Iranian fun and games with Bahá'í followers
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2010-08-21
The Bahá'í Community of Iran's seven national leaders I had written about in my last September and June columns were sentenced to 20 years in prison for ... well ... that's the real question, isn't it?
What they went to prison for seems to be a puzzle the Iranian authorities have left for the rest of us to figure out and I've come to the conclusion that this is their way of showing us they know how to have a good time.
Oh, sure, one may think they're a miserable bunch who don't know how to have fun, what with their record of human rights abuses of religious minorities and such. Au contraire! Denial of freedom of belief can be a blast if you do it right and these guys have kept the good times rolling for decades. Bahá'ís are also easy to find and play with since they're out and about pursuing the betterment of the world, teaching children's classes and hosting devotional gatherings open to all, promoting the equality of women and men, developing communities and organizing youth activities.
This latest bit of fun involved Iranian authorities coming up with a real stumper (because they know everyone loves a good riddle) -- throw Iran's seven Bahá'í leaders in jail for 20 years and leave the world guessing why they're there.
This latest brainteaser isn't the first time they've paid a particular interest in the Bahá'í leaders. Back in August 1980 they made all nine of them disappear in one day! Poof! Gone! As fun as "Hide the Bahá'ís" may have been for them, though, they made the embarrassing mistake of not having the Bahá'ís reappear and they are presumed dead.
How awkward. I've seen games go bad but that was a doozie. Back to the drawing board. They tried their game again the next year with a twist: the newly-elected Bahá'í leaders were rounded up and, side-stepping that previous 'disappearing' complication, got right down to basics and had eight of the Bahá'ís executed. Much to their chagrin, the rest of the kids in the international playground didn't share their amusement.
Many more executions of Bahá'ís took place but it must have gotten old for them as the executions were phased out, for now, in favour of their guessing game "Who's Next?" involving sporadic short-term arrests and detentions. About 50 Bahá'ís (big winners of "Who's next?") remain in prison. This challenge is accompanied by a real-life obstacle course, "Can't Do That," with hazards preventing Bahá'í youth from attending university, denied of work opportunities and inheritances and desecration of Bahá'í cemeteries, to name a few.
To be sure that no one would dare accuse them of being unimaginative and routine, another new challenge, "Housecleaning," gave some 50 Bahá'í families in a northern village the recent opportunity to watch their homes get leveled by front-end loaders.
As for the seven Bahá'í leaders, let's see how the numbers of this current riddle play out: The seven men and women were arrested more than two years ago. They endured 20 months of the notorious Evin prison without being charged, attended six brief court hearings, had barely one hour of legal counsel, and once they were charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order and the establishment of an illegal administration, there was zero evidence presented to support the charges, resulting in a sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
Hmmm, that doesn't look right. You see it's that "zero evidence presented" right before the "20 years imprisonment" punch line that just doesn't work. It's not funny.
None of it is, and it's time the Iranian authorities had best just stop with the games and leave the Bahá'ís alone. There's really only one right answer to the riddle they've created: let the Bahá'ís go home to their families. I think they're all funned out.