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August 8th, 2010
06:44 PM ET

7 Baha'is sentenced to 20 years in Iran, group says

Seven Baha'i leaders in Iran have each received 20-year prison sentences, according to reports received by the Baha'i International Community, the group said Sunday.

"If this news proves to be accurate, it represents a deeply shocking outcome to the case of these innocent and harmless people," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

Word of the sentences came from an Iranian-based group called the Committee of Human Rights Defenders, according to Diane Ala'i, another Baha'i U.N representative. The Baha'i International Community is working to confirm the reports, she said.

The leaders were accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations, according to the Baha'i International Community. The group denied all charges.

"We understand that (those sentenced) have been informed of this sentence and that their lawyers are in the process of launching an appeal," Dugal said in a statement Sunday.

The Baha'i leaders–two women and five men–have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since they were arrested in 2008. They are considered the nation's top-ranking Baha'is

The leaders' trial comprised six brief court appearances beginning last January, after they had been held without charges for up to 20 months, the Baha'i International Community said.

The group said the trial, during which the accused had roughly one hour's access to legal counsel, ended June 14. The verdict is believed to have been handed down Sunday, Ala'i said, though she had no details on the nature of the convictions.

Iran's 300,000-strong Baha'i community constitutes the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority.

The Baha'i faith originated in 19th century Persia, but the constitution of today's Islamic republic does not recognize it as a religion and considers the followers as apostates.

A U.N. State Department report released earlier this year blasted the Iranian government for its treatment of those practicing the Baha'i faith.

The report said Iran's government prevents Baha'is from gathering in homes to worship and bans Baha'is from public schools, universities, the social pension system and government leadership posts unless they conceal their religion.

"The government repeatedly pressured Baha'is to recant their religious beliefs in exchange for relief from mistreatment," the report said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baha'i • Iran • Middle East • Persecution • Politics • Religious liberty

soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. World Citizen

    Dear all,

    The son of the founder of the Baha'i Faith, Abdu’l-Bahá, beautifully describes the purpose of religion:

    "Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician." -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks

    It is clear that these seven followers of the Bahá'í Faith uphold to these high standards of promoting unity and concord among their fellow countrymen in Iran. They are devoted lovers of the peace and promoters of justice. It truly saddens the hearts of many across the globe to hear this news.

    August 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Reality

    Unfortunately unlike other religions, there is no "head" person/group controlling Islam. Has anyone ever listed the various Islamic sects? Sunnis, Shiites, Talibaners, Sufis, Wahhabis, "Bin Ladiners", Kahrijites, Ismailis, Zaidis, Fatimids, Assassins aka Nizaris, Alawis, Druze, Ahmadiyya and Baha'i????

    A short description of each, gives strong evidence that one is crazier than the other i.e. no central leadership is possible.

    August 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Me

      Just to correct you, the Bahá'í Faith is not a sect of Islam. It is an independent world religion, distinct from Islam, much like Christianity and Islam are two separate religions. Please make sure your facts are correct before posting.

      August 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • Reality

      In 1844 a Muslim named Ali Muhhamad Shirazi declared himself the spokesman for the twelfth Imam, or prayer leader, anticipated by some Shi'ite Muslims ever since the ninth century. Calling himself Bab-ud-Din, the "Gate of Faith," he introduced sweeping reforms into Islam, such as raising the status of women. A group of followers gathered around him, calling themselves Babis, "followers of the Bab." Although Bab-ud-Din was executed in 1850, he believed he had prepared the way for another who would found a worldwide religion.

      A follower who escaped after the execution believed himself to be the predicted one. Mirza Husayn Ali took the name Baha'u'llah, "Glory of Allah," in 1863, and those who followed him became known as Baha'is.

      August 10, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • PD

      And Jesus was a Jew does that make Christians a sect of Jewish faith? no it doesnt. the Bahai faith are not a sect of Islam. Your sumerization is not entirely correct.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_house_of_justice This should answer you question.

