Six Baha’is arrested in Iran; one worked for Shirin Ebadi’s rights organizations

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Individuals living in North America and Europe – myself included – can’t truly appreciate the freedom that they have. After all, it’s only after living with a perpetual question mark over your head – is today the day I will be arrested because I’m a Baha’i or because I’m involved in human rights movements – that we can understand how liberating (ironically enough) it is not to have that, and how the energy not spent wondering can be channeled into other things.

Like, say, becoming a voice for human rights.

And there seems to be a growing need for such voices defending human rights in Iran. There has again been an incident involving the arrest of 6 Baha’is in Iran, one of whom worked for one of Shirin Ebadi’s human rights organisations.

Six Baha’is arrested in Iran; one worked for Shirin Ebadi’s rights organizations

15 January 2009

At least six Baha’is were arrested in Iran yesterday, including a woman who worked at human rights organizations connected with Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

According to reports received from Iran, the six were arrested after government security agents raided the homes of at least 11 Baha’is. During the raids, they also confiscated Baha’i books and other items, such as computers and photographs.

Among those arrested was Jinous Sobhani, who worked as an assistant for the Organization for Defending Mine Victims and also for the Defenders of Human Rights Center. Both were founded by Mrs. Ebadi.

In an interview with CNN, Mrs. Ebadi said today that Ms. Sobhani had been laid off from both organizations after government agents raided Mrs. Ebadi’s offices and shut them down in December.

While some reports indicate that more than six Baha’is were arrested yesterday in Tehran, those confirmed so far include Ms. Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taefi, Mr. Didar Raoufi, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Aziz Samandari. Mr. Golshan Sobhani was also arrested but was released a few hours later. It is unclear whether he is related to Ms. Sobhani.

“The arrest of these individuals reflects not only the grave situation facing Baha’is in Iran but also the overall human rights situation there,” said Diane Ala’i, a representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

“As far as we know, all of these people were arrested primarily because they are Baha’is,” said Ms. Ala’i.

But she confirmed the fact that Ms. Sobhani worked for the two organizations founded by Mrs. Ebadi.

“The connection of Ms. Sobhani to the work of Mrs. Ebadi’s organizations points to the gravity of the situation in Iran, where the government seems intent on stifling any expression of the importance of human rights or religious freedom,” said Ms. Ala’i.

In December, the Baha’i International Community condemned the closing of Mrs. Ebadi’s Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran and called for its reopening. (See earlier story.)

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post on Sarah Bavari’s Generation Tehran, it really makes me wonder how the government of Iran can hope to suppress the rights of millions of Iranians who don’t agree with their policies. The saddest part is that many government officials probably truly want to help. Unfortunately, they way they are trying to help isn’t conducive to growth in Iran. Iranians should continue obeying their government, but they should also try to open up a dialog to let them know of their grievances.

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