Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Hugh Roberston has issued a statement calling for the release of the seven former leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran, on the sixth anniversary of their incarceration. The Minister for the Middle East said:
Six years ago today, seven leaders of the Bahá’í faith in Iran were imprisoned for 20 years each for practicing their religion. I call on the Iranian authorities to release them as a matter of urgency. I was also deeply concerned to learn of the recent reports of the desecration of a Bahá’í cemetery in Shiraz, where approximately 950 Bahá’ís are buried. We urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to abide by its international commitments to ensure all Iranians are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution.
The seven leaders, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naimi, are serving 20 year prison sentences following their arrest and imprisonment in 2008 following a trial that was widely criticised by the international community.
In other developments, last month Iran’s Revolutionary Guards started demolishing a Bahá’í cemetery in Shiraz. The ongoing demolition is understood to be taking place without a permit from municipal authorities.
The site is, among other things, the resting place of ten Baha’i women whose cruel hanging in 1983 came to symbolise the government’s deadly persecution of Baha’is.
“Excavation has begun and graves are being destroyed. Some 40 to 50 trucks are lined up to remove the earth and accelerate the work,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “We are urgently calling on the international community to raise its voice in protest at this disturbing act. “We also appeal directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to halt this act of desecration.”