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imagesCAUFKWM11359165214-protest-at-holloway-prison-supports-women-prisoners-rights_1750354The Uncaged Voice
4th QTR, 2013
Available free upon request at: elayneclift@gmail.com

Dear Family and Friends:
So much has happened this year, the fourth quarter is already here! We have been grateful for every blessing, and each of you is counted twice. Thank you for joining us on this journey of hope, faith, change, and personal growth.
In this issue, we asked a few inmates to write about their personal journey, with emphasis on the positive. We are very grateful for their willingness to be honest and forthcoming, using this forum as a stage to share from. One woman in particular requested that her identity be confidential, and as always, I will honor that.
I understand that many have questions about how my parole hearing with the BPH went on September 11th so I wrote a summary report that I hope makes the realities of that experience absolutely clear. It would not be clear without a little history that led to the decision; therefore, I included that, as not all readers have been privy to the facts.
As always, we hope this edition finds you doing well, safe from harm, and embracing each day as the gift that it is. We are grateful for your support, and ask that you continue to share this publication in any way available to you, even on Facebook, blogs, etc. Knowledge is to be shared. Each writer is a living testimony, as they too celebrate their uncaged voice.
Namaste,
TC & Mama P
SB-260 Update
When California Senator Loni Hancock introduced the Senate bill, SB-260, in March 2013, she knew it would be a battle. The bill recognized that juvenile offenders differ from adult offenders, mainly due to the lack of brain maturation. Hancock pushed this bill because she believed in experts like Lawrence Steinberg and advocates such as Human Rights Watch, who were speaking out about the barbarism in sentencing youth under the age of 18 to lengthy life sentences in adult prisons. I’ll refer to them as JOSAA.
SB-260 passed on May 20, 2013 by a vote of 27:11, and again on July 2, 2013 in the Public Safety Committee by a 4:2 vote. Whew! The big vote on September 6, 2013 by Assembly members was 51:21 in favor of passage. We’re happy to report that Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on September 16, 2013.
This does not mean that all juvenile offenders will automatically be released. It simply means that there will be an opportunity to be found suitable sooner than they would have using the adult matrix set term protocol. The matrix is determined by case factors. So far this is what we know:
• Any JOSAA with 15 years or more will be eligible for parole after 15 years, but only by a special BPH panel.
• Those serving life sentences will be eligible after having served the base term of their actual crime; this means minus the enhancements that got stacked on top.
• Adults don’t begin life term until they enter state prison, which means county time does not really count at first until after found suitable. JOSAAs will begin their life sentence or determinate term from the day of initial arrest and incarceration. All time credit counts.
o Example: A 16 year old, sentenced to 25 years-to-life for homicide, plus an additional 10 years for a gun enhancement, is received in prison in 1998. Her time begins at arrest in 1996, with the 20 year base of the life term, minus the enhancement. In other words, she is eligible for parole in 2016 instead of 2028.
For more information on SB-260 go to http://www.hrw.org or call Elizabeth Calvin: 310-477-5540. Thank you so much for all of your support in passage of this vital bill. Everyone who helped made the difference. Thank you!
Not Everything About Prison is Negative, by Cora Murry
My story begins on August 3, 2003 when I arrived at prison a very angry person. When I was sentenced to 24 years, I thought it was the end of the world. It seemed like a lifetime away. I had only one thought and that was to make a name for myself behind these walls. Fighting was an outlet for my anger until my dear friend, Shawn, reprimanded me. She bluntly got my attention with “Cora, you’re not going to succeed like that! What about our plans?” At that moment, the light came on. It was clear that if I was going to make it in here I wouldn’t get very far by fighting. From that day forward I managed more control over my emotions and began planning for my future.
About eight months later I obtained a job on the yard crew. I performed my duties so well that I was recommended for a seamstress job at my facility yard clothing room. All I knew about sewing was what little I had gained from watching my mother years earlier. However, I accepted the job offer to stay on course with reaching my ultimate goal of working at Joint Venture. In order to achieve that goal I needed to build a strong resume. I was hired as the clothing room seamstress.
After doing well in that job for six months I applied for a position at PIA Fabric, a warehouse setting very similar to the 1920s sweatshops. I was quickly hired but the position required that I move from B-yard to C-yard, leaving the very peers who had mentored me to that point. It was scary relocating like that, but I adapted to new people, roommates, and the yard change in general. If nothing else, prison forces adaptation and you can either resist or go with it, and in this case, it was a new path toward my goal. I left the seamstress job at $36/month for the PIA job at $75/month. My goal at that time was to receive my five cent an hour raises every three months in order to raise my earnings to upwards of $100/month. Given all of the overtime and Saturdays that I worked I was well on my way.
