WHILE THE rest of us are able to vote for our leaders and talk openly about its results, in the Islamic Republic of Iran are Baha'is who, along with other religious minorities, are not even able to talk because of their faith, let alone vote for their leaders. It's now been five years since seven Baha'i leaders were jailed by the Iranian government for simply being a Baha'i. Yes, it's that bad, that ridiculous, and that true, and that too in the modern age. Go figure.
Six of the seven Baha’is—Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm—were arrested on 14 May 2008. The seventh, Mahvash Sabet, had been detained in March 2008. Their jail term of 20 years is the longest term ever given to any prisoner of conscience in Iran. Their plight is summarized in the 28 February 2013 report on Iran's human rights situation, delivered by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
Serious discrimination in law and in practice against ethnic and religious minorities, continues to be reported, especially against the Baha’i community… An ongoing anti-Baha’i media campaign resulted in increasing attacks on its members and their properties. This national campaign that consists of anti-Baha’i pamphlets, posters, seminars and the broadcasting of anti-Baha’i speeches on radio networks appears to be tacitly condoned by the authorities. In addition, anti-Baha’i speeches reportedly delivered to different audiences including schools, youth organizations and the general public.
And it's now been five years.
Five years too many.
And fifteen more brings us back all the way to the dark ages, fifteen thousand years ago.
I join the rest of free-living and righteous world in demanding Iran to free the prisoners, now. Free the Baha'is. Free all religious minorities, and let them live. In the words of Firuzeh Mahmoudi, director and founder of United4Iran:
The plight of these seven is representative of the countless Iranian men and women who have been jailed for defending their freedom and human rights. Our message to the seven is this: The world has not forgotten you, and we will continue to fight for your freedom and that of other Iranian prisoners of conscience.