Canadian Relatives of Iran’s Baha’is Worried
Toronto, Ontario, 12 February 2009 (CBNS) — Canadian relatives of some of the 40 Iranian Baha'is now in prison for their beliefs have more reason to fear today as news comes out of Iran that seven Baha’i leaders are to be put on trial for “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.” The reports cite Tehran’s deputy public prosecutor Hassan Haddad that the seven Baha'i leaders, imprisoned since last spring, have had their case referred to the Revolutionary Court. This step appears to mark a new and dangerous phase in Iran’s ongoing persecution of Baha’is.
“The accusations are false, and the government knows this,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “The seven Baha’is detained in Tehran should be immediately released.”
Canada is home to some 9,000 Iranian Baha’is who have come to Canada since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, joining more than 20,000 other Canadian members of the Baha'i Faith. More than a dozen of them are close relatives of Baha’is now in prison in Iran. Naeim Tavakkoli of Ottawa, the son of Behrouz Tavakkoli, one of the Baha’i leaders in prison since May 2008, is among the relatives who have expressed grave concern, as has Nika Khanjani of Montreal, niece of Jamaloddin Khanjani, a 75-year-old Baha’i whose successful factory was closed by the government after the revolution and who was arrested for the third or fourth time last spring. Like the other seven, Mr. Khanjani has devoted himself to contributing to the well-being of Iran but simply because of his beliefs, he has had to spend much of the past thirty years facing intense government persecution.
“Not just the relatives, here in Canada, but the entire Baha’i Community is deeply troubled by recent events in Iran,” said Gerald Filson, spokesman for the Baha'i Community of Canada. “The charges of espionage for the State of Israel are outrageous. They relate to the fact that the international headquarters of the Baha'i Faith are in Israel because the Baha'i Founder, Baha’u’llah, was banished to the prison city of Akka in what is now northern Israel in the mid-19th century by the Persian and Ottoman empires. Over many decades Baha’is have been accused of spying for Russia, then Britain, the United States, and most recently Israel, but always the real reason for such accusations relate simply to the government’s refusal to allow religious freedom to the Baha’is.”
Diane Ala’i asks, “Why were hundreds of Baha’is previously executed for refusing to recant their faith and embrace Islam? Why have thousands been deprived of their jobs, pensions, businesses and educational opportunities? The charges are false.”
For the past five years the Canadian Government has tabled resolutions at the UN condemning Iran’s long list of human rights violations, including the attacks on the Baha’is, each time securing a majority vote of all the UN member states.
For more information, please visit the Baha'i World News Service, or call Gerald Filson, Director of External Affairs, Baha’i Community of Canada, cell: 416-587-0632