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Abstract:
Questions and answers about a historically unique television interview of Iranian President Khatami, given on CNN Wednesday, Jan 7, 1998.
Notes:
Prepared by the BIC Office of Public Information.

Television Address of Iranian President Khatami

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice and Bahá'í International Community

1998-07
See also:
  1. the CNN transcript of said interview
  2. a newspaper article and response from the US NSA, U.S. Bahá'ís Ask Iran's President: Does His Call for Religion and Liberty Apply to Bahá'ís?
  3. Iran slams U.N. criticism on rights as `political', and
  4. Iran slams U.N. criticism on rights as `political', and Iran's Khatami defends religious, press freedom

Dear Bahá'í Friends,

As you know, there has been widespread government and media reaction to the televised interview given to CNN last Wednesday by President Mohammad Khatami of Iran. There is a likelihood that various contacts in national governments will invite a reaction to the address from Bahá'í representatives. Approaches may also be made by representatives of the media.

The Universal House of Justice has suggested the following simple guidelines for Bahá'í response in such situations:

1. A clear commitment to the rule of law in human affairs, as was strongly emphasized by President Khatami, appears to represent a most encouraging development, one which the Bahá'í community welcomes warmly.

2. There can be no better evidence of the Iranian Government's commitment to this principle than the emancipation of our co-religionists in Iran from the persecution that has long oppressed them, as called for in the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/RES/52/142). We look eagerly for positive steps in this regard.

3. Experience has shown that advances in the protection of human rights help create a climate for peaceful relations between the societies involved. In the more confidential discussions held with government authorities in your respective countries, Bahá'í representatives may find it useful to suggest that the treatment of the Bahá'í minority in Iran will represent a kind of "litmus test" of the sincerity of the government of that country, in following up on the Khatami initiative.

In both government and media contacts, you may find helpful some of the supporting information and commentary contained in the enclosed document prepared by the Bahá'í International Community's Office of Public Information.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

Enclosure


Questions and Answers

The Bahá'í International Community's Office of Public Information has prepared a list of questions and answers that may assist Bahá'í communities in handling queries from the news media in relation to recent statements made by the Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.

Q: What is the Bahá'í Community's reaction to the recent statements made by Iranian President Khatami in his recent interview with CNN?

A: The statements are encouraging and lead the Bahá'í community to hope that the Iranian government will now move to emancipate our co-religionists in Iran -- the largest religious minority in that country -- from the severe persecution which has long oppressed them.

Q: Have the Bahá'ís been treated better under the administration of President Khatami?

A: So far, we see no evidence of a new policy toward Iran's Bahá'í minority. The Bahá'ís in that country continue to be denied jobs, education and access to many forms of state services, solely because of their religious affiliation. They are considered to be outside the rule of law and are granted neither civil rights nor protection under the constitution. Their homes and property are subject to random expropriation. They continue to be imprisoned and mistreated in an effort to compel them to recant their Faith and convert to Islam.

Q: Are Bahá'ís hopeful that the situation will begin to change under the new administration?

A: A growing percentage of the Iranian public is beginning to press for social changes of various kinds. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the secret plan adopted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council for the extermination of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran -- which was exposed by the Special Representative of the United Nations Human Rights Commission -- has been abrogated or withdrawn.

Q: What do you think about President Khatami's kind words addressed to the people of the United States?

A: Naturally, we find these expressions of goodwill encouraging; we hope that they will gradually lead to a lessening of international tension and to greater understanding between the people of Iran and other countries.

Q: Do Bahá'ís think that formal relations between Iran and the West should now be reassessed?

A: As a matter of principle, Bahá'ís do not interfere in politics by proposing the adoption of this or that policy. We feel confident that, if the Iranian authorities act quickly to give practical effect to President Khatami's commitment to the rule of law, we will see a steady improvement in Iran's international relations.

Q: What specific actions do you believe should be taken by the Iranian Government to correct the situation of the Bahá'ís in their country?

A: The clearest expression of what the Iranian authorities should do can be found in the United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/RES/52/142) of 12 December 1997, calling for the emancipation of the Bahá'í Community of Iran.

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