On Wednesday February 9, 2011, Iraj Kamalabdi and other Baha’is told Washington how severe the conditions are for Baha’is in Iran. Baha’is are a minority religious group in Iran where Kamalabdi’s sister and six others have been imprisoned because of their faith. Kamalabdi came to Washington with the hope of gaining the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom support and more recognition of the Baha’is in Iran.
Kamalabdi’s sister, a volunteer Baha’i leader, and other members of the Baha’i community were accused of espionage and other crimes against their State. Kamalabdi’s sister was convicted after a short trial containing no evidence. She and other Baha’is have been sent to prisons with brutal conditions: there are a limited amount of rooms and many prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, the founder of their faith, is God’s most recent messenger. The founders of the Baha’is, who were originally Muslim, formed this new religious sect. This is what led to the current conflict between Muslims and Baha’is. Muslims in Iran view the Baha’is as renouncing their Islamic faith.
Iran stated that Baha’is were free to live in Iran and that the imprisonments were based on illegal activities against the government and not the prisoners’ faith. Leonard Leo, the Commission Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was outraged but not surprised at Iran’s actions. Iran classifies itself as an Islamic State and renouncing this religion is contrary to that. The Iranian Constitution lists religions that Iran respects, but Baha’is is not listed. Iran has banned any form of Baha’is administration and leadership but has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of the Baha’is.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is a branch of the federal government whose members are appointed by the White House and Congress. What recommendations should the Commission make to the President and Congress about the Baha’is in Iran? Do you think that political pressure from the U.S. will influence the Iranian government? Should other nations, aside from the U.S. get involved if basic human rights are at stake?