan, the residences of a number of Baha’is who were working from home were entered by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and the work areas ‘sealed’ to indicate no further work could be done.

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Increase in arrests highlights continuing persecution of Baha’is in Iran

Increase in arrests highlights continuing persecution of Baha’is in Iran

From the Bahá’í World News Service:

 — The arrest last week of five Baha’is in Tehran signals a rising tide of detainments and imprisonments of Baha’is in Iran in recent months.

Since June, at least 14 Baha’is have been arrested, a trend that exemplifies a pattern of systematic persecution of Iranian Baha’is by the government, this despite its claims to uphold international standards of human rights. In Yazd, 20 Baha’is who had originally been acquitted of charges leveled against them in 2012 learned in August 2013 that their cases had been re-opened and all 20 sentenced to prison, notwithstanding the judge’s admission that they were being treated unjustly. The Baha’is appealed the case and, in a flagrant miscarriage of justice, the sentences against all 20 were upheld. The deputy head of the Justice Administration told the lawyers of the Baha’is that: “The accused are members of a hostile sect who have no citizenship rights.”

More than 100 Baha’is are currently in prison on false charges related entirely to their religious beliefs, while thousands more are subjected to various forms of discrimination and harassment, including denial of access to university and increasingly severe economic repression.

Bahá'í arrestsThe latest arrests in Tehran, for example, appear to be related to ongoing efforts to prevent Baha’is from earning an adequate living. The five were arrested after agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided the optical shop where they work on 11 August 2014. In February 2014, an optical shop owned by a Baha’i in Tabriz was closed down by the authorities on the grounds of “market saturation”, but Muslim owners of optical shops in the same location experienced no such difficulties. It is understood that “market saturation” has only been used in the cases of Baha’is. Clearly the government is disallowing Baha’is in some cities to own certain types of business on the grounds that too many Baha’is are engaged in it.

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Threatening anti-Baha’i posters distributed in Yazd, Iran

Threatening anti-Baha’i posters distributed in Yazd, Iran

Anti-Bahá'í Graffiti
Anti-Bahá’í Graffiti

GENEVA, 18 June 2014, (BWNS) — A highly inflammatory and threatening flier calling Baha’is “godless” was distributed in the city of Yazd, Iran, last week on the eve of an important Shiite holy day.

The anonymously authored leaflet was posted on walls and also placed on the homes and cars of Baha’is, said Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

“The distribution of this poster was obviously timed to inflame religious passions against Baha’is, who are a minority in Yazd and throughout Iran,” said Ms. Ala’i. “The basic message of the poster is that it is a religious duty to attack Baha’is and to destroy their properties. 

“The targeting of Baha’i homes and vehicles is also equally ominous, sending a message: ‘We know who and where you are,'” she added.

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In the Arab world, a new discourse on religious coexistence takes root

In the Arab world, a new discourse on religious coexistence takes root

Dr. 'Abdu'l-Hamid Al-Ansari
Dr. ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Al-Ansari

MANAMA, Bahrain, 4 June 2014, (BWNS) — Throughout the Arab world, a new discussion on how to live peacefully side by side with the followers of all religions has begun to take shape. This discourse is inspired partly by the dramatic call of an Iranian Ayatollah for religious coexistence with Baha’is, but has since taken on a life of its own, becoming a heartfelt discussion about the situation of religious freedom in Arab lands.

“Man was created ‘free,’ and from the Islamic perspective, ‘freedom’ is not a mere right, but rather a duty accountable by law,” wrote ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Al-Ansari, an expert on Islamic law in Qatar, writing in the Kuwaiti newspaper Aljarida on 26 May. 

“Islam grants ‘religious freedom’ to those who are at variance with it in belief and worship [as stated in the Qur’an]: ‘To each among you have we prescribed a law and a system.’  “Hence,” wrote Dr. Al-Ansari, a former dean in Islamic studies and law at the University of Qatar, “what will remain of the meaning of ‘freedom’ if we prevent the followers of other religions from practicing their religions?”

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Unseen Valor: Acts of Interfaith Courage

Unseen Valor: Acts of Interfaith Courage

1000_00_3Editor’s Note: This story is from the Bahá’í World News website.

NEW YORK, 16 May 2014, (BWNS) — In this world of division and conflict, it takes a special kind of courage for those in a dominant group to break ranks and speak out on behalf of the oppressed, especially when this comes at great personal risk.

Examples, often overlooked, can be found in many places, such as when Albanians refused to round up Jews during World War II, when two Italian priests sheltered minority Tutsi orphans from genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s, when Muslim and Christian women negotiated the release of children held hostage by a rebel group in Sierra Leone, or, more recently, when a senior Iranian cleric bravely called for coexistence with Baha’is.

