Youngest member of Yaran completes ten year imprisonment

BIC NEW YORK — Vahid Tizfahm completed his 10-year sentence yesterday. At 44, he is the youngest of the seven former Baha’i leaders in Iran who were unjustly imprisoned for their religious beliefs in 2008.

1245_00Mr. Tizfahm is the sixth member of the former group, known as the Yaran, to complete his sentence and be released. All seven members of the Yaran were arrested in March or May of 2008 and spent months in detention before receiving their charges. They were eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison through a legal procedure that lacked any semblance of due process.

“We are, of course, happy that Mr. Tizfahm and other members of the Yaran are reuniting with their families,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “But there can be no joy over the fact that Mr. Tizfahm has spent a decade of his life in prison for no other reason than his faith–barred from his family, friends, and community in his 30s and 40s.

“It should also be absolutely clear that this step does not reflect an improvement in the situation of Iranian Baha’is as a whole,” said Ms. Ala’i, noting that they continue to face economic discrimination, are deprived of access to higher education, and remain subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.

Mr. Tizfahm is an optician and was the owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.

He was born on 16 May 1973 in the city of Orumiyeh where he spent his childhood and youth. At the age of 23, he married Furuzandeh Nikumanesh. They have a young son, who was in the third grade when his father was arrested in 2008. As a result of his imprisonment, Mr. Tizfahm was not able to be present during some of the most important moments in his son’s life.

“The members of the Yaran, and indeed the entire Baha’i community in Iran, have endured enormous human rights violations at the hands of their government, which is, in reality, meant to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of its citizens,” stated Ms. Ala’i. “It’s unfortunate that, instead, it has taken every measure to deprive an entire segment of its population of the ability to live and contribute freely to the betterment of their country.”

Following the recent launch of the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, a group of prominent lawyers and judges from around the world wrote to the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights calling to his attention the vast collection of documentary evidence of the oppression of the Baha’i community, which he has brazenly denied.

With Mr. Tizfahm’s release, only one member of the Yaran, Mr. Afif Naeimi, 55, remains in prison. His sentence is due to be completed in the coming months.

Oldest member of Yaran completes decade-long imprisonment

BIC NEW YORK — After a decade of unjust imprisonment and harsh treatment in Iranian prisons, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, 85, completed his ten-year sentence yesterday. He is one of the seven members of the former leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran known as the Yaran, who were jailed on false and baseless charges.

Mr. Khanjani, the oldest of the seven, is the fifth to be released this year. The Yaran was an ad-hoc group which tended to the basic spiritual and material needs of the Iranian Baha’i community. It was formed with the full knowledge and approval of Iranian authorities after formal Baha’i institutions were declared illegal in Iran in the 1980s.

“Mr. Khanjani and the other members of the Yaran should have never been put in prison to begin with,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “They not only committed no crimes, but even contributed to the betterment of their communities and their country.”

Jamaloddin Khanjani (center) reunited with friends and family
Jamaloddin Khanjani (center) reunited with friends and family.

Born in 1933 in the city of Sangsar, Mr. Khanjani grew up on a dairy farm and eventually started a successful charcoal production business. He eventually established the first automated brick factory in Iran, ultimately employing several hundred people. In the early 1980s after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he was forced to shut down that factory and abandon it, putting most of his employees out of work because of the persecution he faced as a Baha’i. The factory was later confiscated by the government.

In the 1990s, Mr. Khanjani was able to establish a mechanized farm on properties owned by his family. However, the authorities placed many restrictions on him, making it difficult to do business. These restrictions extended to his children and relatives and included refusing loans, closing their places of business, limiting their business dealings, and banning travel outside the country.

“The treatment accorded to Mr. Khanjani and other members of the Yaran throughout their lives represents the treatment suffered by the entire Baha’i community for generations,” said Ms. Dugal.

