The count of Iranian Baha’is currently in prison because of their religion has climbed in recent weeks to 79, according to an update from the Baha’i World News Service released on March 20, up from 69 prisoners recorded in February.
On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama issued his annual Naw Ruz greeting to the people of Iran in which he refers to the oppression of Baha’is as one of many injustices meted out by the Iranian regime’s campaign of intimidation and abuse.
Obama referred to the regime’s actions as signs of fear. “For it is telling when a government is so afraid of its own citizens that it won’t even allow them the freedom to access information or to communicate with each other. But the future of Iran will not be shaped by fear. The future of Iran belongs to the young people – the youth who will determine their own destiny.”
Since August 2004, Iranian Baha’is have been the targets of nearly 380 arrests, roughly 315 of which are still active cases, pending either trial, summons to begin serving a sentence or completion of terms of imprisonment or exile.
Recent arrests in Semnan, Mashhad, Bandar Abbas and Ghaemshahr were carried out like the majority of those before them, with agents of the Ministry of Intelligence showing up at the homes of Baha’is, searching the premises and confiscating items such as computers and books, then arresting the residents.
Navid Khanjani, age 24, is one example of how these systematic arrests and imprisonments are another link in a chain being tightened around the throat of an entire community, especially its young. Khanjani’s 12-year sentence was doled out on Jan. 30, 2011 for being convicted of “engaging in human rights activities,” “illegal assembly,” and “disturbance of the general public’s opinion.”
Khanjani is among thousands of college-aged Iranian Bahá’ís who have been denied access to higher education in recent years. He became active in advocating human rights along with other students banned from pursuing their studies. Lawyers are preparing an appeal against the verdict.
What can we do?
Take action on behalf of the Baha’is in Iran with resolutions introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Contact your U.S. senators. Ask them to demonstrate support for the Baha’is in Iran by co-sponsoring Senate resolution S.Res.80, condemning the continued persecution by the Iranian government. Find out who is a co-sponsor and then call your senators’ Washington offices or send an email (find contact info) asking them to co-sponsor or thanking them for already having done so.
Contact your U.S. representative. Ask him or her to demonstrate support for the Baha’is in Iran by co-sponsoring H.Res.134, condemning the continued persecution by the Iranian government. Find out who is a co-sponsor and then call your representative’s Washington office or send an email (find contact info) asking her or him to co-sponsor or saying thank you for already having done so.