A South Australian senator has spoken out in Federal Parliament against the “longstanding and continued state-sponsored persecution” of members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.
Senator Penny Wright, a member of the Australian Greens, said Parliamentarians are in a unique position to promote international human rights.
“As a strong trading partner of Iran and with recent discussions between the regime and our Foreign Minister, Australia is in a better position than it has been for some time to make its voice heard,” Senator Wright told the Senate on 19 August 2015.
“The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to promote human rights and protect populations from the sorts of crimes that the Baha’is are routinely exposed to in Iran,” she said, urging the Government to look at doing more to speak up for the Baha’is there.
Senator Wright said that in cruel contrast to the persecution, the Baha’i Faith is peaceful and gracious, believing in one God who is the source of all creation.
“They believe that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God, and they believe in the unity of humanity — that all humans have been created equal –coupled with the unity in diversity, with diversity of race and culture seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.
“For Baha’is, universal peace is the supreme goal of human kind,” she said.
Equality of men and women
“The Baha’i writings clearly indicate that men and women are equal. They believe, from a spiritual point of view, that there is no difference between women and men and there is no basis — moral, biological, or social — for discrimination on grounds of gender. As such, there is an essential equality of rights and opportunities between men and women which is upheld and promoted.”
Senator Wright traced the history of the persecution of Baha’is, noting that in the early 1980s, more than 200 Baha’is were executed, and hundreds tortured and imprisoned, branded as “spies for Israel” and for other fictitious crimes.
“Over the ensuing years, several thousand Iranian Baha’is came to this country, enriching the size and diversity of the Australian Baha’i community and making a significant contribution to our nation as a whole.
“It is to our credit as a country that Baha’is have been able to seek asylum and migrate here and they can practise their religion and culture without fear of persecution or violence. It is one example of the rich legacy that comes from welcoming to Australia those who are most in need.”
In her speech, Senator Wright described the ongoing persecutions in Iran. “Strict limitations have been imposed on their right to assemble and worship,” she said.
“Frequent assaults are not investigated by the authorities–including knife attacks…and murders, creating a sense of impunity for their would-be attackers. Raids and arrests happen frequently, usually with the charge of ‘engaging in propaganda against the regime’.”
Senator Wright said 13 people were arrested in April this year, taking the total to over 115, including seven members of a former leadership group sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“They are also subject to economic persecution and intimidation. Since 2007 there have been more than 600 documented incidences of shop closings, revocation of business licences, vandalism, arson and other efforts to prevent Baha’is from earning a livelihood.”
Senator Wright described a higher education ban the authorities had imposed on Baha’i youth as depicted in the Maziar Bahari documentary “To Light a Candle”.
“I urge people to watch the film to find out more about these peaceful, gracious people and to be uplifted by the resilience of the human spirit at times of great challenge.”