Iran must free the Bahá’í leaders who have been jailed for five years too many

Omid Djalili, The Guardian, May 16

Today is the fifth anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of seven Bahá’í leaders in Iran. They were jailed for 20 years for no reason other than their beliefs – the longest jail terms handed down against any prisoners of conscience in the country – and today I’m sending a message to Iran: even five years are too many.

A global campaign is under way to remind Iran that it has legal and moral obligations to treat its religious minorities with justice – the Five Years Too Many campaign. But for decades Iran has walked all over the human rights of its citizens. The persecution of religious minorities is at the heart of this violence.

Iran’s religious minorities are arrested on fatuous charges, endure trials that violate the state’s own due process, are jailed on unproven convictions and tortured in prison. Converts from Islam are branded apostates. Homes, businesses and places of worship are raided and torn apart. Students are kicked out of university because of their beliefs. And cemeteries are desecrated so not even the dead can escape.

And yet Iran is signed up to international treaties and covenants on human rights; the government has broken its bond. The abuse hits other religious minorities, too – the Yarsan Kurds; Gonabadi Dervishes, who are Shia Muslims; and Christians.

The seven Bahá’í leaders – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm – were held for months without charge after their 2008 arrest and were finally subjected to a series of trials that made a mockery of justice.

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