      August 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Amy

      for someone who calls themselves "reality" you seem to have a very poor grasp on it...

      August 14, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  3. aaronlee75

    Aside from the 7 Baha'i leaders just sentenced there are another 40 in prison around the country. Most are held for ransom, or extremely high bails...and are imprisoned for doing nothing...simply for their faith. Recently in northern Iran there were some 50 homes belonging to Baha'is put to the torch...and the Baha'i cemetary in that town was confiscated and sold off for realestate development. (This I think happened in northern Mazandaran province.)

    August 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  4. R. Wagner

    It's nice to kwow that we are not the only ones with a screwed up justice system.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • J Fairweather

      For all its problems, the US judicial system is better than just about everything out there. Are you aware that in most countries you are considered guilty until proven innocent? Are you aware that in many European countries the police are able to beat suspects and get away with it? The US Miranda decision is not like the Geneva convention. Miranda has only been in force in the US since 1966 – that's only 44 years – yet few other countries have anything remotely like it.

      August 10, 2010 at 1:48 am |
  5. rivirivi

    Let's rest assured that none of that will ever happen in America. We can be polite and tolerate all kinds of beliefs, but when this or that belief starts tramping and shortening our liberties, it will not take. It does not matter if Islam has 3 billion believers, here in America any religion which stops us from thinking individually, stops us from complaining if something is not right, will not take, will be called out and will eventually disappear. Islamists have made their last mistake to try and conquer America. We free people and free women will not tolerated it. It will not happen, ever.

    August 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      I wish You would tell that to the catholic Church... They are trying to take the rights from those less fortunate than them!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  6. UnityOfHumanity

    Please, before you have have such angry responses to what is a profoundly sad event for the worldwide Bahá'í community, consider these words from the Bahá'í scriptures. It is for their belief in these concepts that these seven brave souls and all the Bahá'ís of Iran are being persecuted for.

    "I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.
    Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.
    When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other’s hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!
    Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.
    If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.
    Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate. How many seemingly impossible events are coming to pass in these days! Set your faces steadily towards the Light of the World. Show love to all; ‘Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man’. Take courage! God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray! Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquillity and harmony may encircle all this warring world. So will success crown your efforts, and with the universal brotherhood will come the Kingdom of God in peace and goodwill.
    In this room today are members of many races, French, American, English, German, Italian, brothers and sisters meeting in friendship and harmony! Let this gathering be a foreshadowing of what will, in very truth, take place in this world, when every child of God realizes that they are leaves of one tree, flowers in one garden, drops in one ocean, and sons and daughters of one Father, whose name is love!" – 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks.

    “It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” – Bahá'u'lláh

    August 9, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  7. Barry77

    More evil from Islam. Nothing new here.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:21 am |
  8. Santosh Kumar

    Muslims call for democracy only when they are a minority. The same muslims will not allow any other religion when they are a majority. Islam thrived in the dark ages without media and criticism but today with much media coverage and criticism islam cannot survive. Its like the sane collective intelligence of the world is finally flashing light in the dingy dark corners.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      That sounds just like the Catholic religion doesn't it??? The only difference is how they are doing it!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • J Fairweather

      The leadership of Iran is a minority. So was that of Saddam's Iraq, of Venezuela, and of other dictatorships. Just because someone is a citizen of a country, this does not mean that he or she is pleased with the people in charge. People can be so odd in this regard. I was in Tanzania some years ago at a time when certain US policies were harmful to the region. Everybody there assumed that I was a supporter of those policies. After all, I was an American, was I not?

      Politicians have a nasty habit of slanting the facts in their favor and of misrepresenting the views of their opposition. That is how they influence the masses and that is why unity and cooperation is so hard to come by these days. Watch the Biography channel's bio of Benito Mussolini, then compare it to what is happening in the US today. The manipulation of information is a key instrument in creating dissension and fanaticism. I think that we Americans could learn a lesson from this. In the meantime, let's not be too hasty when we decide to condemn an entire people because of the conduct of their leadership.

