Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998


Baha'i community seeks justice, freedom

   Several months ago, the Woodinville Weekly published an open letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States to President Khatami of Iran regarding his desire to uphold the principles of freedom and justice in Iran. The Woodinville Baha'i community was encouraged by President Khatami's remarks because they gave us hope that our co-religionists in Iran might finally be guaranteed the freedom to openly practice their religion. Unfortunately, this has not turned out to be the case.
   On July 21, Iranian authorities summarily executed an Iranian Baha'i who had been charged with converting a Muslim to the Baha'i Faith.
   Mr. Ruhollah Rowhani, 52, a medical supplies salesman and father of four, had been imprisoned in solitary confinement since September 1997. There is no evidence that Mr. Rowhani was accorded any legal process or access to a lawyer and no sentence had been announced. The woman who he was accused of converting to the Baha'i Faith refuted the accusation stating that she had been raised as a Baha'i. She has not been arrested. Mr. Rowhani is the first Baha'i to be executed since March 1992.
   Fifteen Baha'is are currently being held in Iranian prisons on charges stemming from their adherence to the Baha'i Faith.
   Four of these prisoners are on death row on charges of apostasy and of "Zionist Baha'i activities." Since the Islamic regime took power more then 200 Baha'is have been executed on account of their religion. With 300,000 adherents, Baha'is are Iran's largest religious minority. The Baha'i Faith is not recognized as a legitimate religion in Iran and Baha'is have no constitutional rights. On July 23, The White House and the State Department issued strong statements condemning the Iranian government for the execution of Mr. Rowhani. President Clinton stated this action "violates the most basic international norms and universal standards of human rights." He urged President Khatami to take the necessary steps that others are not victimized for the peaceful expression of their faith.
   We fear for the lives of the four Baha'is on death row and the other Baha'i prisoners in Iran. We urge everyone to protest vigorously Mr. Rowhani's killing and to seek justice for the Iranian Baha'i community by writing to your Congressmen and women. Please remember these beleaguered people in your prayers.
   Laura Baerwolf, Public Information Officer