Saturday, August 14, 2010
The Honorable John Abney Culberson
1514 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Culberson,
My name is Ahang Rabbani. My wife, Tahirih, and I are members of the Baha’i Faith who live in your district. We are writing to seek urgent action regarding the long-term imprisonment of the former leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran. This correspondence is further to your last year’s sponsorship of House Resolution 1008 condemning the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran, which was the tenth congressional resolution since 1982 concerning the human rights of the Baha’is of Iran – a resolution which condemned state-sponsored persecution of Iran’s largest religious minority, and vigorously objected to the Iranian government’s continued imprisonment of innocent Baha’is without due process or a fair trial.
Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), Baha’is have not been permitted any national or local organization. However, for more than two decades, with the knowledge and consent of the government, a seven-member coordinating committee looked after the internal needs of the Baha’i community, such as registering births, deaths, marriages and the like.
Over two years ago, these seven individuals were suddenly arrested and held without bail in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Summary arrest of Baha’i spiritual leaders in Iran is not without precedence. However, the last time such wholesale arrests took place was in 1980-81, when three successive complete nine-member memberships of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran were either abducted or arrested. Of the 27 members abducted, only one survived, and the other 26 members are presumed dead.
After over two years of arbitrary detainment with no access to their lawyers, the seven spiritual leaders received a secretive show-trial. Several days ago, the court pronounced a politically-motivated sentence of 20-year incarceration for each of them based on such charges as “espionage”, “propaganda against the Islamic order”, and “establishment of an illegal administration”, as well as “corruption on earth” and “waging war against God”.
Congressman Culberson, religious freedom is a cornerstone of democracy as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, members of the Baha’i community are denied education, have had their homes razed, are frequently detained arbitrarily, face desecration of their cemeteries, home raids, property confiscation, work expulsion, are denied government jobs, and suffer discrimination at private businesses purely and simply because of their faith.
The verdict dealt by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the seven Baha’i leaders makes even more evident the IRI’s policy of oppression and systematic denial of rights to members of the Baha’i Faith.
The attorneys for the seven Baha’i leaders are currently making an appeal, but a court system that lacks independence and is increasingly under the control of intelligence and security forces cannot guarantee fair trials.
Noble Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, one of the lawyers on the case, has publicly stated, “As their lawyer, I should have had access to my clients from the time of their detention and I should have known of the charges against them. But I was not allowed to see them.” Ms. Ebadi has continually pointed out that given the advanced age of several of the Baha’i leaders, the 20-year prison sentence is effectively a life sentence, as it is unlikely they will survive beyond their prison terms.
With the integrity of international human rights standards at stake, we plead that you use your influence to bring about the release of these seven, and all other prisoners of conscience, urge a fair appeals process with full access to legal representation, and ensure they – and all of the IRI’s prisoners of conscience – receive adequate medical care and are treated with the dignity every human deserves.
Congressman Culberson, recent history has shown that the Iranian government does value international opinion and does respond to public pressure. Therefore, we implore you to
- take urgent action in this matter and publicly voice your support for the long-persecuted members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran
- strongly denounce this verdict
- demand that the Baha’i leaders be freed immediately and without conditions.
Your dedication to the cause of human and civil rights will be long remembered and cherished.
Ahang and Tahirih Rabbani