SUBMITTED BY Shamim Nafea
Seventeen months have passed since seven Baha’i leaders were arrested in Iran for “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic,” as well as “spreading corruption on earth,” according to official Iranian news accounts. The charges, if convicted, are all worthy of capital punishment under the current regime.
They continue to be denied contact with their lawyers, defying a provision guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The charges brought forth are both false and ridiculous. This event is one in the line of many injustices raised against the Baha’i community in Iran, which include the denial of higher education, dismissal from both private and public occupations as well as the denial of various other fundamental human rights.
This summer, human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, who serves as a spokesman for the Center for Human Rights Defenders and also acts as one of the key defenders on the case, was arrested without formal charges. He was incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin Prison for 10 weeks following the unrest after Iran’s disputed June election.
While imprisoned, he was handed a writ of notification to appear in court and to provide defense for the Baha’is. Jailing an internationally renowned lawyer, then demanding he represent clients in a death-penalty case is almost as ludicrous as the charges filed against the Baha’i leaders in the first place. The trial has since been postponed several times.
The second key lawyer for the seven Baha’is, 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, has been denied re-entry to Iran to defend her clients. She writes, “The Iranian authorities know full well who is serving as legal counsel for the Baha’is. Indeed, authorities have several times tried to pressure the seven to change lawyers.”
In response, USC held an event titled “Belief Behind Bars: A Call for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Iran,” hosted by actor Rainn Wilson, in support of all the Baha’is still imprisoned in Iran.
In light of these events, I would like to call for the school’s support of Senate Resolution 71 (SR71).
This resolution, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) condemns the Iranian government for its treatment of the seven arrested Baha’is and its general disregard for human rights.
Please contact your local elected representatives and ask them to support human rights in Iran and Senator Wyden’s resolution.
Nafea is a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student.