I added being a WAC member to my responsibilities. WAC stands for Women’s Advisory Council. I became a voice for the women who couldn’t, or simply did not know how, to speak up for their prison rights. I spent one year doing this, keeping myself busy with as many positive activities as possible. Life was good by prison standards – until May 5, 2004.
I had done well for myself and was reaching goal after goal. Then I received the call that every prisoner fears, which is to report to your counselor’s office for a personal phone call. That was the day that my family informed me that my beloved mother, Alma Murry, had passed away. My flame began to flicker as I felt the oxygen leave my body. I had never been more crushed. I cried for three straight days in my solitude of bereavement, and then I knew that I had to make a decision. I could pick myself up and move forward or rebel in my pain, losing my job while other inmates waited to fill my position. I did exactly what my mother would have wanted me to do: I pushed forward, refocusing on my goal anew. I didn’t quit.
Exactly one year later, on the anniversary of my mother’s death, I was hired at my prison dream job: Allwire Electric Company, operated under the prison title of Joint Venture. I had made it! I went from one goal to the next until I reached my then ultimate goal. I started at the legal minimum wage as opposed to pennies on the dollar and did well for three years until 2008, when 15 others and I were laid off due to reduced work production. Still, I’m grateful for all that I learned.
My next goal is to be hired at PIA Dental. I earned my GED on August 5, 2013 and now intend to pursue my AA degree. It hasn’t been easy but I’m living proof that hard work and dedication does hold priceless rewards. In sharing my story, I hope my message is loud and clear: a lot of positive things can be achieved in life, even in a place like prison. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved thus far, but I’m still a work-in-progress. You can do anything you set your mind to, and like me, you too can be your own success story.
What Happened?!?
There are a good many of our friends scratching their heads, trying to wrap their brains around what happened at my parole suitability hearing on September 11, 2013. Given my positive prison record and impressive C-file, many cannot grasp the idea that not only was I denied parole for three more years, but that I asked the panel to permit me to stipulate to such a decision. I will do my best to explain how that sort of thing happens.
First, we need to time travel backwards to the year 2005 when my first suitability hearing was held. Prior to any hearing, all lifers must submit to a psychological evaluation that not only digs into their past but assesses their risk for recidivism likelihood. The BPH relies on these reports, providing them with the professional opinion of a licensed psychologist, which carries a lot of weight in that room. I had 602’d the report for its inaccurate assumptions and biased declarations that I have since proven false, but my 2005 hearing was held with that 2005 analysis used heavily against me. I learned something that year: I learned to fight lies with real evidence. But, what lies?
My interview with Dr. Hartung had lasted all of 45 minutes, with three phone call interruptions, one of which was so private he had me step out of the room for about seven minutes. I had answered questions about my childhood including the ugly truth of abuse. I explained how when I was five years old I was a chronic bed-wetter and my parents had me see a doctor to fix the problem. I told him, “They scheduled me for surgery. A surgery that was not necessary, because I didn’t have a bladder problem; I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it. The smell of urine appalled him, so even at five years old I had figured out a way to protect myself.”
In his report, however, Dr. Hartung had said that I had completely fabricated the story about the surgery. He wrote that not only is such a surgery for chronic bed-wetting unheard of at such a young age, but that I was narcissistic to think that I could manipulate him into believing the story of a conspiracy against me by my parents and the doctor for this unnecessary surgery. I never said it was unnecessary in the cruel sense of a conspiracy. I said it was unnecessary because I was wetting the bed on purpose to keep my stepfather out of it.
Oh, it gets better.
During our interview, on at least three occasions, he asked me if I had ever set fires or tortured animals. I was annoyed when he asked the third time. I’m in prison for killing my stepfather, yes, but I’m not a serial killer, for Pete’s sake! However, in the printed report, the good doctor based part of his claim that I lied about the sexual abuse on the fact that I had denied being an arsonist or sadist. I was raised to respect other people’s property and everyone knows I love animals. I don’t know what textbook he got his theory from, but not all incest and rape survivors resort to arson and sadistic acts of animal torture.
