[TRANSCRIPT OF ORIGINAL NEWS ARTICLE IN ENGLISH]
GENEVA—29 June 2020—
A group of 21 senior law-makers in Canada have made an “urgent demand” to the Iranian government that it “halt the recent escalation of the Baha’i religious minority”. The demand, issued through an open letter signed by members of parliament and senators, echoes a wave of support for the Baha’is in Iran at the United Nations and in media around the world and comes on the heels of increasing religious persecution in recent days against Baha’is in five provinces across Iran.
The letter’s signatories include representatives of all five political parties in Canada, members of the House of Commons and the Senate, expressing concern that “[u]nder the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, Iranian authorities have targeted dozens of Baha’is for persecution”. They further demand that this “targeted persecution must stop”.
In a moving expression of solidarity the signatories end their letter by stating that, “[as] Canadians and members of a global community, it pains us to see our brothers and sisters languishing in prisons, facing falsified charges, with no legal recourse.
“We join the international community in our plea to the Iranian authorities to order the release of all prisoners of conscience, as well as the end of the ongoing manoeuvres of intimidation and repression levelled against the Baha’i community.”
Among the parliamentarians are chairs of the Canadian parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the Standing Committee on International Trade, and the Standing Committee on Health.
In the days preceding the letter, Baha’is in, Fars, Isfahan, South Khorasan, Tehran, and Yazd Provinces have received prison sentences, in most cases of six to ten years, in primary or appeals courts. Moreover, despite international calls to release prisoners of conscience due to the health pandemic, some Baha’is remain in prison, such as in Birjand where sanitary conditions of the prison are extremely poor, heightening the chance of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Canadian statement, published on 24 June, comes days after the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran at the UN Human Rights Council, extending the work of the Special Rapporteur for the ninth year in a row.
At the Council, governments such as the Netherlands and Brazil raised concerns for the Baha’is in Iran. The Brazilian representative stated that Baha’is are “one of the most persecuted religious minorities in Iran” and that the Iranian government must take “all necessary measures to prohibit any advocacy of religious hatred against them”. She further reaffirmed the “legitimate aspirations of the Baha’is” to “peacefully exercise their religious freedom”.
“It is regrettable that the Iranian authorities are placing such heavy psychological pressure on the Baha’i community rather than seeking ways to protect them and the rest of the population from the current pandemic,” says Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations in Geneva. “Sentencing these individuals to long prison terms and subjecting them to the psychological pain of impending imprisonment is yet another attempt to increase the pressure on the Baha’i community.”
The open letter has resulted in a wave of support by others across Canada including a CBC journalist Canada’s Director of Human Rights Watch and others. In the past month, the recent persecutions have received widespread media attention in a number of countries around the world, such as Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Brazil, New Zealand, and the UK.
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