Iranian Baha’is continue to face the threat of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, economic discrimination, and the denial of access to higher education. Economic-related persecution against them has particularly escalated in recent years resulting in what the Baha’i International Community has called, in an open letter to President Rouhani, an “economic apartheid against a segment of Iran’s population”.

Exploring an expanded conception of women’s empowerment

 

The Baha’i International Community released a statement to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, which begins today, 12 March. (Photo courtesy of Daryan Shamkhali.)
The Baha’i International Community released a statement to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, which begins today, 12 March. (Photo courtesy of Daryan Shamkhali.)

 

BIC NEW YORK — It is time for a more expansive conception of women’s empowerment, asserts the Baha’i International Community in a new statement. The discourse on women’s empowerment must move beyond mere concern for the participation of women in the economic life of society, as important as this is, and look at releasing the vast potentialities of women for the progress of the world.

“[T]he path from doubt to self-confidence, from silence to voice, from passivity to action, cannot be understood only in terms of entering the labor market or integrating into a global production chain of one kind or another,” the statement says. “The development of capacity must concern itself with all aspects of human existence—economic as well as social, intellectual, cultural, spiritual, and moral.”

Titled “Beyond Mere Economics: A Moral Inquiry into the Roots of Empowerment,” the statement was prepared for the UN’s 62nd annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which begins today and comes on the heels of worldwide celebrations of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The Baha’i International Community has released a statement for the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which begins today on 12 March. This image is from last year’s CSW, which also featured several noteworthy contributions from the BIC.
The Baha’i International Community has released a statement for the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which begins today on 12 March. This image is from last year’s CSW, which also featured several noteworthy contributions from the BIC.

 

This year’s CSW focuses on the empowerment of rural women. Highlighting this theme, the BIC statement draws on the insights of women in different settings around the world who are engaged in social transformation in their communities and societies.

Among its main recommendations, the statement proposes that educational systems need to be remodeled to release the full potential of women and assist them to develop “capabilities for service to the community and society.” Drawing on the experience of the worldwide Baha’i community, it proposes that as women become empowered and contribute to the transformation of their communities at many different levels, they become more visible, challenging pre-existing gender dichotomies and “inherited assumptions about social patterns and the roles played by women and men.”

“There are many examples around the world of instances in which women and men are working shoulder to shoulder as mutually respected partners,” says the statement.

Looking at the advancement of women in the broader context of the advancement of society as a whole, the statement explores a number of important questions.

“One issue before the Commission on the Status of Women, then, is replication of what is working. How can a culture in which women and men jointly and joyfully contribute to the common good be built in society after society,” asks the BIC’s statement.

“What is possible to achieve in local communities—not just in a few pilot programs or for the duration of a funding cycle but indefinitely into the future and all around the world?”

Examining such questions and their solutions will contribute to a global process of learning which will enable humanity to advance collectively on this issue, asserts the statement.

The Commission on the Status of Women runs from 12 to 23 March 2018.

Colombia Temple rises

AGUA AZUL, Colombia — In Norte del Cauca, the local Baha’i House of Worship is rising from the land. As each day passes, its shape becomes more distinct, signaling the near completion of this highly-anticipated development for the region.

Significant progress has been made on the construction of the central edifice in recent weeks. The main structural components have been completed, work has begun on the flooring and wall finishes, and the placement of roof tiles has started.

The distinctive vertical ridged dome of the House of Worship and its rich terracotta coloring is evocative of the cocoa pod, which has special significance to the people of the region as a symbol of vitality, hospitality, and their relationship with the land.

Significant progress has been made on the construction of the Temple’s central edifice and its auxiliary structures in recent weeks. See more images here.

The crowning piece of the Temple’s roof, symbolic of the cocoa flower, is currently under construction—when ready it will be installed and the Greatest Name symbol, a calligraphic rendering of the word ‘Baha,’ meaning glory, which is sacred to Baha’is, will be raised within it.

While the central edifice forms the heart of the Temple complex, a number of ancillary buildings are also being constructed. These buildings will support the endeavors of the local population to build capacity for service to humanity. The simple but elegant structures, which are painted in the bright colors traditional to the region, reflect the vibrancy of the communities throughout Norte del Cauca.

In its conception, the local House of Worship in Norte del Cauca is harmonious with the natural and social environment. For instance, solar energy will be harnessed to power all the buildings on the Temple complex, and the site incorporates a system that allows the reuse of rainwater such as for the ponds. Further, the central edifice has been designed as an open-air structure, with ornamental gates installed at the nine entrances to allow for natural cooling and ventilation. This openness further enhances the relationship between the sacred space of the interior and the beauty of the natural world beyond. Resting on a three-meter landscaped mound, the Temple will afford views onto the gardens, lakes, and native forest—regenerated by the project—all of which form the Temple complex, set against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

Fourth member of Yaran released

BIC NEW YORK — After ten years of unjust imprisonment for his beliefs, Saeid Rezaie, one of the seven members of the former leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran, has today completed his wrongful sentence.

1238_00Mr. Rezaie and six of his colleagues were arrested in 2008 after an early-morning raid on their homes. They were part of the ad hoc group known as “the Yaran” (the Friends) which tended to the basic spiritual and material needs of the Iranian Baha’i community. The group was formed with the knowledge and tacit approval of authorities after formal Baha’i institutions were declared illegal in Iran in the 1980s. Mr. Rezaie is the fourth individual from among the former Yaran to be released.

Now, after ten years, he returns to a society that has changed little in terms of its treatment of the Baha’i community.

“Although Mr. Rezaie and three other members of the Yaran have been released, the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran continues unabated,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “From prison, Mr. Rezaie will go back to a community that is still under immense pressure from the government and faces discrimination and persecution for no other reason than belief in the Baha’i Faith.”

Before he was imprisoned, Mr. Rezaie, who is an agricultural engineer, ran a successful farming equipment business. He is one of the many members of the Baha’i community who has suffered injustice as a result of economic-related persecution. Baha’i-owned shops and businesses are regularly closed by the authorities after owners are harassed. In the last few years, hundreds of such businesses have been closed and scores of families have been deprived of an income. In an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, the BIC referred to this discrimination as “economic apartheid.”

The three remaining members of the Yaran are expected to complete their sentences in the coming months. They include Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, 84; Mr. Afif Naeimi, 56; and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, 44.

For more information, go to bic.org.

Yemen: Rebel-run court sentences Baha’i man to death

SANAA, Yemen — A rebel-controlled Yemeni court has sentenced a local Baha’i man to death on charges of disseminating the beliefs of his faith and spying for Israel.

Hamid bin Haydara, detained since December 2013, received his sentence Tuesday. It was condemned by local and international rights groups, including Amnesty International, which slammed it as “cruel” and “degrading.” It also called on Yemeni authorities to “immediately quash” the sentence.

The Iranian-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, seized the capital Sanaa in 2014. They have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing an internationally recognized government since March 2015.

The Baha’i faith originated in Iran in 1844 but is currently banned there. Israel is home to some of its holy sites and administrative bodies.

U.S. Senate Passes S. Res. 139

The United States Senate on Tuesday, Dec. 26, b25994541_10155366727556025_4971907566410712929_ny unanimous consent, passed a Resolution condemning the Iranian government’s persecution of the Baha’is of Iran.

” … Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) condemns the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights;

(2) calls on the Government of Iran to immediately release the 5 imprisoned Baha’i leaders, the 7 imprisoned Baha’i educators, and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion;

(3) calls on the President and the Secretary of State, in cooperation with responsible nations, to immediately condemn the Government of Iran’s continued violation of human rights and demand the immediate release of prisoners held solely on account of their religion; and

(4) urges the President and the Secretary of State to utilize available authorities to impose sanctions on officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for serious human rights abuses, including abuses against the Baha’i community of Iran.”

Full text here:
https://www.congress.gov/…/115th…/senate-resolution/139/text