In a nutshell, he called me a sociopathic, narcissistic, antisocial liar without empathy or remorse. He called me a freakin’ liar! I was so outraged to have my voice shoved to a dark corner like that I decided to put that anger to good use. Instead of acting out, I responded with a mission to prove that Dr. Hartung’s report wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. I had to find the evidence, so I wrote every hospital in the Bay area until I obtained my medical records, and I had the proof staring me in the face. I not only had records of what led up to the surgery and the surgery itself, but other medical records that, had my trial attorney done this research before the 1992 trial, the jury would have had an entirely different perspective. Armed with those documents, I was actually grateful that Dr. Hartung set my anger on fire because it sent me into action. No survivor likes to be called a liar. As a matter of fact, it is that very fear that prevents most victims from speaking out. It takes guts and raw courage to speak up and it is almost condemning to not be believed when you do. Thank God I was already ten years into my recovery when that happened; otherwise I may have just shut down. However, I had found my voice. I didn’t shut down. And I didn’t shut up.
In 2008 I had a roommate named Echo who advised me that I could put a free ad in the Craig’s List website to draw attention to our case. We certainly couldn’t afford legal counsel so I thought, why not place an ad? I asked Steve and Carolyn to place the ad for me and they did, using their email address for responses. There were several hits which eventually led to my mother and I both gaining pro bono legal representation.
In 2009 I was scheduled for my subsequent parole suitability hearing, therefore [sent] to see a psychologist to perform a new assessment analysis report. I explained that I had legal representation that was putting together a Writ of Habeas Corpus and that I had already waived my 2009 BPH hearing because of this. He agreed that holding the lengthy interview would be irrelevant if I was not holding my hearing and also seeking to go back to court. He excused me from the interview, then once I left he proceeded to evaluate me without my being present. He used the 2005 report as his test subject instead of using me for that purpose. If that is not illegal, it should, at the very least, be deemed unethical. In essence, the 2005 report was still haunting me.
Fast forward now to 2013. I had to tell you all of that in order for what I’m about to tell you to make sense. When changes were made to BPH policy after passage of Marsy’s Law, it was determined that all psychological evaluations of lifers up for parole would carry a shelf-life of five years. The 2009 report is still valid until about 3rd quarter, 2014.
Due to the unethical nature of the 2009 report, my state-appointed legal counsel, Michele Garfinkel, requested of the panel that I be allowed to postpone my hearing so that I can be re-evaluated for a fair and impartial hearing. The panel denied that request. Michele then asked to speak to me privately to review my options, which we did.
Okay, I could go forward with this hearing using that foul report full of false accusations and risk what could have amounted to about a five year denial of parole. Michele, however, patiently explained the benefits of option #2 which was clearly in my best interest. I chose to stipulate to the minimum denial of parole which was three years. By doing so, I could wait out the shelf-life of the 2009 report and then take my medical records and evidence of abuse into an entirely new interview process for a new evaluation. That should help nip presumed assumptions of sociopathic lying. Well, I’m hoping that seeing the proof will make a difference. After a year I can file a 1045A formal request to have my next hearing held prior to the three year wait. Yes, in other words, I still obtained a postponement to obtain a new evaluation, but we’re calling it a three year stipulation of denial of parole. It’s just part of the political process. Had I faced the panel with the warped 2004 report it certainly would have been freedom suicide. This is not a matter of manipulating the system. I see it as a matter of using their written policy as a means to pursue my path to freedom, even if it requires that I file extra paperwork in order to do so.
I’m very satisfied with my decision and definitely grateful to Michele for her careful explanation of the law and my legal options. She says she does BPH law because she believes in the process. Her demeanor and professionalism was evident that those were not just words. Any lifers interested in a competent and caring BPH attorney, contact Michele Garfinkel, 1611 S Street, Suite 202, Sacramento, CA 95811.
There’s Nothing Funny About It
While it is true that the California state prison system has become a warehousing debt maker to hold inmates bulging at the seams, it has also warehoused the mentally ill. With the closures of many of the psychiatric hospitals, those patients need to be placed somewhere to obtain the help they need. They are being housed in prison, where they may not necessarily receive the medical attention that they need. Budget cuts have decreased the available staff and options for the mentally ill are limited.
Inmates who hear voices walk the grounds here, arguing and socializing with those voices. Those of us who cannot hear their voices are clueless as to what they are going through. There is nothing funny about an individual who is struggling on the brink of sanity and insanity. However, there are those who point, laugh, and even mimic the women devoured by inner demons in a fight for control. It is sad. It is preventable. It is inappropriately on display to be ridiculed by those who are fortunate not to be one of the mentally ill, lost in a wasteland of voices and finger-pointing. It is a lot of things, but funny it is not.
