Bahai News - U.S. Baha'is Ask Iran's President: Does His Call for Religion and Liberty Apply to Baha'is?

U.S. Baha'is Ask Iran's President: Does His Call for Religion and Liberty Apply to Baha'is?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- American Baha'is have directed a letter to the President of Iran expressing hope that his recent public message to the American people signals that the freedom of the Baha'i community in Iran openly to practice its religion will be guaranteed.''

Citing President Mohammad Khatami's broadcast remarks declaring religiosity, liberty and justice'' to be the aspirations of the Islamic Revolution'' today, the Secretary of the 130,000-member American Baha'i community asked the President, are the Baha'is of Iran -- your nation's largest religious minority -- included in those aspirations?''

Baha'i Secretary Robert C. Henderson reminded President Khatami that a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December specifically urges the emancipation of the Iranian Baha'i community.

Because of your expressed dedication to the principles of freedom, justice and the rule of law,'' Dr. Henderson wrote, we who enjoy such freedoms hope that our co-religionists in Iran, who have been deprived of them, will be granted their full rights as law-abiding citizens of your nation.''

The Baha'i Faith is not recognized as a legitimate religion in Iran, and the community of approximately 300,000 members is not permitted to elect its leaders, organize schools or conduct other religious activities. Since the 1979 revolution, more than 200 Baha'is have been executed solely on account of their religion. Four Baha'is are currently under sentence of death, two of them on charges of apostasy.

While violent actions against individual Baha'is have been markedly reduced since the late 1980s, Baha'is continue to be harassed and imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs. Since President Khatami took office last summer, there has been no discernible change in Iranian Government policies aimed at suppressing the Baha'i community, according to U.S. Baha'i spokesman Firuz Kazemzadeh. Community properties seized shortly after the revolution have not been returned. Baha'is continue to be denied jobs and pensions and are barred from enrollment in Iranian universities. These measures reflect policies set forth in a secret Iranian Government document which was published by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1993.

America's 130,000 Baha'is reside in more than 7,000 cities and towns across the United States and represent all races, cultures and ethnic origins. Some 10,000 Iranian Baha'is have taken refuge in the U.S. since 1979.

The American Baha'is will publish the full text of their letter to the Iranian President in major American newspapers (text below).

Current Situation of Baha'is in Iran -- January 1998


U.S. and world response: The U.S. Congress has adopted seven resolutions (most recent, 1996) condemning Iran's persecution of Baha'is and urging religious rights for the community. The 1997 UN General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/52/142) calls for emancipating the Baha'i community.

The following is the full text of the ad containing a letter from the American Baha'is to the Iranian President:


[from the New York Times on Saturday, January 17, 1998, on the op-ed page 25.]

A RESPONSE TO THE PUBLIC
MESSAGE OF PRESIDENT KHATAMI
TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

January 13, 1998

His Excellency President Mohammad Khatami
Islamic Republic of Iran
Tehran, Iran

Your Excellency,

We, the American Baha'is, residing in more than seven thousand cities and towns across the United States and representing all races, cultures and ethnic origins in our nation, have listened with great interest to your words addressed to the American people, of which we are an organic part.

Your message prompts us to address you directly, because of your expressed dedication to the principles of freedom, justice and the rule of law -- principles which, as you noted, are cherished by the American people.

We who enjoy such freedoms hope that our co-religionists in Iran, who have been deprived of them, will be granted their full rights as law-abiding citizens of your nation.

We are particularly encouraged by your assertion that religion and liberty are consistent and compatible.'' As you said, Human experience has taught us that prosperous life should hinge on three pillars: religiosity, liberty and justice.'' These, you concluded, are the assets and aspirations of the Islamic Revolution as it enters the twenty-first century.''

Are the Baha'is of Iran — your nation's largest religious minority — included in these aspirations?

Your explicitly stated determination to fulfill the provisions of the Iranian Constitution and to establish the rule of law gives us hope that the freedom of the Baha'i community in Iran openly to practice its religion will be guaranteed.

May we not expect, in the light of your commitment to human dignity and freedom, that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/52/142), which calls for the emancipation of the Baha'i community of Iran, will now be implemented?

Respectfully yours,

THE BAHA'IS OF THE UNITED STATES

Robert Calvin Henderson
Secretary

NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF THE BAHA'IS OF THE UNITED STATES
1320 NINETEENTH ST., N.W., SUITE 701 WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036 202-833-8990


©Copyright 1998, PRNewswire & National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States

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