Action Requested: 54 Baha'is Arrested in Iran

May 31, 2006

A call to action dated May 25, 2006, written to 300+ URI Cooperation Circles worldwide as well as the URI Global Council:

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I shared a press release about the recent arrest of 54 Bahá’ís in Shiraz, Iran, with the uri-discussion mailing list, mentioning the portion of the URI preamble that says "We unite to support freedom of religion and spiritual expression, and the rights of all individuals and peoples as set forth in international law," but despairing of what URI members could do to react. With no concrete suggestions, I chose to send it to the discussion list instead of the CC Contacts list.

This morning a friend responded, calling me to have greater “moral imagination” as John Paul Lederach calls it. This is a concept that has been embraced in the new URI peacebuilding project led by Barbara Hartford, Abraham Karickam, and Libby Hoffman, among others. As I recall it, moral imagination is about envisioning positive resolutions to conflict – and then setting to work on bringing them about. And she is absolutely correct.

His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, formally announced His distinct religious dispensation in April, 1863, in Baghad. He was presaged by another Prophet, called the Báb, who had Himself proclaimed a new religion in May of 1844. Both quickly gained many followers in Persia and the Ottoman Empire; today there are Bahá’ís in nearly every country or territory in the world. But ever since 1844 the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh have been opposed to varying degrees by the governments of Persia/Iran. Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, more than 200 Bahá’ís are known to have been executed, assassinated, died in prison, or killed by mobs. Countless more have been denied educational and career opportunities; cemeteries and holy places have been desecrated or destroyed; random arrests, kidnappings, and interrogations have been frequent.

This is but the briefest of background explanations. Many members of the URI are already familiar with the situation. One source of further details of the current and past persecution faced by the Bahá’ís of Iran is There you will also find documentation about the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief’s statement of March 22nd, 2006, expressing concern about increased official persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran.

International awareness and pressure have, in several past situations, helped to ameliorate the situation for individual Bahá’ís. Although we – that same “we” that has “unite[d] to support freedom of religion,” – do not have any means for directly affecting the fates of the 53 people who remain under arrest, we can and should bring the international spotlight onto the situation. Therefore, I would like to make the following humble suggestions, from one CC member to the rest of the CCs of the world:

  1. That all URI Cooperation Circles request that their state departments and Ambassadors to Iran and/or the United Nations ask the government of Iran to fully explain the reason for these and other seemingly-arbitrary arrests of Bahá’ís and to immediately bring full, transparent due process to their cases;
  2. That the URI Global Council and/or Executive Director, as appropriate, ask the URI Representative to the UN to do likewise;
  3. That the URI Global Council issue a resolution affirming its own “support of freedom of religion and spiritual expression, and the rights of all individuals and peoples as set forth in international law” with respect to the persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran.