The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

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Keyvan
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The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Keyvan » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:24 pm

Now that the election is over, I think we've arrived at a a non-objectionable time to start a discussion on this issue.

I've been thinking a great deal about what role the Obama Administration can have in influencing the human rights status of Baha'i's, specifically in Iran.

I feel that Obama must already have a great understanding of Baha'i's and the status of Baha'i's around the world, given his background as a in Chicago public life. Given that: the Baha'i National Centre is in the Chicago area, the level to which the Chicago Baha'i community engages the community at large, and the level to which the BNC and individual believers in the area inform their local and Federal representatives of the Baha'i human rights crisis.

Thus, Barack Obama surely must have encountered Baha'i's and worked with Baha'i's at some point, if not frequently, as a community organizer in Chicago. Beyond then as a state legislator representing the Chicago area, his familiarization with the Baha'i community in representing their needs must have continued, and furthermore as a Senator for Illinois.

So if all of that is true, and he has this relationship with Baha'i International Issues, coming into the Presidency, I feel that Barack Obama would have a special ear for the Baha'i human rights crisis.

He has been criticized for willing to meet with the leadership of nations which the US is currently at odds with, including Iran. In response to a criticism of this policy, during one of the primary debates, Barack Obama said this (in specific reference to Cuba, though Iran is probably an interchangeable subject in this context):

"I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time."

CNN / University of Texas Democratic Debate, Austin, TX, 2/21/08


In Berlin, Barack Obama mentioned this, in reference to the human rights:

"Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?"

Barack Obama, Berlin. July 24, 2008


I also noticed that he has an enhanced understanding of the internal mechanics of the Iranian regime, relative to most politicians. I and many other Iranians were impressed when he pointed out that Ahmadinejad is not the leader of Iran. He also noticeably exhibited certain Baha'i coded rhetoric, such as when he famously referred to himself as a "world citizen" in his Berlin speech. Whether that was a coincidence or something he had learned through encountering the Baha'i Faith or Baha'i's, I have no idea.

Back to the point though, I think his policy will be to do what organizations such as the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) have been advocating, and that is to use human rights as a negotiating chip in enhancing relations. That is to say, if the Iranian regime wants to better their economic or diplomatic situation, they would have to capitulate human rights improvements.

Presupposing that Barack Obama has this history of familiarity with the Baha'i community and Baha'i International issues, we can assume that Baha'i human rights will be a priority.

Also, Obama recently chose Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who represents Chicago in the Congressional House of Representatives, as his Chief of Staff. For the same reasons that we can suspect Barack Obama of having this familiarity with the Baha'i Community and Baha'i International Issues for having been representing Chicago and working in Chicago public life for so long, we can suspect Rahm Emanuel of having an equivalent relationship. Rahm also volunteered in Israel, so he actually lived there. Every Israeli I have ever met is familiar with the Baha'i Faith and the Baha'i Community, given that the Baha'i International Centre is so prominent in Haifa. So this experience may have served to enhance Mr. Emanuel's understanding of the Baha'i Faith, and perhaps consequently enhanced his understanding of Baha'i interests in its human rights status in Iran as well.

All in all, I think this Administration can serve to cause a turning point for the status of Baha'i human rights in Iran perhaps in other nations such as Egypt and Morocco.

Sean H.
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Sean H. » Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:26 am

It's certainly possible. We shall have to wait and see if the rhetoric turns into action. :smile:

AdibM
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby AdibM » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:37 am

I was thinking these exact same things prior to Obama's winning the election. I, too, think it's safe to say that Baha'i human rights will be a priority. In my opinion, he appears to be pretty much what the world needs at this juncture: a non-Baha'i leader (so s/he can get to that position to begin with) with Baha'i ideals.

To add to your list of his potential experiences with the Faith, I'd like to add this statement made by one of Obama's former classmates:

"We had chapel sessions on the Bahai faith, Islam, Judaism, and all forms of Christianity," said Bernice G. Bowers, a classmate [of Obama at Punahou School]. "The message was that diversity made for a richer community."


If you Google the beginning statement, you'll find it on the Los Angeles Times website (can't post the link or I get a 406 error :-k).

In sum, I think one can conclude that he is definitely aware of our existence, and he is more than likely aware of the persecution which has taken place in Iran over the years. Maybe he should start staying up-to-date with Iran Press Watch! :lol:
"To be a Bahá'í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood." -- `Abdu'l-Bahá

Vaughan
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Vaughan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:00 am

In my opinion, it is best for us as Baha'is not to refer to individual politicians and their political advisers-- that has been the consistent advice and policy over the years.

There can be all sorts of implications we are not aware of, including some saying we are partisan, and claiming that we linked to particular Governments and so on-- even though it is clearly a principle of the Faith not to be involved in partisan politics.

We can, of course, wish Governments well in their endeavors to serve mankind-- and we do obey the law and are respectful.

ciwan
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby ciwan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 2:42 pm

Do you think Obama really has power to change anything in the World?

Keyvan
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Keyvan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 4:35 pm

Vaughan wrote:In my opinion, it is best for us as Baha'is not to refer to individual politicians and their political advisers-- that has been the consistent advice and policy over the years.

There can be all sorts of implications we are not aware of, including some saying we are partisan, and claiming that we linked to particular Governments and so on-- even though it is clearly a principle of the Faith not to be involved in partisan politics.

We can, of course, wish Governments well in their endeavors to serve mankind-- and we do obey the law and are respectful.


Baha'i's tend to be hyperconscious of what being "political" is.

This is not a partisan or political discussion since the election is over, we have a president-elect. People's personal support and votes are irrelevant.

This is a discussion of policy implementation of an incoming government.

Keyvan
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Keyvan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 4:41 pm

ciwan wrote:Do you think Obama really has power to change anything in the World?


We as Baha'i's know that no old world system of government can ever bring mankind into an era of peace and justice. That is what the Baha'i administration is for. We can only get there though after Baha'i's are emancipated and on track to develop our communities.

This is a discussion though about what effect the policies of this and the Iranian governments policies will have on the status of Baha'i human rights.

The Baha'i International Community works with governments around the world to improve this status, because clearly freedom comes by policy shift by the old world governments, not by a sea being parted and a cloud of pixy dust.

brettz9
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby brettz9 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:18 pm

While it does provide an interesting moment to have a president-elect who is a minority and who has such experience living abroad, and one who, as with other leaders, has expressed an intention to defend human rights (U.S. presidents as far back as Eisenhower and as recent as Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, have explicitly done so for the Baha'is in Iran, we might also mention), I'm not sure what we can really discuss at this point.

I tend to agree with Vaughan here, that speaking of presidents or their advisors could give the impression that we will side with them or that we are trying to agitate for certain policies, etc. I know that for someone familiar with the Faith, that is a stretch, but we have to realize what most of the world is accustomed to, when they think of "religion" + "politics", even including suspicions of promoting aggression. Also, there is the danger of our becoming associated in the minds of others (whether a domestic or foreign audience) with the self-interested intrigues of various nations.

Our institutions will no doubt, however, continue to advocate for the defense of the Baha'is in Iran and other countries where Baha'i rights are threatened, and we as individuals should support them in their campaigns (such as this one) as well as continue to teach the Faith and spread its principles for which the Baha'is in Iran and elsewhere are enduring their ordeals.

best wishes,
Brett

Keyvan
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Re: The Barack Obama Administration and Baha'i Human Rights

Postby Keyvan » Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:56 am

brettz9 wrote:I tend to agree with Vaughan here, that speaking of presidents or their advisors could give the impression that we will side with them or that we are trying to agitate for certain policies, etc. I know that for someone familiar with the Faith, that is a stretch, but we have to realize what most of the world is accustomed to, when they think of "religion" + "politics", even including suspicions of promoting aggression. Also, there is the danger of our becoming associated in the minds of others (whether a domestic or foreign audience) with the self-interested intrigues of various nations.


First of all, if this were before the election ended, I would not have posted it for the reasons which you outlined. Now that the election is over I think such arguments are irrelevant and a discerning reader would not interpret partisonship. This is a perfectly safe discussion to have, but I think that should go without saying.

I guess my issue with this arguement (which you raise) is that it opens up a neurosis within the Baha'i community to which we are all fearful of saying anything of or relating to governance for fear that it can be interpreted as partisan.

BUT lets keep that to its relevant thread http://bahai-library.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2107


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