I learned that prison has a pill-popping policy that is their answer to everything. Now mind you, I can grasp that in some cases people need a pill for this or that. In 1995 I was having trouble sleeping. I was battling my own demons of the past. The staff here in white jackets wanted to give me Elavil, a psychotropic medication. A mood changer. I didn’t need a pill, I needed to talk. However, being overworked and understaffed, they would rather give you a pill and send you on your way. Since I refused pills to numb my pain they removed me from the list to be seen. By the way, the guy who did that was eventually walked off the job for inappropriate sexual behavior with a patient. Need I say more?
There are a good many individuals who are doing well with the use of medications but what about the ones on the walkway who argue loudly with the voices in their heads? The ones who officers walk right past? The ones who are getting the short end of the stick? They don’t belong in prison. They belong somewhere where they can receive help. Real help.
CCWF has a policy in place called EOP – Enhanced Outpatient Program. There is a unit in the receiving yard that houses those not ready for assimilation into the general population of inmates. There are rooms in each of the general population units that have “step-up” rooms. They are called that as a means of stepping up [or transitioning] from EOP. If the women can’t make it there they are returned to EOP. What is sad is that there are many who really aren’t making it as opposed to barely hanging in there. Since these step-up rooms are in G.P., we are all mingled together. If the EOP/Step Up inmate attacks one of us, they get a pass. No repercussions because they are deemed mentally ill. If we defend ourselves we can get a write-up. So not only are they vulnerable in this situation, but we are as well.
There are a lot of things broken in the penal system, but especially at the level of incarceration. There are people who do belong here, most certainly, but there are way too many who should be in a different environment. Definitely not criminal isolation. So when you are saying your prayers, add one for the mentally ill prison population. Someone needs to care about them, and if it’s not the system, it needs to be us.
When You Complain, You Remain by Niki Martinez
Who among us just gets frustrated and walks around saying, “I hate this place!” or “I’m sick of being here!”? We all have those days. And it puts you in a crappy mood. But I need to remind you: when you complain, you remain! It tends to set the tone for your day, your attitude and your perspective. It is so easy to get caught up in the mentality of “I hate it here.” But what we need to realize is that it could always be worse. When we change our perspective, we change our attitude, and when we change our attitude, it affects our lives! Why walk around feeling crappy, making life worse than it has to be, because we choose to? We have to know what thoughts to ignore, and respectfully, what people to ignore.
Too many people are negative and discouraged because they don’t like where they are. It’s just not where they want to be. They missed the unlock, their roommate locked them out, they’re stuck at the gate, they want in, they want out, they can’t wait for the door to open to go program, they get to work and they’re still irritated. They want to shop, they come back and they’re mad about being locked out and not getting this or that! They are always fighting against something. They are always trying to be somewhere else. We really need to begin to understand that change begins in us, not in our circumstances. The wrong attitude will keep us right where we are! So often, we find ourselves fighting our way to happiness, thinking it’s some sort of destination. We’re always trying to reach somewhere else and then we will be happy. “Once I shop, I’ll be happy.” “If I could just move then I’d be happy.” “If I had that other job, if I could move off this yard…” Or the bigger one that all of us are so convinced of: “If I could just get out of this prison, then I’d be happy.”
When we think of it like that, it only holds us back from our own happiness. A better approach is “This is where God has me right now and until He moves me, I’ll be happy right now, right here.” It is our choice. Our happiness doesn’t involve our circumstances or our place of residence, it involves our perspective and our attitude. We have to be determined to enjoy our lives no matter where we are living them. And when we understand that God has us exactly where He wants us, and when we learn to be happy where we are, He will take us where we want to be.
If we want to see God open new doors, the key is to bloom right where we are planted. We cannot wait until everything becomes better before we decide to have a good attitude. We have to be the best we can be right where we are.
When we change our approach, slow down, and just enjoy the journey, or take in all the journey has to offer, we will arrive where we’re supposed to be, but our lives will be much more fulfilled. And then we will be blessed with the perspective that it was all worth it. Instead of looking at what w don’t have, be grateful for what we do have. Somebody in this world would gladly trade places with us. Somebody would love to able to breathe like us, or be able to walk like us or see like us. Somebody would love to living where we are living.
Complaining only delays better days.

