February 7 is my birthday. I don't have a lot of time to celebrate because I’m organizing a meeting in support of seven mild-mannered Iranians I’ve never met. Unhappily, they live in Evin Prison, Tehran. The seven, known as “The Yaran” (“The Friends”) are charged by the Iranian judiciary with “espionage, "propaganda activities against the Islamic order,"establishment of an illegal administration" and "corruption on earth." On February 7, due to these charges and the “ad-hoc” nature of the leadership role the seven assumed over their beleaguered community, //www.iranpresswatch.org/post/4746 they face possible death sentences for each charge. They have been imprisoned for nearly two years.
Their “crime" is simply that they are members of the Bahá’í Faith, Iran’s largest religious minority of about 300, 000 people. I'd love to tell you about it, but after spending most of my life explaining the Bahá’í Faith, people I meet nowadays either know about it or have learned about it online. www.bahai.org.
What I actually hope to convey here is the singular situation of Iranian Bahá’í s and the predicament they face. Bahá’í s in Iran were stripped of civil rights under the constitution of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Other religious minorities that are sanctioned under the IRI's constitution (Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians) suffer serious disadvantage in Iranian society, too. (I am sure this doesn’t exactly shock anyone, but shouldn’t it?)
I hope we might consider is what it means when someone’s civil rights are removed. (You probably recall that this has happened before, in Germany, to the Jews.). The exclusion of civil rights means anyone can mistreat, even beat you (and your children). //www.iranpresswatch.org/post/5449, It means anyone inclined to, can harass, rob or imprison you with impunity, because of your belief. //news.bahai.org/story/745 . This is the exact attitude fostered by Iranian authorities against members of the Bahá’í Faith. Did I mention that the Bahá’í Faith originated in Iran? That Iran and the Iranian people are sacred to Bahá’ís across the world? Sadly, right now in Iran as in Germany more than 65 years ago, a crime committed against a legal non-entity, just isn’t a crime.
Despite this, the Bahá’í s of Iran are peaceful and hopeful. It is well known by most of the world’s great governing bodies and most recognized human rights advocates that Bahá’í s are forbidden to use aggression against anyone or to participate in partisan politics. Beyond that, Bahá’í Law requires Bahá’í s to adhere to the law of the land where they live, even when those laws there are prejudicial against them.
So here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, having learned from the past, right? . Maybe we ought to consider a little further what it’s like to become a pariah population after more than 150 years of shared existence means.
It means your Bahá’í marriage will never be recognized in Iran. It means your Bahá’í children will never go to Iranian university or obtain a professional license. It means you may not be able to bury your Bahá’í parents in Iranian soil. It may also mean that you and your loved ones can be summoned to Iranian prisons where torture is customary. In addition, as a way of leaching material strength away the community, you, your spouse, or your children can be subjected to “bail” fees that exceed the net worth of your family.
To remedy your arrest, you may be allowed to sell your home and hand over the proceeds to your jailers so you an d your loved ones can go home. All this will take place before you go to trial, if you are lucky. If you aren’t lucky, then like The Yaran, you will spend nearly two years without access to your family, your lawyer or a public trial //news.bahai.org/story/753 (even though your lawyer is world-famous and holds a Nobel Peace Prize). It may mean that during one of the few visits allowed to your family, your own mother won’t recognize you.
Where is this going?
I want to share a further reflection concerning the Yaran as they are await trial on February 7, my birthday. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, 200 Baha’is were executed. 10 of them were young, educated women, one of them was only 17 years old. see: //www.adressformona.org/MonasStory.htm
Yes, they could have saved themselves. The Bahá’ís of Iran could have denied their belief in human unity, in the abolition of all prejudice and the good of service to humanity. If they had said aloud that they just wanted to go home and not be Bahá’ís anymore, they would have been released They would have even been celebrated, they would have lived.
That’s not what the Bahá’í s of Iran did. Instead, they thanked their interrogators and sent notes to their relatives instructing them to send candy to their executioners. As a gift. Sounds a little extreme, I know, but Iranians do tend to follow their convictions with overflowing hearts. So I close with these a sample of Bahá’í teaching: “Bahá'u'lláh has clearly said in His Tablets that if you have an enemy, consider him not as an enemy. Do not simply be long-suffering; nay, rather, love him. Your treatment of him should be that which is becoming to lovers.” Do not even say that he is your enemy. Do not see any enemies. Though he be your murderer, see no enemy.”(1) I should not end without saying I believe am that most Iranians want The Yaran to be released and for state-sponsored persecution to end.
Happy Birthday! If this blog finds you searching for a reason to celebrate February 7, 2010, consider looking up to the sky. Whisper a short prayer for the goodness that surrounds you. Close your eyes for a moment and think of The Yaran, “The Friends.” After all, there is still time for the Iranian authorities to do the right thing. Meanwhile God is watching. My friends and I will gather February 7 and recite prayers, www.bahaiprayers.org. along with Bahá’ís from all over the world. There doesn’t seem anything better to do. Wondering what sustains a people with this kind of problem? Here is a line from Baha’i prayer:
“Armed with the power of Thy Name nothing can ever hurt me. . .” - Bahá’’u’lláh
(1) ‘Abdu’l Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, from a talk give August 17 , 1912
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