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UW Bahá'i Association garners support against Iranian actions

Thursday, January 7, 1999

Bahá'is endure civil rights violations, supporters say
Bethany Hull
The Daily

    Recent civil rights violations against people of the Bahá'i faith in Iran have prompted UW Bahá'is to take action. Members of the UW Bahá'i Association are engaged in a campaign to gather signatures and letters protesting actions of the Iranian government against Bahá'is in Iran.

    Amelia Waite, junior women studies major, is part of the effort to protest the happenings in Iran. "We're trying to get people to write letters to UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the Iranian government expressing disapproval," Waite said.
"Obedience to government is important to the Bahá'is; they are not trying to overtake the Iranian government."

Larry Gallagher
graduate student, genetics


    The White House has officially condemned the actions of the Iranian government toward Bahá'is. Waite said there has been a national effort in the United States to write letters and gather signatures.

    The official religion in Iran is Muslim, but 300,000 Iranians are Bahá'i. Beginning in 1980, Bahá'is were systematically excluded from University admissions and subsequently began their own open University where Bahá'i students could receive an education.

    On Sep. 29, 1998, the open University of Iran was shut down, effectively denying Bahá'is the right to education, violating their civil rights as stipulated by the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

    Because the teachings of the Bahá'i faith postdates that of Islam, Bahá'is do not have constitutional rights under Iranian law. In addition to the closure of Bahá'i schools, Bahá'i people have been executed for violations such as converting people from Muslim. Bahá'i marriage is not legally recognized in Iran, homes of Bahá'i people have been vandalized and pensions and property have been confiscated.

    UW Senior and International Studies major Neda Fazilat has first-hand experience with the persecution in Iran.

    "My family fled Iran. One evening my father got a phone call from a Muslim co-worker who warned him that his life would be threatened because he was Bahá'i; we packed up and left that night," Fazilat said.

    Larry Gallagher, graduate student in genetics, said one reason Bahá'is from other countries are involved in expressing disapproval to the Iranian government is the adherence to one of the principles of the Bahá'i faith - to follow the laws of one's own government, even if they are unjust.

    "Obedience to government is important to the Bahá'is, they are not trying to overtake the Iranian government," Gallagher said.

    With approximately six million members inhabiting 205 countries, the Bahá'i faith is the second most widespread religion in the world, falling only behind Christianity. The Bahá'i faith adheres to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, who, according to Bahá'is, was the most recent messenger from God.

    The Bahá'i faith's central principle is unity, Gallagher said. "The Bahá'i faith is the most recent of the independent world religions with the most recent of God's messengers sent to help humankind attain it's maturity. Central to the faith is unity and the oneness of human kind ... the main thing about the Bahá'i faith is to promote unity," Gallagher said.

    Bahá'is believe in the oneness of all religions and the equality of the genders and all ethnicities.

    The UW Bahá'i Association will be gathering protest signatures and distributing information about their faith upstairs in the HUB today.

Original Story

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