May 6, 2013
WASHINGTON — To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran, Rainn Wilson of NBC’s hit sitcom, The Office, will be the master of ceremonies at an event on Monday, May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC.
This event is part of the Baha’i International Community’s “Five Years Too Many” campaign calling for the immediate release of these seven Baha’i leaders and all prisoners of conscience in Iran. This global campaign will run from May 5 to 15, 2013.
The program will feature Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; an official of the US State Department (invited); Roxana Saberi, journalist, author, and human rights activist; and Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, together with musical guest Katharine Key.
“The trumped up security related charges against the seven are typical of those directed by the regime against anyone who holds different views than its own,” said Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Baha’is. “But, the sentences of 20 years are unprecedented in their length for current prisoners of conscience.”
Six of the seven Baha’i leaders – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm – were arrested on May 14, 2008 in a series of early morning raids. The seventh, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, had been detained two months earlier on March 5, 2008.
During their first year in detention, the seven were held in solitary confinement for the first four months, not told of the charges against them, and denied meaningful access to their lawyers. Eventually, they were formally charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth. They were innocent of all the charges. In fact, they attended to the basic spiritual needs of the Baha’is of Iran such as marriages, divorces, and the spiritual education of Baha’i children and youth.
Their trial was conducted over a series of six brief, closed-door sessions in 2010. Though their lawyer, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, stated that there was no evidence to sustain the charges against them, they were ultimately sentenced to twenty years in prison.
Currently, these seven Baha’i leaders endure harsh conditions in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons. The five men are incarcerated at Gohardasht prison in Karaj, a facility known for its overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and dangerous environment. The two women remain at Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison. This severity reflects the Government’s resolve to oppress completely the Iranian Baha’i community, which faces a systematic, “cradle-to-grave” persecution that is among the most serious examples of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world today.
Contact the Media Relations Officer, at USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org to arrange for interviews.