Bahai News -- Local Bahá'ís mourn dead prisoner in Iran  
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January 06, 2006

Local Bahá'ís mourn dead prisoner in Iran

# Man has family in Charleston

By Ry Rivard
For Sunday Gazette-Mail

The Baha'is of Charleston will hold a memorial on Sunday for a Baha'i who died after 10 years in an Iranian prison.

Family members said they were told Dhabihu'llah Mahrami died of heart failure. Bani Dugal, a representative for the Baha'i International Community at the United Nations, said by phone Friday that her organization was still trying to determine the cause of death but information coming out of Iran is sparse. A New York Times article in December said that Mahrami's death was not reported in Iranian newspapers.

In 1996, Mahrami was convicted of apostasy - the formal renunciation of one's religion - from Islam and sentenced to death. The death penalty was overturned, but he remained imprisoned in Yazd, Iran.

In recent months, Mahrami's life was threatened and he had been reportedly forced to do intense labor. During his imprisonment he was allegedly beaten. He was 59 and thought to be in good health before his death. He was found dead in his cell on Dec. 15.

He was the nephew of Cyrus and Behnaz Mali of Charleston.

While other minority religions, including Judaism and Christianity, are recognized by Iran's constitution, the Baha'i faith is not. The United i States Department of State estimates between 300,000 to 350,000 Baha'is live in Iran and that it is the next largest faith behind the 60 million Muslims there.

Baha'i is the youngest of the world's major faiths with 6.5 million followers worldwide. It was founded in Iran in the 1840s as a monotheistic religion that believes in the unity of all humanity and the truth of all religions.

Since the country's 1979 revolution, more than 200 Baha'is have been killed and executed. More than 10,000 people have been dismissed from government work and universities. In the past year, Iran "stepped up the harassment and persecutions" and more than 60 Baha'is have been imprisoned, Dugal said.

A 1991 Iranian Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council memo available on the Baha'i International Community Web site,, outlines Iran's policy toward the faith. "The government's dealings with them must be in such a way that their progress and development are blocked ... A plan must be devised to confront and destroy their cultural roots outside the country ... Deny them employment if they identify themselves as Baha'is ... Deny them any position of influence ..."

A memorial service for Mahrami will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Baha'i Center of Charleston, 166 Sunset Drive. For more information, call 346-9346.

©Copyright 2005, The Charleston Gazette, WV, USA. All rights reserved.

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