Thursday, May 23

Iranian persecution of Baha’is must be protested


SUBMITTED BY: Mateen Safaie

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in our nation’s capital. Though the insightful exhibits and the plethora of artifacts made my visit a fulfilling experience, it is disheartening to realize that the events documented within those rooms were not fictitious.

Even more disheartening is the realization that this amoral treatment of human beings instigated by tyrannical governments lives to this day.
Though the Third Reich rests in peace, the Islamic Republic of Iran has revived the genocidal zeal that characterized the era of the Holocaust. On Aug. 9, an Iranian court sentenced each of seven Baha’i leaders in that nation to 20 years of imprisonment. Among the baseless charges against them are spying for Israel, spreading corruption and insulting religious sanctions.

The charges are heavy, but the proof for them is nonexistent: Not one piece of evidence has been advanced to support the court’s claim. These leaders, collectively referred to as the Yaran (meaning “friends” in Persian), committed only one crime: They are of the Baha’i Faith, which aspires to unify mankind.

As a consequence, the government of Iran had them imprisoned for two years before delivering its unjustified verdict. Throughout the course of their trial, they faced the unbearable living conditions of the country’s notorious Evin Prison. To further compound the injustices heaped upon these guiltless people, their attorney was not permitted to visit her clients.

The Iranian government has denied some of the most basic human rights to Baha’is since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, including not being able to pursue higher education, renew business licenses or obtain bank loans. The government has also destroyed Baha’i cemeteries and holy places. Since the revolution, more than 200 Baha’is have been killed in Iran and hundreds more imprisoned. Because the government refuses to correct the iniquities it has dealt to innocent citizens, the rest of the world must voice its disapprobation.

As students at UCLA, we have a special obligation to those who were wrongfully sentenced. UCLA is a world-class institution that stands at the forefront of research. Our perpetual quest for knowledge, truth and justice obliges us to reject the Iranian government’s denial of basic human rights and to whole-heartedly support our fellow human beings.

Mateen Safaie is a board member of the Baha’i Association at UCLA.

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