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Trial of Baha’i educators: condemnation spreads

Trial of Baha’i educators: condemnation spreads

Imprisoned Baha'i Educators

GENEVA, 7 November 2011, (BWNS) — As more information has emerged regarding the trial of seven Baha’i educators, the worldwide outcry at the persecution of Iranian Baha’i students and teachers continues to spread.

In recent days, politicians in Brazil, academics in Germany and Ireland, and an international group of distinguished filmmakers, have condemned the systematic barring of Baha’is from higher education in Iran, and the Iranian government’s attack on the Baha’i community’s informal efforts to educate its own young members.

The Baha’i International Community has recently learned that the seven jailed educators – all lecturers or helpers with a community initiative known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) – were taken to court on two separate days, handcuffed and chained at the ankles. There, in the presence of their attorneys, they were informed of the verdict and their sentences.

“Neither the defendants nor their lawyers has seen a written copy of the verdict,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, “but we know from transcripts taken down by people present at the hearing that the seven were found guilty of ‘membership in the deviant Bahaist sect, with the goal of taking action against the security of the country, in order to further the aims of the deviant sect and those of organizations outside the country.'”

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Baha’i educators sentenced

Baha’i educators sentenced

Mahmoud Badavam, Ramin Zibaie, Riaz Sobhani, Farhad Sedghi; Noushin Khadem, Kamran Mortezaie, and Vahid Mahmoudi

NEW YORK,  18 October 2011 — Seven Baha’i educators in Iran have each received four- or five-year prison sentences, according to reports received by the Baha’i International Community.

Verdicts against the seven were reportedly handed down by a judge at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

The educators have been detained for almost five months in connection with their involvement in an informal community initiative – known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) – in which Baha’i professors, debarred by the Iranian government from practicing their professions, offer their services to teach young community members who are banned from university.

Two of the individuals, Vahid Mahmoudi and Kamran Mortezaie, were each sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Four year jail terms were given to BIHE lecturers Ramin Zibaie, Mahmoud Badavam and Farhad Sedghi, consultant Riaz Sobhani, and helper Nooshin Khadem.

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Lawyer Arrested Ahead of Trial of Baha’i Educators

Lawyer Arrested Ahead of Trial of Baha’i Educators

16 September 2011
Seven Baha'i Educators imprisoned for work with BIHE

GENEVA — As a number of Baha’is in Iran await trial for providing higher education to youth barred from university, the Baha’i International Community has been distressed to learn of the arrest of a lawyer who was preparing to defend them.

Abdolfattah Soltani – a senior member of the legal team representing the prisoners – was arrested last Saturday. Mr. Soltani was a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center along with four other lawyers including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi. The Tehran-based Center was shut down in a police raid in December 2008.

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Live from San Francisco: Association of Baha’i Studies Conference

Live from San Francisco: Association of Baha’i Studies Conference

Lisa M. Ortuno

Coming to you live from the Conference.

“When you’re trying to figure out what you believe, just ask yourself why other people believe it.” — Dale McGowan PhD in Parenting Beyond Belief

This was the kickoff for Lisa Ortuno’s talk on Evolutionary Christianity and Biologos and the way in which the Christian faith community is grappling with the relationship between their own faith and science.

What’s the Baha’i investment in this? It’s our “task”, if you will, to try to correlate the teachings of our faith to … well, to life. Lisa’s special area of expertise is biology. Her talk then, obviously, is about evolution.

She quotes Abdu’l-Baha: “Consider the world of created beings, how varied and diverse they are in species. Yet with one sole origin.” (Paris Talks p. 62)

How does that square with the idea—also expounded by Abdu’l-Baha—that man was always potentially man? Thereby hangs a tale.

Stay tuned: News at 11.

We hope to bring you the full text of her presentation SOON.

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News: Religions unite to urge G8 leaders to take bold action on global issues

News: Religions unite to urge G8 leaders to take bold action on global issues

Bahá'í Delegate Barney Leith

BORDEAUX, France, 31 May 2011 (BWNS) – Representatives of the Baha’i Faith have joined a call for the G8 bloc of nations to take bold action on the interconnected crises faced by humanity.

Two Baha’i delegates gathered with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto and Sikh colleagues, as well as members of interfaith organisations, at the Religious Summit in Bordeaux to deliberate on matters related to the agendas of the G8 Deauville Summit and the G20 Cannes Summit, scheduled for 3-4 November 2011.

Summit Moderator His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Co-President of the Council of Churches of France, told participants that they were face-to-face not just as religious leaders but as representatives of humanity, speaking with one voice to the leaders of the G8 and G20 countries.

That voice was heard in a unanimously agreed statement drafted at the meeting and later presented to the Secretary General of the G8.

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