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Iran and Religious Minorities

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The Grieboski Report

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After Iran arrested all seven national Bahá'í leaders almost a year ago, it is now expected to put them on trial in revolutionary court next week. The charges against the seven, who are being held at Iran's infamous Evin Prison, include "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic." Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi is the lawyer of the seven leaders, but she has been denied access to them or their files. Bahá'í followers fear the trial could lead to the execution of the seven. The last major round-ups, detentions and executions of national Bahá'í leaders came in the early 1980s. In 1980, all nine members of the national leadership were abducted and then disappeared. Iran's 300,000 Bahá'ís have no official clergy. Since their spiritual assemblies were outlawed in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, they have relied on electing national and local committees as leaders of the faith. As a result, the most recent arrests of the seven national leaders are the worst assault on the faith in some 30 years, and have dealt a particularly hard blow to the Bahá'í community. Recently over 40 Iranian intellectuals signed an open letter apologizing to Bahai’s for remaining silent over their country’s ill-treatment of the community. The letter, entitled “We are ashamed!” and published yesterday on Iranian.com, includes the signatures of professors, playwrights, political activists and many others. “We are ashamed that during the last thirty years, the killing of Baha’is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over two-hundred Baha’is have been slain on this account,” reads one clause.

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