Choices by Christina Francis
Life is about choices- good and bad, positive and negative – and the consequences of actions taken because of the choices we make. My own choices led to my being a juvenile offender sentences as an adult. I entered State prison only three months after turning 17 years old. At that time I was the youngest person housed at CCWF, not exactly the claim to fame one strives to reach. I was instantly defined as a lost cause and led to believe that this was true. My truth. Not knowing any better, I embraced that [stigmata]; that is how I began serving my life sentence.
Through many trials and tribulations, today I now know that this is not true. That it need not be my legacy. I’ve learned in my own way to turn that around and to re-evaluate my views and values. Incarceration really is the biggest time out ever. It has brought me face to face with the here and now. Although I am separated from the outside world, prison has offered me the grand opportunity to stop and think about the natural flow of life, and to reflect on my place in it.
It has not been easy to grow up in a women’s prison. To be raised in such a volatile and angry environment. My vision, hope and faith were distorted by the daily madness; I simply let it envelop me and became a part of it. I somehow settled it in my mind that not only would this be where I will die, but that I was okay with such a desolate reality.
Over the years, however, that 17 year old kid has grown up, and in that development process I forced myself to look deeper into my core issues. I did not do this alone, but with the help and support of good friends who had pure motives and who hoped to see me reach my true potential. It took time but I found that it really is possible to overcome challenges. It took all the super-human dedication and effort that I could muster, but I grew tall enough mentally to see over the mountains of what I perceived as impossible. I’m content with the struggles that I’ve encountered. In life, every struggle, every circumstance of pain and chaos is in itself a lesson in progress. I have gained wisdom and personal strength through this philosophy and it allows me to perceive and respond to things as they are.
Growth requires limitless courage and through the experiences that taught me that I now believe that anything is possible. Before I could ever take control and rebuild my life I needed a firm desire to make my wishes sincere and real in every way. The more progress I made, the closer I drew toward becoming a useful person with a purpose in life. I learned that making excuses for not growing and feeling sorry for myself and my predicament was wasted energy. The negative sources of stagnation that I surrounded myself with only delayed my growth process – time I can never get back. When I hear someone say that I never had half a chance, I hear a voice of knowing that says, “You create your own chances, or lack thereof.” And I know this is true. At least for me it is.
I am a true believer that an inner drive for growth will push you forward; I’m living witness to how you can conquer many obstacles by demanding such commitment to personal growth. Being incarcerated, I have little control over many aspects of institutional life, but I have control over myself, how I see things, and most certainly, how I react to all of it. We can choose to advance or sit in our self-pity and rot. The choice is ours. As for myself, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and progressing forward. Doing so has made all the difference. A difference I now embrace.

