Caught being different

Seven Bahai leaders seek freedom


Caught being different
by Randolph Dobbs

Joined by numerous human rights organizations, members of the Bahai Faith all over the world have been calling attention to the plight of seven Iranian Bahais held in Evin Prison for more than two years. Now there’s been a new development.  First, the good news: their 20-year prison sentence has thankfully been reduced.  The bad news?  They still have to serve 10 years in a woefully overcrowded Iranian prison for a crime they did not commit!

At issue is the gross violation by Iran of international standards of justice which, as outlined by the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, calls for “freedom of expression,” “freedom of religion,” “equal protection before the law” and the freedom from “arbitrary arrest and detention” — all things denied the seven Iranian Bahais since their arrest in the spring of 2008.

More than a year and a half after being arrested and held without charges, a sham trial began in January of this year in which the lawyers defending the seven religious leaders were given barely an hour’s access to their clients.  Strung out over half a year, six hasty courtroom sessions were held, each one characterized by a lack of due process.  The abbreviated but slow-moving trial came to an abrupt end on June 14 with convictions for all seven prisoners on charges of espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and the establishment of an illegal administration.  Just the kind of trumped-up, blanket charges applied, not just to Bahais, but to virtually anyone in disfavor with the Iranian government including journalists, academics, civil activists and women’s rights defenders.

Of course, the real crime for the seven Bahai leaders was that they were caught being members of a different religion.  The 300,000+ members of the Bahai Faith in Iran constitute the largest non-Muslim religious minority in that country and are used to unfair treatment. Starting with the reign of the Shah in mid-19th century Persia, a succession of Iranian governments have brutalized the Bahais in that country.  Bahai cemeteries are routinely desecrated and members of the religion are denied jobs, education, and the freedom to worship.

The trial and conviction of the seven Bahai leaders is only the latest development in a deliberate policy of the Iranian government to eliminate the Bahai community. Systematic plans were drawn up in 1991 at the request of the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the President of Iran at the time.

The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States of America - as well as the European Union and the President of the European Parliament - have already condemned the sentencing of the seven Bahais.

According to the Human Rights Activist News of Iran (HRANA), the convicted Bahais were transferred to Gohardasht, a small prison in Karaj, about 12 miles west of Tehran, Iran’s capital.  Designed for a capacity of 90, overcrowding at the prison is so bad that many of its 1,100 prisoners are detained in hallways and staircases or simply held outside the building in exposed, open areas.

The unfair treatment of the seven Bahais in Iran — their prolonged incarceration without charges, the show trial and lack of due process — all constitute a gross injustice.  But the more subtle outrage comes with the fact that time is the most precious possession any of us has and it is being irretrievably subtracted from the lives of seven innocent people one day at a time.  Considering the advanced age and poor health of some of the prisoners, the long imprisonment is execution on the installment plan.

Most people in the West are unaware of Iran’s legacy of promoting human rights dating all the way back to Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire around 550  B.C.  The religious bigotry of the 21st century Iranian government is alarming because prejudice is paired with power in a combination that is as deadly as it is disconcerting.  What is needed is the application of an even more powerful standard of justice — one which everyone can instantly recognize as beneficial to the rights of the individual and the betterment of society.

The seven Bahai leaders are no longer on trial.  Now it is the Islamic Republic of Iran which must account for its actions before a global jury in the court of public opinion.

Randolph Dobbs is the secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of Los Angeles and a member of the Regional Bahai Council of the Southwestern States.  His articles have been posted to,, Muslim Network for Bahai Rights and many other websites.




by Aryana-Vaeja on

All things considered the IPP has been quite accomodating to these seven. They are not on death row like Sakineh and they haven't been raped with coke bottles like the protestors. The regime has virtually rolled out the red carpet for this lot. They just had their sentences commuted by ten years and I predict they will be given amnesty and released within the next 12 to 18 months.

While we hear about these seven Bahai leaders, thanks to the deep pockets of the Bahai organization and the lobbying efforts of their friends in DC, London and Brussels, we hear almost nothing about the Gonabadi Sufi dervishes being held for no reason. It appears that amongst the North American expat community some minorities are simply considered more equal than others and the purported human rights violations against them worthier of consideration than that of other Iranians in a similar or worse plight under the IPP.

As they say, money talks...


May we be amongst those who are to bring about the transfiguration of the Earth - Yasna XXX 9


Let your voice cry

by service on

it is quite unfortunate that in this global civilization we still cannot come to terms with the fact that we are all inhrenetly human. Though time alone will tell what is to become of these seven steadfast souls, it is up to us to stand up for what is just. Their imprisonment may seem small in the grand scheme of human rights atocitieis occuring daily, yet this does not deny them the same voice made by Neda last summer or Mona twenty-five years ago (both having sacrificied their lives for their own beliefs). The Bahais claim that the eart is but one country and mankind its citizens. Is this belief such a thing to be imprisoned for? Who are we to deny such a claim?

I implore you to raise your ovices and let the unjust and undeserved sentence of these seven Yaran be known. Express your dissatisfaction to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. Through them, our voice is heard.

i am a bahai too

An Unexpected Blessing

by i am a bahai too on

As an unexpected blessing, after Roxanne Sabieri was released from Evin prison she wrote an account of her experiences. Anyone wishing to see into the character of the Baha'i prisoners should read her book.  She shared a cell with the two imprisoned Baha'si ladies, Fariba and Mahvesh. I must say how struck I was by the two Baha'i ladies dignity and strong sense of self. They helped Ms. Sabieri adapt to prison life in a wonderful way . . .

It is only right to insist that these Baha'i prisoners be released. We all know that their unjust incarceration is not at all the wish of the Iranian people, but the product of a confused judicary.  Iran is struggling to become confident of its identity and confident of its minorities. Thank you Mr. Dobbs for writing.

Bahram G

Part of a Grand Plan?

by Bahram G on

The tragedy of injustice visited on these seven people seems to be consistent with other actions of this band of fanatics ruling our Iran and ruining its reputation. I don't want to draw attention away from these badly wronged compatriots. Yet, there are so many terrible things that the IRI is doing that makes me shudder: Re-writing textbooks in schools to wipe out our Iranian heritage; shamelessly using our nationally-revered music to sing the praises of Islamism; neglecting and even actively destroying our pre-Islamic treasures, just to name some.

Iran deserves better. Iran is the land of civilized proud people. Iran should be a trailblazer in upholding human rights, not shamelessly violating it. Who are these thugs who bill themselves as our government? Who are these fanatics who kill our people in the streets for daring to ask for nothing more than their votes be counted? Who are these renegades who fill prisons with some of Iran's best people and force many of them to leave their homeland?

I say that we must speak up and stand up. We must not rest until we reclaim our Iran and help it take its place in the forefront of civilized nations.

Bahram G 


Bahais unforgivable crime

by Fred on

You say: "Of course, the real crime for the seven Bahai leaders was that they were caught being members of a different religion." Actually their crime, which there are roughly seventy million conspirators in its commission, is being peaceful, Iran and Iranian loving non-Islamist Iranian. For as long as this rabid Islamist Rapist Republic is in existence in any shape or form, non-Islamist Iranians will be targeted and abused by them.