News Tip

Local Bahá'ís Encouraged by Congressional Action and Bahá'í Statements

This post expresses the views and opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily that of Mount Vernon on the MoVe management or staff.

Bahá’ís in Mount Vernon and Franconia who have relatives in Iran have reason to be encouraged by recent developments.

Bahá'ís in Iran constitute the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country. What kind of country might Iran be if its government did not oppress its minorities as a matter of policy? Iran’s people are asking this question aloud at a scale seldom seen.

The Bahá’í International Community presented its case to the UN Human Rights Council on November 24:

"Our hearts, and the heart of every unbiased observer, ache as we watch the loss of innocent human life in Iran; as Iranians of every age and all walks of life call for social justice and equality but are met with violence and repression, instead of efforts to engage everyone in a genuine conversation about the future of Iran.

"As you know, the Bahá’ís in Iran are all too familiar with persecution, with suffering, arbitrary imprisonment, denial of higher education, hate propaganda, executions, and daily harassment for 43 years. In fact, what we see in Iran today is the extension of the persecution against the Bahá’ís to the generality of Iranians. A government that oppresses one group will surely be unjust to all groups in the long term."

Local Bahá’ís of Iranian background suffered persecution in their home country, were denied higher education, prevented from engaging in occupations and business, saw the graves of their ancestors and loved one bulldozed, and were jailed. Several currently have family members who have been arrested in Iran solely because of their religious beliefs.

The Bahá’í local council, called the Spiritual Assembly, issued a statement in late November registering its support for human rights for everyone in Iran and the end to oppressive government measures against the people.

Statement on Human Rights in Iran

"We are gravely troubled by the gross injustices that the Iranian government continues to visit upon its people in the land where the Bahá’í Faith was born almost 180 years ago. We join with all who support equal rights for women and men, freedom of conscience to choose one’s beliefs, and solidarity and understanding among all nations and peoples. The oppressive actions of Iran’s authorities against their own citizens are a blatant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the teachings of Islam. Our ardent hope and vision for the future of Iran is one in which all, regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, or viewpoint can enjoy the freedom, dignity, and equality reflective of the highest aspirations of fair-minded people everywhere. May a spiritual breeze waft over Iran, awaken all who slumber, and usher in a day of justice." -- The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Mount Vernon, Virginia

On December 1, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 744 “Condemning the Government of Iran's state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The resolution also calls on Iran to immediately release all imprisoned or detained Bahá’ís, and it urges the President and the Department of State to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and others who are responsible for serious human rights abuses, including abuses against Iran's Bahá’í community.

Local Bahá’ís are grateful to Congressman Don Beyer for his co-sponsorship and his vote for this resolution, and are thankful that Congress has recognized the severe and continual injustice that the Iranian government perpetrates against its Bahá’í minority. Since the Baha’is are not alone in facing persecution, this resolution may contribute in some way to the improvement of human rights for all Iranians.

The story of one Bahá’í who stayed behind in Iran after his family emigrated to the United States tells of the imprisonment and torture he suffered, emerging broken in mind but strong in spirit. “It’s likely that the last sane act this man performed was to refuse to recant his faith, which was his only crime in the eyes of his captors. In whatever followed, he surrendered his mind rather than his soul.”

And amid increasingly violent and repressive actions by the Iranian authorities against their own citizens, two prominent Bahá’í women, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, regarded as symbols of resilience in Iran after spending 10 years in prison, have been sentenced to a second cruel 10-year imprisonment after a one-hour "trial" merely because of their religious beliefs, insulted by the judge and allowed no defense.

The inhumane deprivations visited upon the generality of Iranians and the Bahá’ís specifically, will end. The Bahá’ís in Mount Vernon and Franconia long for that time so that they may assist the people of Iran to develop a prosperous society based on principles of human rights and spiritual justice.

Bahá'í bicentenary commemoration in Alexandria
Bahá'í cemetery desecrated in Najafabad, Iran
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