      August 10, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  9. oaria

    This is sad, and they can try to hurt the Baha'is in Iran, but can not do anything to the rest of the world! Everyone is invited to investigate independently this world embracing Faith. It's about Unity. Baha'u'llah, Founder of the Baha'i faith says: So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the entire earth! let's act!

    August 9, 2010 at 12:42 am |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      The problem is the Biggest Religion wants to force others to believe in Their Faith!!! Instead of living with respect of each other...

      August 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • ScottyJ

      Thank You

      August 10, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  10. Phatt Bastid

    Here's som more informaiton on the religion of hate and how they want to destroy us all.

    The 12th Imam: What Is An Imam?
    What is the 12th Imam? According to Islamic belief, an Imam is an anointed leader or ruler. Especially among the Shia beliefs an Imam is thought (though not required), to be a prayer leader or cleric when the word is capitalized. Sunnis too believe an Imam may be a prophet; Shiites believe not all prophets can be an Imam but an Imam can also be a prophet. An Imam is said to be anointed by Allah and a perfect example of leading mankind in every way.

    The Shiite interpretation is that only Allah can appoint an Imam and no man has the power to do so. The 12th Imam is said to be a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, having divine status as did each of this succession of sons. The 12th Imam is also called the Hidden Imam and the Mahdi (guided one).

    The 12th Imam: Who Is The 12th Imam?
    Within the Shiite, (which is predominate in Iran), it is prophesied that there is a coming 12th Imam who is the great spiritual savior. This Imam is named Abu al-Qasim Muhammad or also called Muhammad al Mahdi. He is said to have been born the son of the 11th Imam, Hasan Al-Askari and his wife, the granddaughter of an Emperor. There are conflicting statements of her name being either Fatima or Nargis Khatoon.

    Most accounts of the story say that al Mahdi went into hiding as a child around the age of 5 years (about 13th Century). It said he has been ‘in hiding’ in caves ever since but will supernaturally return just before the Day of Judgment. According to the Hadith the criteria for the Hidden Imam are:

    He will be a descendant of Muhammad and the son of Fatima
    Will have a broad forehead and pointed nose
    Will return just before the end of the world
    His appearance will be preceded by a number of prophetic events during 3 years of horrendous world chaos, tyranny and oppression
    Will escape from Madina to Mekkah, thousands will pledge allegiance to him
    Will rule over the Arabs and the world for 7 years
    Will eradicate all tyranny and oppression bringing harmony and total peace
    Will lead a prayer in Mekkah which Jesus will be at his side and follow in
    Remarkably, the 12th Imam theory plays heavily into the world’s current concerns with Iran. The Shiite Muslim President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is deeply committed to the Islamic Messiah, al Mahdi. There have been many through the years claiming to be the Hidden Imam but Ahmadinejad believes he is yet to come. He claims that he is to personally prepare the world for the coming Mahdi. In order to save the world, it must be in a state of chaos and subjugation. Ahmadinejad claims he was “directed by Allah to pave the way for the glorious appearance of the Mahdi”. This apocalyptic directive includes some very scary proclamations.

    The 12th Imam: Why Is This Especially Important Now?
    While Christians look for Jesus’ 2nd coming, the Jews await the Messiah and Muslims await the 12th Imam. However, of the three, Allah’s designated Mahdi is the only one who demands a violent path to conquer the world. Mr. Ahmadinejad, and his cabinet, say they have a ‘signed contract’ with al Mahdi in which they pledge themselves to his work. What does this work involve? In light of concerns over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly stated Israel should be wiped off the map. He spoke to the United Nations in September ’05. During that speech he claims to have been in an aura of light and felt a change in the atmosphere during which time no one present could blink their eyes. Iran’s PM is also said to have spoken in apocalyptic terms and seems to relish conflict with the West whom he calls the Great Satan. This is while he proclaims he must prepare the world for the coming Mahdi by way of a world totally under Muslim control. He is working hard to bring about the world-wide horrors that must be in place for their al Mahdi to bring peace.

