Know ye that trials and tribulations have, from time immemorial, been the lot of the chosen Ones of God and His beloved, and such of His servants as are detached from all else but Him . . . The day is approaching when God will have raised up a people who will call to remembrance Our days, who will tell the tale of Our trials, who will demand the restitution of Our rights from them that, without a tittle of evidence, have treated Us with manifest injustice. God, assuredly, dominateth the lives of them that wronged Us, and is well aware of their doings. He will, most certainly, lay hold on them for their sins. He, verily, is the fiercest of avengers. Bahai writings
Right from the beginning of the Baha’i Faith — even before the declaration of Baha’u’llah, in the time of its precursor, the religion of the Bab — the religious leaders and politicians of Iran set upon the new Manifestations of God and their followers and persecuted them. Not content with harassment, they subjected their victims to every sickening form of torture and cruelty: hammering horseshoes into their feet and making them run, gouging holes into their arms and setting lighted candles into them, blowing them out of cannons. The Bab Himself was imprisoned, then executed by firing squad. Bahá’u’lláh was tortured, imprisoned, exiled from His home country and then from everywhere else they sent Him. Finally, in 1868, they sent Him as far away as possible from Iran and forced Him to live in a prison set into a crusader castle built on the east coast of the Mediterranean. Now, a hundred and forty years later, the religious leaders and politicians of Iran are using that fact as evidence of His followers’ collusion with the state that grew up around it in 1948.
Six Baha’is have been in Evin prison in Tehran since May last year, one since last March. Tehran’s deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad has announced that these members of the `Bahai sect’ are going to be put trial, charged with `espionage for Israel, desecrating religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic’. This is a standard euphemism for `being a Baha’i’.
Diane Ala’i, spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community, emphatically declared 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. The seven Baha’is detained in Tehran should be immediately released.’
Let’s see who these `spies’ are:
Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi is 46. She is a developmental psychologist and mother of three. Her oldest son studied in the UK and is now in China.
The oldest is Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, a 75 year old grandad. He used to own a factory but that was shut down in the 1979 revolution. He then ran a mechanized farm on his family lands and that too faced constant harassment. One of his four children also lives in China.
Father of two, 47 year old Afif Naemi wanted to become a doctor but, being a Baha’i, of course he could not enter university so he became an industrialist instead, taking over his father-in-law’s blanket and textile factory.
Mr Saeid Rezaie, 51, is an agricultural engineer and is the author of several books on the Baha’i Faith. His two daughters were among 54 Baha’i youth who were arrested in Shiraz in May 2006, while his son of 12 is in middle school.
Mother of two Mrs Mahvash Sabet is a 55 year old teacher and school principal who, in the old days, collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. Now she heads up the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Baha’i youth. Or should I say `headed up’ – she’s been in prison since 5 March 2008.
Behrouz Tavakkoli, 57, specialized in the care of those with physical and mental disabilities until he was sacked from his government position shortly after the 1979 Revolution.
The youngest is Mr Vahid Tizfahm, who at 35, is exactly the same age as my own son Sedrhat. Vahid is the father of a 9 year boy and is an optometrist. He used to own an optical shop in Tabriz, the city where the Bab was executed and my husband was born.
You can read the rest of their stories here.
I feel a close connection to them all. We share a lot. Most of them are around my age and have children the same age as my own. They are all Baha’is from Baha’i families, like me. They all struggled to get an education and then worked in a position of service to their fellow citizens. And they spent all their free time volunteering for the Baha’i Faith.
The key thing about them all is that they are members of the national-level Baha’i group known as the `Friends in Iran’. Because all Baha’i institutions of governance and administration were banned by the Iranian government after the Revolution, this ad hoc coordinating body assisted the 300,000 Iranian Baha’is. So they are well known. And they emulate the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.
Their case is going to be heard by the `revolutionary courts‘. Actually, I have a lot in common with the judges there too. I am a magistrate myself. I send to people to prison. I weigh up evidence. I must use the criminal standard of `beyond reasonable doubt’ before I convict. To dispense justice is my responsibility. Here is my message to my judicial colleagues in Iran who sit on this case:
These people have done nothing but serve the people of Iran, your citizens. Now it is time for Iran to serve them. Show us, the rest of the world, that you, as members of the judiciary, meet the universal standards for all who serve in this position. Demonstrate your qualities of listening to all sides, without fear or favour, of weighing actual evidence and dismissing anything that smacks of being concocted. Show us that you adhere to the concept of due process, that you are independent of your executive colleagues, that you hold justice as the fairest fruit of civilization. We, your judicial colleagues, are willing you to treat your judicial position with respect and to discharge your responsibilities with honour. Do not let us, or yourselves, down.
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