[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]
[Adapted from website:] Radio Farda
[Date:] 25 Aban 1390 [16 November 2011]
Protest of 46 German Professors Against the Persecution of Baha’is
By: Wahied Wahdat-Hagh
Protests have escalated in countries such as Germany, Ireland and Brazil following the conviction of seven Baha’i teachers who taught at the Iranian Baha’i online university.
Two of the Baha'is, Vahid Mahmoudi and Kamran Mortezaie, each received five-year prison sentences, while four-year jail terms were given to Mahmoud Badavam, Noushin Khadem, Farhad Sedghi, Riaz Sobhani and Ramin Zibaie.
Forty-six renowned professors from various German universities have protested against the systematic violation of the human rights of Iranian Baha’is. In their protest letter to the minister of science, research and technology of Iran, Kamran Daneshjoo, they wrote, “We, the signatories, university professors, have come to the conclusion that advancing education to the level of university should be considered one of the highest cultural assets of a country.”
These professors believe that supporting education up to university degrees should be the basis of a country’s progress and public welfare.
German professors who teach in various disciplines such as political science, law, medicine, philosophy, education, natural and religious sciences have warned the Iranian government to stop harassing Baha’i students and educators in Iran.
The letter states, “We demand the immediate release of these innocent prisoners.” They also demanded the unlimited right to higher education for all Iranian citizens.
The German professors wrote that they were shocked to hear that the Iranian government does not allow young people from different groups in their country to study at universities. They emphasized that Iran is one of the oldest nations in human society, and despite this fact, many of the country’s Baha’i youth do not have the right to study at university.
Following the announcement of the sentences issued for seven imprisoned Baha’i teachers, the letter of protest from these academics was published on the official website of the German Baha’i community on 2 November this year,
“Neither the defendants nor their lawyers have seen a written copy of the verdict,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Bahai International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, “but we know from transcripts taken down by people present at the hearing that the seven were found guilty of ‘membership in the deviant Baha’ist sect, with the goal of taking action against the security of the country, in order to further the aims of the deviant sect and those of organizations outside the country.’”
Judges of the Iranian court criminalized the activities of the defendants who are members of the institute, and said that they considered the lecturers at this institute, who have stepped forward for the development of Iranian society, [to be intending] to overthrow the government.
For the past five months, prominent global figures, such as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jose Ramos-Horta, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have criticized the incarceration of the educators. Fifty academics in Ireland and a number of journalists and filmmakers in Brazil have also condemned the arrest of the Baha’is.
The goal of the authorities of the Islamic Republic is the complete annihilation of the Baha’i community in Iran. In 1991, at the request of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the then-president, Mr. Rafsanjani, they drew up a systematic plan for this purpose. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to block the progress of the Baha’i community in Iran as much as possible. In the 1990’s, Baha’i employment opportunities became more limited and Baha’i youth were barred from entering the country’s higher education institutions.
The pro-government fanatics destroy the Baha’i cultural heritage. They have compiled and distributed a list of Baha’is, attached to the guidelines for the surveillance of members of this community. At dawn, Baha’i homes were raided, Baha’is were arbitrarily interrogated and detained throughout the country, and their property was confiscated. The state and semi-state media try every day to incite hatred towards the Baha’is among Iranians. Government clerics hold anti-Baha’i conferences and speeches. Across the country, even Baha’i cemeteries and their holy places are being destroyed. In school classrooms, teachers humiliate Baha’i students. Government officials have announced a list of occupations and trades in which Baha’is are not allowed to engage.
Iranian banks do not lend to Baha’is. Government officials seal their shops and do not renew or extend their business licences. Business owners are even being pressured to evict Baha’i tenants.
The systematic repression of the government is reminiscent of the situation of the Jews in Germany in the 1930s.
According to Article 7, Part II of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the systematic persecution of the Baha’is of Iran is a crime against humanity. The criteria defined for this type of government crime include the persecution of a specific group or community that is persecuted for political, racial, national, ethnic, religious, or sexual beliefs.
After experiencing the crimes of Nazi Germany, the world legislators decided to prevent serious government crimes in a timely manner. But international economic policies and political relations can hinder the implementation of these global laws, especially since Iran is one of the countries that have not signed this statute.
* Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels