Belief Behind Bars: A Call for Human Rights & Religious Freedom in Iran

For many months now, Baha'is around the world have been speaking up about both past persecutions as well as the latest efforts to carry out the genocide of the Baha'is in Iran.

If I lived in Iran my life would be markedly different since I'm a Baha'i. I'd be denied an education and denied the right to marry. My property and material possessions could be taken away by the government at any time.

If you wanted to beat me up because you don't like me, you could. I'd have no legal recourse because I'm a Baha'i. There is no "hate crime" legislation for Baha'is in Iran.

And if I spend my time teaching the equivalent of Sunday school classes to Baha'i children, I could be imprisoned and executed, even if I was just a teenage girl.

Because I grew up hearing stories of modern-day persecution from my Iranian Baha'i friends whose families left Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution (or of their relatives who were not able to escape) I never take for granted how fortunate I am to live in a nation where religious freedom is protected.

Last year, seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i community, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country, were unjustly jailed. Five men and two women were arrested in the spring of 2008, and have been held in Tehran's Evin Prison ever since. The five men have all been imprisoned in one 10 meter squared cell with no bed.

Their alleged crimes? We're all supposed to believe that these seven men and women (you can read their bios here) have been busy “insulting religious sanctities”. Before being jailed they supposedly spent their time spreading “propaganda against the Islamic Republic" and are also charged with two capital crimes: "corrupting the Earth" and "espionage for Israel".

Since being jailed, they have had no direct access to their legal counsel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights attorney, Shirin Ebadi. However, on October 18th, these seven men and women will be on trial for their lives.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have unequivocally stated that they believe that these seven Baha'is are being targeted solely because of their religious beliefs.

These organizations, and so many others, have called for the seven to be released. Will you add your voice to the call for the release of these seven innocent Baha'is, and for the ending of the persecution of any and all religious minorities in Iran?

This Wednesday, October 14, here in Los Angeles, actor Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office) is hosting an inter-denominational event called "Belief Behind Bars: A Call for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Iran".

The event, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at USC's Bovard Auditorium, is open to people from all backgrounds and faith traditions and will feature world-renowned musicians, actors and artists, all gathered to support religious freedom in Iran for everyone.
The best way to combat a lie is to speak up, tell the truth, and repeat that truth over and over. I have the freedom of speech so I'm going to this event to add my voice to the thousands of others protesting the Iranian government's systematic persecution of Baha'is, Jews, Sufis, Christians and Zoroastrians.

If you can't attend on Wednesday here in Los Angeles, please write a letter or call your government officials. Write about this on your own blog, talk about it on Twitter or engage your networks on Facebook, etc.

Above all, please pray for the Baha'is and all other persecuted religious minorities in Iran. Or, if you do not pray, please take a moment to reflect or meditate on their behalf.

Without such efforts, these seven Baha'is might have already been executed. Our collective voices do make a difference.


nick said…
I may be an atheist but I support absolutely the right of other people to follow whatever religious beliefs they like, unless they're doing harm to me. The idea that a country should have one official religion and anyone who believes otherwise is persecuted ruthlessly is incredible. I sincerely hope the trial goes in their favour, but the chances can't be high.
Liz Dwyer said…
I hope the trial goes in their favor as well... I just have to hope it does. What could happen otherwise is unthinkable.
Great, this is a very important event! We also wrote about it here:

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