I Saw God Today by Patti Garrison
I saw God today,
In the sunrise;
Beautiful hues of pink and purple,
Brush strokes in the clouds;
Painted by a master painter.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is beautiful.

I saw God today,
In the forest;
Awed by the majestic trees,
Which have stood against
Winds and storms, yet stand proud.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is strong.

I saw God today,
In the eyes of a man;
He rises early to feed the hungry,
And help the needy,
His only reason being that help is needed.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is kind.

I saw God today,
In the actions of a woman;
She stopped to help a homeless man.
She extended her hand and he was hesitant,
Until he saw her smile.
Yes, I saw God today,
And I can tell you, He is compassionate.

I heard God today,
In the laughter of a child;
So pure and sweet,
Filling the air,
With happiness and innocence.
Yes, I saw god today,
And I can tell you, He is joyous!

I thanked God today,
For allowing me to see and hear Him,
In the simple, yet beautiful everyday things,
Which surround us all,
If only we take the time to notice.
Yes, I thanked God today,
And I can tell you, I am blessed.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving by Strictly Anonymous
I, like anyone else, have a story to tell. I believe we are all the walking proof of our pasts. While my story may not be pretty, the truth is that for prisoners it never really is.
In high school I never really had very many friends. The jocks all thought they were gods, the cheerleaders were total snobs, and the in-crowd could see that I was more out than in. I felt like an outsider looking in to a world that didn’t care if I even existed. I felt alone in the world.
And then I met him. He made me feel like I mattered. He actually wanted my time, my attention, to hear my own thoughts; he even asked about my dreams. His name was Jeff. I was 16 years old and in the 11th grade. Jeff, however, was 21; he worked as a forklift operator at a large warehouse. He made money that he readily spent on me. I had never felt so special in all my life. For the first time, I felt loved.
Because of our ages we had to keep our relationship a secret. Even from my sister, who almost always knew what I was up to due to her snooping nature.
We had been dating for over a year when Jeff hit me for the first time. I never saw it coming. He kept it invisible to the peering world by leaving marks only where clothing hid the bruises. Somehow he had convinced me that it was my fault. That I made him so mad at me I had it coming. I actually believed that.
In a relationship like that things never get better. Ours got worse and when he realized he had gotten me pregnant, he expected me to get an abortion. Hiding the relationship was one thing, but hiding an abortion from my devout Catholic parents was a whole other idea. Jeff and I argued over this. I was 17 years old by then and he kept telling me how he could get in trouble if I didn’t get the abortion. The final straw was when he began to threaten that he’d kill the baby himself. I imagined his kicking me in the stomach. I agreed to the abortion to escape that sense of a beating. The next day I disappeared from his life.
Jeff couldn’t contact me at school and he couldn’t contact my family for fear of statutory rape charges. What he didn’t know was that I’d told my parents the truth. It was all I could think of to do. First I told my mother, then with my mother’s support, my father too. I went to live with my aunt in southern California and spent my son’s first two years under her roof. She was my saving grace. I was able to get a job and my GED with her help and daily encouragement. I made a life for myself in southern California and life was good. Jeff was only a memory.
When I was 24 years old, my son Dalton was six and in school. I was working at an office building that had a front desk with security personnel. One day I was called to come down from my office to see a visitor at the front desk. I was told his name: Jeff had found me. I felt my breath get trapped in my lungs. The walls were closing in. I couldn’t even speak for the first few seconds. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet him at the front desk, but I warned Perry, the security officer, on the phone, “This may not end well. Please stay nearby.” Perry assured me and I reported to the desk.
Well, this story actually did end well. Jeff asked me to sit on a couch in the lobby with him and he proceeded to tell me how he had found me. It wasn’t very hard; I had never changed my name. He assured me that he had grown up, changed his ways, and was a better man than the immature person I had left behind. He apologized and then he asked, “How is life? Tell me about the baby.” I told him he had a son. I gave him ten minutes, and then had to return to work, but agreed to meet him in a very public place – a restaurant. I showed him photos and literally let him see his son grow up in pictures. Our son. My intuition was that Jeff really had changed.
Although Jeff and I never got back together again, we were able to maintain a personal relationship of respect and I introduced him to Dalton. After about three months, Jeff relocated to southern California to be closer to his son. They have formed a beautiful bond and I am grateful for that. Had I held on to my anger, hatred and mistrust of Jeff, I would have robbed my son of the privilege of knowing his father. I chose to accept Jeff’s apology, and I truly forgave him. Once I did, I was freed from the past.
A few years ago, I took the law into my own hands against a coach, to protect Dalton. The law didn’t like my idea of a mother’s love and I was sentenced to 16 years in State prison. However, Jeff brings my son to see me twice a month and on holidays. My one act of forgiveness has come back to me over and over again.
When I began telling my story, you may not have expected this ending, but what it amounts to is this: Life is beautiful, even in prison.

