Heart-shaped installation reaches out to jailed leaders

Heart-shaped installation reaches out to jailed leaders
Sign of support: installation at Sydney Baha’i Temple.

A heart-shaped installation at the Baha’i Temple in Sydney is part of a nationwide and global campaign to express loving support to seven wrongly imprisoned Baha’i leaders in Iran, and to call for their release.

Inspiration for the giant heart comprised of 1000 individual images of the seven came from a line in a poem by one of them, school principal Mahvash Sabet, 62, who wrote:

“If I’m in this prison now, it’s only because
I’ve committed the crime of love again.”*

Installation director, Sydney artist Mehrzad Mumtahan, is the nephew of one of the leaders, Saied Rezaie, an agricultural engineer, who with his colleagues is now seven years into a 20 year sentence. May 14 marks the seventh anniversary of their imprisonment.

From 14-21 May, in cities and towns throughout Australia, Baha’i communities will host hundreds of devotional gatherings attended by civic leaders and friends from other faith communities.

Each day will be dedicated to a different leader with the publication through social media of their personal story, seen through the eyes of an Australian family member.

The leaders are: Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.
The theme is “Seven days in remembrance of seven years in prison for the seven Baha’i leaders.” The hashtag is #7Bahais7years

A special public service will take place in the Temple on Sunday 17 May at 11.00 am. Afterwards in the visitors centre, there will be a display of handicrafts produced by the seven leaders in their cells despite the severe restrictions placed upon them.

Direct connection with Australia

Australia has a direct connection with the seven through close relatives who are now citizens, and because Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her predecessor Bob Carr have called for their release. A House of Representatives bipartisan motion recently called for an end to the persecution of Iranian Baha’is.

The seven were members of a group which, with the long-time tacit consent of the Iranian authorities, looked after the needs, such as weddings and funerals, of the 300,000 members of the Baha’i community, the biggest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran.

Government agents rounded up the leaders in dawn raids on their homes, an unnecessary tactic of intimidation imposed on a group that is entirely non-political and pledged to obedience to the law.

After two years of waiting, a sham trial in 2010 ended in the imposition of 20-year sentences, decried by the international community as unjust. The United Nations General Assembly annually condemns the persecution via resolutions co-sponsored by Australia.

Australian Baha’i Community spokesperson Natalie Mobini said the Temple was the ideal site for the installation.

“The heart represents love — our love and support for the seven leaders — and their love for the community they served,” Dr Mobini said.

“The Temple represents the intertwined concepts of worship and community service, and the Baha’i leaders encapsulate these values in their own lives,” Dr Mobini said.

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