Bahais in Iran

Iranians to gather at Baha'i Temple in Wilmette

Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center

Conference participants to hold prayer service for Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran

Expatriate Iranians will gather this weekend at the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette for a cultural conference and to hold a prayer service for imprisoned leaders of the faith who face the death penalty in Iran.

"It really is a bittersweet occasion," said Glen Fullmer, director of communications for the Baha'i national office in Evanston.

Iranian art, music, poetry, dance and history are the focus of the Persian Culture Conference, which started Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center in Schaumburg.

Fullmer said 2,500 expatriate Iranians are taking part in the conference, including Payam Akhavan, a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and Professor of Law at McGill University in Canada. Akhavan spent 10 years prosecuting war criminals for the United Nations and on Saturday is scheduled to give a lecture on human rights in Iran, Fullmer said.

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Latest Video: United for Baha'i Human Rights

We are extremely excited to release our latest video, which has been in the works for quite some time now. As we noted on our timeline, abuses against the innocent Baha’i minority in Iran have been committed for over 30 years. Inspired by the reactions of Iran’s latest election, where many Iranians took to the streets to demand change and respect for their human rights, we felt that a new video was in order, especially after this powerful video (whose chants we used in the background to one of this video’s scenes.)


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After life of persecution, Plano Bahais lead nationwide call for change

Photos by Michael Boren. Mehri Mavaddat and her son, Payam Mavaddat, with a portrait of Farhang Mavaddat in Mehri's Plano home.

It was near summer’s end in 1980, and Mehri Mavaddat and her husband were just bailed out of jail.

They were Iranians of the Bahai faith, which authorities had launched a rapid persecution the year before.

“They attacked so many times to my home at midnight, during the day,” Mehri Mavaddat said. “They confiscated all my money, jewelry, books, mostly the books, and then destroyed everything.”

And so it began. Her husband, Farhang Mavaddat, would breathe two to three more weeks outside of prison before authorities asked him back to be a witness for someone.

“People were telling us, ‘Don’t go, it is a trap for you,” said Mehri Mavaddat, who’s in her mid-70s. “But he said, ‘I haven’t done anything.’”

It was a trap, however, and suddenly he vanished from his wife into one of Iran’s most infamous prisons.

“For two months, I didn’t have any clue where he is,” Mehri Mavaddat said. “Finally, he sent a message through one of the Bahais whose husband was there.”

{josquote}Presently, her son and Bahais across the nation are trying to create a U.S. bill to help their group.{/josquote}

Farhang Mavaddat was in Evin prison, the same prison seven other Bahai leaders have been incarcerated in since spring 2008. Many believe the seven are behind bars for the same reason he was: their religion.

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An Evening in Support of the Bahais of Iran

Abbas Milani's speech at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

This Tuesday, seven leaders of Iran's Bahai movement will go on trial on capital charges of espionage and threatening national security. They have been in prison for more than a year. The group's two lawyers have not only been refused the legally required visits with their clients, but neither will be in court on Tuesday. One, Abdulfattah Sultani, is in prison on charges of participating in the "Velvet Revolution," while the other, the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, stands accused by the regime of participating in the same "conspiracy"--but has been fortunately traveling in the West.

{josquote}there is a new surging consciousness amongst millions of Iranians, dozens of intellectuals, and even a handful of Shiite clerics that the treatment of Bahais has been a shameful part of our past.{/josquote}

For the last few weeks, all around the world, there have been meetings in support of the Bahai Seven in Iran. And last Wednesday, at the San Fransisco Herbst Theater, where the meeting to draft the declaration of Human Rights was once convened, a delightfully multi-ethnic, multi-faith group came to show their concern for the fate of the Bahai Seven and solidarity with the 300,000 Bahais who still live in Iran. Ross Mirkarimi, an Iranian-American member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was among the political leaders who spoke at the gathering. The president of the University of San Francisco offered a few words of prayer to begin the meeting. Here is the text of the talk I gave on that night. I am not a member of the Bahai faith, and like many in the hall, I was there in solidarity with a much persecuted religious minority in Iran.

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There Can't be a Happy Ending to Our Story

Dr. Vahdati

There can’t be a happy ending to our story, if only the human rights of certain segments of society are considered

Editor’s Note: Dr. Vahdati is an Iranian-American human rights activist and freelance writer who has published extensively on the effects of the death penalty, women’s rights and gender issues in Iranian journals.  Dr. Vahdati published the following article in the online Persian journal Iran-Emrooz, addressed to Mrs. Fakhri Mohtashamipour, wife of Seyyed Mostafa Tajzadeh, who served as the Political Vice Minister of the Ministry of the Interior of Iran in the government of President Mohammad Khatami.  Tajzadeh was arrested in June 2009, amidst the Iranian election protests.

By Dr. Soheila Vahdati

I have read the letter that you have written to your husband [here], a widely published correspondence that was written for the purpose of seeking public attention and support in the wake of your husband’s arrest and the uncertainty surrounding his fate.  I sympathize with you as a wife, whose husband has been arrested. I am writing to tell you that I absolutely feel your pain, and I hope there will be a happy ending for everyone.

{josquote}Can’t we look at one another and respect each other as human beings, irrespective of our convictions?  Can we let words such as apostate, irreligious, Baha’i or Israeli not be considered to be profane?{/josquote}

Moreover, I am writing you as a human rights activist, who is concerned about the infringement of the rights of your husband.  I want to draw your attention to the fact that there will be a happy ending to our story if, and only if, all of us, whether Muslim or not, participate in writing our story, as human beings who respect and defend each other’s civil liberties and do not keep quiet when anyone’s rights are violated.

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