May 15, 2014
WASHINGTON — On May 13, to mark the sixth anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran, 13 organizations sent an open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry condemning the detention of these individuals and the religious persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran.
The letter was signed by organizations concerned with religious freedom and human rights, and affiliated with several faith traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith. The letter discusses the plight of the seven members of the former ad hoc leadership group of the Baha’is of Iran, the “Yaran-i-Iran,” or friends of Iran, noting that, “As governments and human rights organizations have attested, their imprisonment is for no other reason than their membership in the Baha’i Faith and their service to the Baha’i community.”
In contextualizing the detention of these seven leaders, the letter states that “the imprisonment of these seven individuals is taking place against a backdrop of generalized persecution of the Baha’i community.” The number of Baha’is in prison currently stands at 136, a 20-year high. Baha’is also face intense economic and social pressure, including denial of jobs, business licenses, and higher education, the harassment of school children, raids on homes, the confiscation of property, and the desecration of cemeteries.
The letter goes on to note that “the gross mistreatment of the Yaran and the severe and systematic state-sponsored persecution of the Baha’is is emblematic of a deteriorating human rights situation in Iran,” characterized by discrimination against other religious and ethnic minorities, the targeting of journalists and human rights defenders, and increasing numbers of executions.
It also urges Secretary Kerry to speak out for the rights of all Iranians and to call for the immediate release of all religious prisoners, including the seven Baha’i leaders – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm – who are now serving 20 year sentences, among the longest of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.
To view the letter to Secretary Kerry, visit: Multifaith Letter regarding Imprisoned Baha’i Leaders in Iran