Hey, Sports Fans!
Joe had tickets for the Super Bowl with a seat on the 50-yard line. As he sat down he noticed that the seat next to his was vacant. He asked the man on the other side if anyone was sitting there.
“No,” the man replied. “That seat is empty.”
“This is incredible!” Joe said. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Super bowl and not use it?”
The man looked up and said, “Well, it actually belongs to my wife but she passed away. This will be the first Super Bowl we haven’t been together since we married 23 years ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” said Joe. “Couldn’t you find a friend or relative or even a neighbor to take the seat?”
The man simply shrugged, saying, “No. They’re all at the funeral!”

From the Heart
I remember my first trip to Yosemite National Park in 1982 with a few of my co-worker friends. We drove late at night so didn’t see much scenery going through Mariposa. We couldn’t see much more than darkness around us beyond the bit of road in the headlights. It wasn’t until daybreak that we really saw the beauty of the valley floor. It was nearly intoxicating.
After checking in and locating our canvas tent cabins the four of us set about exploring the park. We headed straight for the tourist spot of the magical and fantastic Yosemite Falls. The way the mist kissed your face you knew you were somewhere special. I wasn’t the most religious person in the world and even I felt as if I’d been misted by God.
Garfield, Lynn and Lori were good company as we hiked up the fall, the slippery wet rocks beneath my boots. We could feel the change in altitude taking effect, the higher we went. I think it was my legs that felt the burn equal to what Garfield’s lungs did. That’ll teach her to smoke! Lori and I wanted to go up higher but Garfield couldn’t make it, and well, abandoning her wasn’t an option. We did make it to a high pool where we could sit on some boulders and just take it all in for a moment. It was absolutely magnificent. Here was clearly a landscape that paintings could not do justice to, for it was a creation not of man, but of a power greater than that.
In those few minutes before we trekked back down the falls I took it all in. I breathed it in. I soaked it up like a sponge and I have kept it all these years. It was one of those experiences that photos cannot convey but can only capture frozen in time. In those few minutes, I truly appreciated that I had the opportunity that not everyone does. I’ve met many women here that never had that chance. And every time that I do, I feel blessed all over again.
So I say from the heart to you: Don’t ever take anything for granted. Not your knowledge, mobility, senses, or next meal. Don’t take it for granted that you can breathe or talk or have clothing and clean water to drink. It is said that the best things in life aren’t things, but everything. I agree. When you struggle, it is part of your life’s blueprint, and even the butterfly must struggle out of the cocoon before it can fly. A woman goes through pain when her child is being born but she is grateful for the priceless gift. Stop and think about the people you haven’t spoken to or seen in awhile. Then tell them that you’re thinking of them. You just may make their day. Better yet, they are given the opportunity to make yours. Works for me. May you all have a safe, healthy, happy holiday season.
Love and Peace,
TC and Mama P
T.C. Paulinkonis Barbara Paulinkonis
W45118 (514-16-04U) W45120 (514-15-02L)
P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508 Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508

(In typing this newsletter, some minor edits were made for clarity. Words in brackets indicate that the handwritten version was unclear.)

