Social Action

Human rights, community development and the like

KYRGYZSTAN: Secrecy surrounds Religion Law before final parliamentary reading

{josquote}Baha'i representatives from Bishkek told Forum 18 on 16 October that "we don't know what changes they are making to the current law either. We are able to meet and worship now, but we don't know what will happen after the new Law is adopted."{/josquote}

Kyrgyzstan's Parliament has passed without discussion the first reading of a restrictive draft Religion Law, which may, according to some, pass its final reading on 21 October. However, others have told Forum 18 News Service that the second and final reading will be later. It is unclear what is in the current text, as officials refuse to release the latest version. Deputy Zainidin Kurmanov told Forum 18 that the latest text is on the parliamentary website, but other deputies state that they do not know what is in the draft Law. Kurmanov revealed that the draft Law includes: a ban on unregistered religious activity; a threshold of 200 adult citizens to gain state registration; a ban on "proselytism"; a definition of a "sect"; and a ban on the free distribution of literature. Kurmanov claimed he did not understand objections as "only criminals should be afraid of law and order." Protestant, Jehovah's Witness and Baha'i religious minorities have all expressed concern at the secrecy surrounding the Law, the lack of public consultation, and the restrictions thought to be in the first reading text. A joint Venice Commission / OSCE legal review of a July text of the Law is also highly critical of it. Officials claim to be organising a roundtable, but religious communities say they have not been invited to it.

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Shirin Ebadi at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California

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[On Tuesday, 14 October 2008, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned lawyer for human and civil rights, spoke at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.  One of the kind Baha’i readers of this site has provided a short report which appears below (in edited form).  Ahang Rabbani]

I just wanted to share a short report on Nobel Peace prize winner Mrs. Shirin Ebadi’s speech on Tuesday evening, October 14.  The event was not well publicized and only about 150 people had the opportunity to attend.  The audience was mostly students and perhaps around 20 Iranians, of whom 5 were members of the Baha’i Faith.  Mrs. Ebadi spoke in Persian and her remarks were translated into English.

After a prepared speech of about 50 minutes, she opened the floor to questions for the audience.  I asked a question in which I commented on her courageous decision to defend the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran who have been imprisoned since March/May, and asked if she had any updates or had been able to meet with them.

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Wilson backs justice organization

Media Credit: Viktors Dindzans.
Rainn Wilson speaks about Tahirih Justice Center at Lisner Auditorium Sunday afternoon. The center advocates for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence and discrimination.

"Office" star advocates for women's rights group during alumni event

Rainn Wilson stepped out of his popular "The Office" character Dwight Schrute at Lisner Auditorium on Sunday afternoon to promote a legal advocacy group for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence or discrimination.

Around 600 to 700 tickets were sold to members of the GW community and the general public for the Alumni Weekend event, which raised money for the Tahirih Justice Center.

"I'm here to let you know about the work of the Tahirih Justice Center that has really opened my eyes about the plight of so many women around the globe," Wilson said of the Virginia-based organization.

In his talk, Wilson referenced his Baha'i faith and his search for a way to give back to the world as a result of his fame.

Wilson shared with the audience a Baha'i proverb: "The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice." Wilson said he sees this proverb at the core of the Tahirih Justice Center's work.

"When you actually hear the personal stories I was absolutely floored to hear women tearfully speak of rape, abduction, genital mutilation, forced marriages," Wilson said of the crimes abroad. "The idea that the U.S. could somehow have laws against being a safe haven for women escaping these injustices is ludicrous."

{josquote}One student said he was somewhat disappointed that the tone of the event was not totally comedic.{/josquote}

Wilson took a variety of questions from the audience ranging from "What is your favorite type of cheese?" to speculations on the romantic involvements of Dwight Schrute, his character in "The Office," which Wilson said "will continue to be interesting."

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Roundup on status Baha'is in Muslim-majority countries

In many Muslim-majority countries, the history of the Baha’i community dates back to over a century. Sadly, their history has been marred with intolerance, discrimination and abuse. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released its Annual Report, and below is a round-up on the status of the Baha’i minority in several Muslim-majority countries.

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But, why?

But, why?

What causes astonishment is the silence towards barbaric deeds against Bahais

[Shemirani was born in Iran and holds a Bachelor of Sciences from Johannes Guttenberg University. He is a freelance writer specializing in analytical articles on the socio-political issues of Iran and violations of children’s rights. The following is a translation of his recent article titled "I Am a Bahai Too!", published in Shahrgon online journal, 12 September 2008. Mr. Shemirani is not associated with the Bahai community and lives in Canada. -- Ahang Rabbani, translator.]

I want to cry out: “I am a Bahai! For as long as belief in the Bahai Faith is viewed as a crime, consider me a Bahai too! For that, you can end my meager pension, you can stop me from going to university, and you can abuse me in grade school and high school! You can seize me, bind me, imprison me, torture me, separate me from my family, burn my house, confiscate my tools through your religious laws , prevent me from earning bread for my children, execute me and at the end, expel me from Iran – my sacred land!”

It is more than 150 years that, leaning on the Shiite clerical establishment, the governmental apparatus of Iran has been determined to suppress the Bahais of that land. At times these suppressions have been so extremely intense that border on criminal insanity and at other times they have been more subtle and insidious – but always, always they have been present.

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