This month marks eight years since the wrongful imprisonment of seven Bahá’ís in Iran.
Following a trial that lacked the requirements of international law, these innocent people were convicted of crimes that bear no truth or reason. These seven individuals, known collectively as “Yaran-i-Iran” (meaning “Friends in Iran”), were responsible for the day-to-day care and coordination of the Bahá’í community in Iran.
Their service, offered in the name of their religion, included assisting in the holding of children’s classes, groups for youth, devotional meetings, and tending to the needs of the community. In particular, considering the difficulties that Bahá’ís in Iran face, these seven individuals offered protection and comfort – and for this, they are being punished.
Bahá’ís in Iran in general and in Namibia in particular are a community identified by their belief in Bahá’u’llah – a manifestation of God – who explained that the religions of the world come from the same source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.
Bahá’’is believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and the nature and purpose of life. A belief in the noble nature of humankind; a commitment to universal education; a belief in the equality of women and men; a regard for science and religion as two branches of knowledge; these are among the central teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and the principles which shape its community life.
Yet, notwithstanding the peaceful, constructive and unifying outlook and actions of Bahá’ís, the United Nations documents that the Bahá’í community in Iran continues to face systematic persecution and severe religious discrimination: Bahá’ís are blocked from attending university, prevented from worshipping as they choose, schoolchildren have been assaulted, cemeteries desecrated and workplaces vandalised.
“Eight years ago, seven innocent men and women were rounded up and thrown into Iran’s infamous Evin prison. After more than a year of illegal detention, they were put on trial, accused of espionage, “propaganda against the regime” and other alleged crimes that, in fact, related solely to their religious belief and practice.”
For us in this country this situation should be particularly touching. Less than a generation ago, Namibians were faced with the apartheid system, which imposed similar injustices on innocent people solely for their belief and desire for a better world. The international community joined Namibians in standing up for our rights and defending the cause of justice. Namibia’s independence and steady progress marks this triumph.
Therefore, we believe that most Namibians hold these self-same central principles of the Baha´’í faith to be true: the oneness of humanity, the equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudice and striving for a more peaceful and just society.
Drawing on this spirit of international solidarity, the Namibian Bahá’í community calls on all Namibians to join us in raising our prayers and our voices in support of these prisoners of conscience. Eight years is enough and we feel no one should be persecuted or punished for their belief and work for a better world.