Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 6
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Persecution of Baha’i People in Iran
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to speak about the long-standing persecution of the Baha’i people in Iran. Over the past 17 months, the human rights of the Baha’i people have been deteriorating. Although time does not permit me to describe the wide range of human rights violations that have been perpetrated by the Iranian government, I rise before you to shed light on a few developments that are particularly troubling.
Honourable senators will recall that when I last addressed the Senate on this subject, the seven Baha’is who had served on an ad hoc committee providing for the spiritual and social needs of the Baha’i community had been held in Evin prison without charges or due process under intolerable conditions for 18 months.
In June 2010, those innocent people were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, notwithstanding the insistence of their Nobel Peace Prize winning lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, that there was not a shred of evidence to support the charges brought against them.
On May 14, 2011, the seven began their fourth year of imprisonment. The Baha’i community remains deprived of its leadership, their family members — some of whom are in Canada — and their loved ones.
On May 21, 2011, Iranian authorities conducted a series of coordinated raids on 30 Baha’i homes, confiscated computers and papers, and arrested the 16 Baha’is most closely involved with the organization of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education. This institute was established in 1987 by the Baha’i community of Iran to meet the needs of the Baha’i youth denied access to Iranian universities because of their faith.
We as Canadians can be proud that prestigious Canadian universities have admitted Baha’i Institute graduates into postgraduate programs where they have excelled. We also can be dismayed that Iran refuses to recognize these Canadian degrees when the graduates return to Iran.
Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Baha’is simply because they are Baha’is is a third element of the persecution, and that, too, has been intensified. In August 2004, four Baha’is were in Iranian prisons. Six years later, in August 2010, 308 Baha’is had been arrested and 38 were in prison. Over the past nine months, the number arrested has risen to 416 and there are 97 Baha’is in Iranian prisons.
These developments are not isolated incidents but are elements of Iran’s official policy, which is being pursued in an attempt to eradicate the Baha’i community as a viable entity.
Honourable senators, our government has identified religious freedom as a key element of its foreign policy. The ongoing persecution of the Baha’i of Iran underlies its necessity, and I respectfully suggest that our government urgently assist the Baha’is of Iran.