    This notion and goal, along with a violent hatred of infidels, America and Israel reminds us of Biblical prophecies of the coming anti-Christ and the pledges of millions to a deceiving False Messiah who will claim to bring peace. Could this 12th Imam Mahdi and his servant Ahmadinejad spark the last days of the coming true Savior?

    August 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
    • rivirivi

      The horrible problem is that all religions teach separatism. Each group considers their group as the only group beloved by our creator. If we all realize once and for all that if there is a creator who is limitless then everything and everyone from the smallest particle to the biggest clump of multi-universes exist WITHIN the limitlessness of it all. We are practically swimming within the limitless energy of God. Humans get confused to this vast concept of God and have "invented" a human-like image of what God is supposed to look like. I say we are so small compared to everything else, yet we create, we dream, we learn, we have emotions, we have the ability to choose. Do we really think that God can do any less because he is so big we cannot understand it? Do we really want to believe God would be happy if this group kills the other group He also created? Let's be united intelligent people of this miracle of a self-sustaining planet Let's unify our human race and choose to honor our presence within by making the best choices as to help each other achieve happiness, good health, a warm meal, a helping hand. Why is that so difficult? It would not be if we acknowledge we are all connected, we are all beloved and we should be kind to one another. Down with all separatistic religions and their greedy power over leaders. All of them!

      August 9, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • David Johnson

      @rivirivi

      You said, "The horrible problem is that all religions teach separatism. Each group considers their group as the only group beloved by our creator"

      Yes, a wise man once said, "Religion poisons everything".

      You and I know, that there is no god. We just need to spread the good news like I'm doing now. Cheers!

      August 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • J Fairweather

      There have been plenty of false prophets with all religions. The so-called Mahdi who killed General Gordon in Khartoum was one of them. Charles Manson was another. Every religion has references to a prophet that will come. Jesus said that he would send another Comforter, like himself. This promised one is to bring peace and justice. It is rather odd that so many people throughout history expected that the prophet for their age was to be a warrior. That was the expectation in Palestine some two thousand years ago and many of the misguided people of today believe the same thing of their promised one.

      August 10, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  11. JCthinker

    Of course there was no water-boarding or other torture measures inflicted upon witnesses and defendants in Iran, that most humane of all counties.

    August 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      No they just shop off your head instead of giving you a trial!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Glad2BeInUS

    If Bahais can't go to school, they can't get good jobs. They can't worship together. They can't leave the country. They can't have pensions. What happens when they get old? How do they survive?

    August 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Sherwin

      exactly... the government is trying in every way to not let them survive.... because they fear change from their old order to the new world order

      August 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • Jersey

      They are a tight-knit community and they look out for each other. Occassionally there will be articles about underground schools that were found and destroyed. What those really are; are people's homes that were turned into make-shift classrooms to teach the children how to read. The faith believes in education, especially for women, because they spend the most time with the children. Because of the nature of the faith, they take care of each other as much as possible.

      August 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  13. Cascadoux

    All Christians, Muslims, Jews, as well as, Hindus and the like, we should all be very careful how we side against each other. When we're done destroying those of other faiths, by sheer practice and beliefs of our own, we will nullify each other and end up destroying ourselves. It seems that we human beings need to always have a "we against them," to feel good about ourselves. Good Luck and Peace!

    August 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      If there is a end of the World as we know it... The One Country that will still be standing is Israel!!! The Jews all way stay while Their Enemies Die!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  14. JUSTICETO ALL

    I think we need to treate Muslim as wonderfully as they tyreate christians in their countries. How about some equility.

