Saturday, February 12, 2011
It is a bad time to be a Baha'i in Iran, American adherents of the faith say.
The religion, founded in Iran in 1844, is now considered heretical by Iranian authorities. Its 300,000 adherents in the country "may face repression on the grounds of apostasy," according to the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
On Wednesday, Iraj Kamalabadi and other Baha'is came to Washington to tell the commission just how bad things are for his sister, Fariba Kamalabadi, and six others who have been imprisoned because of their faith since 2008.
Iraj Kamalabadi was born in Iran and came to the United States for college. He stayed in the U.S. after the Iranian revolution for fear of religious persecution in his homeland. Now he is petitioning his adopted home government to step up the pressure on Iranian authorities.
"Our hope is for the commission to continue to support this within their power and do whatever they could do to shed light on what's going on in Iran with the Baha'i community," he said.
Kamalabadi and others met with the commissioners and reporters to tell their story of how their family members who were Baha'i leaders were arrested, tried and imprisoned on what they called "trumped-up" charges of spying for the United States and Israel.
The Commission on International Religious Freedom is an arm of the federal government. Its commissioners are appointed by the White House and Congress and charged with reviewing violations of religious freedom abroad. They then make recommendations to the president and Congress.
"When the Iranian government brought these trumped-up charges of espionage and other so-called crimes against your brethren, we were outraged but we also were not surprised," said Leonard Leo, the commission chair. "The Iranian government has a horrific record of abusing human rights and in particular the religious freedoms of minorities in Iran and in particular the Baha'is."
Eric Marrapodi's story continues here....