I want to share a couple of articles published by the Bahá'í International Community regarding the situation of the seven Bahá'í leaders imprisoned in Iran. For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, let me provide a brief background. The Bahá'í Faith is the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran, with approximately 300,000 members. The Bahá'í Faith has its origins in Iran, and has been subject to persecution in the country from its earliest days in 1844. The government or Iran regards the Bahá'ís as heretics due to, among other things, their belief that Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet-founder of the Faith, is a prophet or Manifestation of God who has come after Muhammad. The level of persecution has increased since the Islamic Revolution, with over 200 Bahá'ís executed, and many more imprisoned. Bahá'ís are systematically denied access to education and social services, and are subject to abuse and propaganda. In spite of this persecution, Bahá'ís continue to adhere to the principles set forward by Bahá'u'lláh of loyalty to the country they live in, obedience to its laws, and non-involvement in partisan politics.
In all countries where a sufficient number of Bahá'ís are active, the community elects 9 people to serve as the National Spiritual Assembly, which is responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the Faith in that country. Following the disappearance and presumed deaths of its members in 1980, the execution of its new members in 1981, and the execution of some of its members in 1984, the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran was disbanded in obedience to a decree of the Iranian government. In its place, an ad hoc committee of seven members, known as the Yaran, or Friends, took on as much of this function as was allowed by the government, coordinating activities of the Bahá'í community in Iran. In March 2008 one of the members of the Yaran was arrested, and in May 2008 the other six members were likewise arrested. Following over two years of imprisonment and a trial shrouded in secrecy where their access to legal representation was limited, all seven were convicted of espionage, spreading propaganda activities against the Islamic order and "spreading corruption on earth", charges which the Yaran have categorically denied. They were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, which was later reduced to 10 years. For a more detailed background on the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran, see http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/iran-update/
The Baha'i International Community has described as "desperately cruel" the fact that one of Iran's seven Baha'i leaders has been unable to attend the funeral of his own wife.
81 year old Mrs. Ashraf Khanjani – who was married to Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani for more than 50 years – died yesterday morning at the family home in Tehran. She had been unwell for many months.
Mr. Khanjani, 77, is serving a ten-year jail term at Iran's notorious Gohardasht prison, along with six other Baha'is who were all members of a national-level ad hoc group that attended to the needs of Iran's Baha'i community.
Full article: Sorrow as jailed Baha'i leader is unable to attend wife's funeral
The global support for Iran's seven jailed Baha'i leaders is continuing as one of the prisoners begins her fourth year in detention.
Mahvash Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – has been incarcerated since 5 March 2008. For the first 175 days of her imprisonment, she was detained in solitary confinement.
On 14 May 2008, six other prominent Iranian Baha'is were also arrested. After 20 months held without charge in Tehran's Evin prison, all seven were accused in court of espionage and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations. All the charges were denied. They are now serving 10-year jail terms at the notorious Gohardasht prison.
Full article: Human rights groups renew support for Iran's seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders
Please keep the Bahá'ís of Iran (and indeed people facing persecution all over the world) in your thoughts and prayers.