A growing chorus of voices calls for the release of Baha’i prisoners of conscience in Iran
The recent arrest of Hooshmand Talebi and Mojdeh Eghterafi, an Iranian Baha’i couple, has attracted widespread attention from Canadian media.
A recent story in Maclean’s magazine reported: “Over the summer, dozens of Baha’i people were arrested, summoned to court or imprisoned solely because of their Baha’i faith in Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kermanshah and other Iranian cities. The arrests are being carried out in an unprecedented wave of state terror the Khomeinist regime has unleashed upon Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, notably the country’s Baha’i people…”
Terry Glavin, the author of the story, focused on the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Talebi and Ms. Eghterafi and the confiscation of their property, including a piano played by their 15-year old daughter. Mr. Talebi has family in Canada, including his sister, who spoke to the press about her concern for his safety
In recent months, Glavin notes, the persecution has intensified. “In May, for instance, seven Baha’i people in Shiraz were sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths for “propaganda against the regime” and other trumped-up charges for offences that included “forging” a Baha’i Institute university degree, environmental activism, and caring for children in a daycare centre. Baha’i children are specifically prohibited from continuing their schooling beyond the 11th grade.”
The news article was widely circulated on social media among human rights activists and organizations.
The Vancouver Sun journalist, Douglas Todd, also published an article on the arrest of Mr. Talebi and Ms. Eghterafi. The article notes the contradiction between the Iranian government’s release of 85,000 prisoners due to the health risks posed by coronavirus, and its recent arrests of Baha’i citizens for no reason except for their religion. Todd’s article was syndicated and published in about a dozen newspapers across the country.
Global TV also covered the story, underscoring the concern felt by Mr. Talebi’s relatives in Canada for the safety of their imprisoned family members.
In response to inquiries from journalists, the Member of Parliament for Coquitlam, Ron McKinnon, issued the following statement:
“Canada is concerned about reports of human rights violations and arbitrary detention in Iran. We are following this case closely and I will continue to work with my constituent. Canada will always stand up for freedom of religion and human rights.”
In recent days, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, has raised an alarm about the continued detention of people in unsanitary Iranian prisons. She has called upon Iran to release “human rights defenders, lawyers, political prisoners, peaceful protesters and all other individuals deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or otherwise exercising their rights.”