    August 8, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  15. Carlos

    It is my understanding that religions established after Islam, such as Baha'i, are considered an affront to Islam, even more so than other religions, because Muhammad was supposed to be the last prophet of Allah (Jesus was considered an earlier prophet of Allah, as was Moses, and, I think, Abraham and Adam). In the eyes of a devout Muslim, therefore, it is his/her religious duty to be intolerant of the followers of Baha'i. It is similiar to the way a devout Christian may feel it his/her religious duty to be intolerant of homosexuals. These religions provide the convenient appearance of legitimacy and respectability to what is really just ugly bigotry. Baha'i is just a religion, so it is nonsense, just like Islam and Christianity. But, at least from what I understand, it is a pretty harmless religion, unlike Christianity, and, to a greater extent, Islam.

    August 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  16. Bill Ross

    This is not as simple as it appears to us here in the West.. I have been to the Evin Prison in Tehran; their way is definitely not ours; we cannot expect their legal process to follow ours; the theocracy (State dictatorship) has been in place for 30 years now, the Bahai and any others proclaiming the virtues of beliefs other than Islam should be well aware by now that they are in serious danger in that country so why take the risk? even if the convert someone, the conversion could be a death sentence too!

    August 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • SanFranciscoGirl

      Why take the risk? Because it is more important to be true to ones self. Why should Baha'i's (or anyone) cower simply because their *peaceful and just* belief system differs from their fellow Persians? I can't think of a worse torture than forced into denying my true self and the person I choose to be.

      August 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  17. Bill M.

    This religious group has been the target of inhuman treatment by Islam for 150 years. I don't know how they take it. It's enough. Even the people of Iran tried to take power into their own hands and were not successful. And before we know it, Iran will have nuclear capability. Imagine. They are doing this to totally innocent people. Think what excuses they will come up with to attack Israel or the United States. The government in that country needs to go.

    August 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      They would have to be real stupid to shoot Nukes into Israel... Because before they would get there... Israel would shoot Nukes into every Arab Country and that would be the end of the Middle east all together!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  18. mjhorn213

    Actually, I just read about the relationship between Muslims and Baha'i's the other day in my history class. The reason why Muslims dislike the Baha'i faith is because Muslims see Muhammad as the last and final prophet. They even call him "the seal of the prophets". Baha'i's believe in another prophet that lived in the 18th or 19th century (I can't remember which one). This is where the animosity comes from. Most muslims believe in the 5 pillars of Islam, a peaceful way of living, which doesn't include Jihaad. Jihaad means struggle, and a lot of the people that follow jihaad see the struggle as dealing with anyone that doesn't believe in their religion, their way of life, or anyone that they feel is a threat to them. That's where you get the crazy people that think it's ok to harm or hurt people they view to be in their way. I'm a Christian, fyi, but I thought it's important to know what Muslims are really about; normally a peaceful "Allah" loving community, with a minority that takes things into their own hands.

    August 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • cheatchat

      Mj-Horn,

      you closing ur eyes, and say ghaybe, Baba if Baha;i say Mo... is not the seal of prophet, that thier belief,no bady has right to kill them or harm them.FYI, in Surah sajdih vesr 4 & 5 read Quran says there will be another prophet after 1000 yrs.Now in christionity also they say they are last religion do u or other christian kill or harm Muslem? it seems to me u are a moslem and lieinga bout ur true identity as far as ur belief goes.U are pouring h20 to thier mills.

      August 9, 2010 at 1:00 am |
  19. David R. Scott

    These Iranians are just low life religious fanatics. We have the same element here in the rip-publican party. A bunch of lying, bigoted racist who will do anything to screw AMERICA. Screw all BAD Iranians and ALL BAD RIP-PUBLICANS.

    August 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Dude, if I had a hero it would be you! I salute you, sir!

      August 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • J Fairweather

      The victims of this barbarism are also Iranians.

      August 10, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  20. Manuel

    Iran is also systematically destroying the country's pre-islamic past. Every time the Iranian archeologists find something, the government takes over and start demolishing it. It is sad.

    August 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • J Fairweather

      You have your facts confused. That is what was perpetrated by the Taliban in Afghanistan – a regime that was so ultra right that Iran considered it a lethal enemy.

      August 10, 2010 at 2:01 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.