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Bean Town

Boston feels like a sink hole, an asphalt taffy road with unexpected, unplanned for sags, taking the nation down and then up. Our hearts run to each other in times of tragedy, and someone else’s child is ours. We claim him, her.

Boston is in my marrow, even though I left there when they still hadn’t found the Boston Strangler, you know the guy who was murdering old women, and I was renting a room in Belmont, and the other roommate, Miss Bell, was very old.

I waited for the Cuban Crisis to be over, kept huge boxes around in my small vertical room, with tops open. I had ended a relationship and just couldn’t do law firms, relationships, or disregard from relatives anymore.

I had a VW grey Volkswagen convertible, with actual orange, Marx Nixt sticks, which to this day I don’t know how to spell, but I tell you, that car would go 55, and that was it, and by the time I edged out of Buffalo, my second morning, I was glad, because the heater was frozen, and I wouldn’t have made it through a Boston winter.

What’s in me from Boston? Libraries, libraries, libraries. Books, and my autodidactic self which took itself around books alphabetically, until I had read everything every author I fell in love with had written. In high school, as a rebel, I quit checking out books, and just stuffed them under my raincoat, and returned them that way.

Boston had the Charles River and the Harvard Teams crewing, but before that West Roxbury had Billings Field which was flooded in the winter, and my boys’ black hockey skates flew over this field every day. It was a time of Roast Beef in the dining room with the family on Sundays, and weekly meals in the kitchen for just us kids: leftovers on Mondays, Spaghetti on Tuesdays, Wednesdays I don’t know, but it was an era of the same type of meal each day, and our clothes were picked out the night before. School, the Randall G. Morris Elementary School was one block away, and on the first floor almost at the end was my mom’s room, and it felt as if I had a night light, even though we kids couldn’t have mom as a teacher.

I remember the smell of tight, smell of rubber, pink balls which bounced against garage doors with a thwap, and yearly visits to the Constitution, walking down narrow steps to its innards, and I remember visiting the Bunker Hill Monument, reading Johnny Tremain, and everything else for that matter, all stitched inside my soul as “Boston.”

I don’t remember girls having showers in high school, so the concept of running a marathon didn’t hit me until I was in my early 40s, and started running 3 miles a day.
In my era, we witnessed black out curtains, shortages of tobacco, sugar, and we jumped on tin cans, and later fought over who could massage the round orange ball inside the plastic covered white lard package to make margarine. We rooted for Ike, and laughed about having a naked man swing in the trees at the top of the hill where the Water Tower stood, a silent sentry to his bizarre behavior.

Boston’s a town that changed quite a bit; a town where prejudice of skin color and class etched pain in anyone’s heart in the 1950s. In my small patch anyone who wasn’t Catholic and Irish were suspect, except at high school, Roslindale High, and then we kids didn’t draw any type of line around, through, or over friendships

But somehow, maybe because change was in the air, always necessary, and because of books, and unobserved deeds of kindness, I didn’t pick up the alcoholism in the family quilt, and I moved to California, leaving the idea of skin color scorn and judging someone who didn’t speak the King’s English. Los Angeles in the early 60s was bizarre and multifaceted. Still, Boston, was a good place to be from, despite James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr.’s cavorts, and the horrible racism of Louise Day Hicks. I somehow knew change would come when we managed toe holds on the crust of the 60s. So now when I hear of newscasters laud the tightness of solidarity, I wonder. Is that really true?

But I tell you, we are all from Boston, or Newtown, or New York, or Baghdad, or Congo when atrocities hit us or others. The human heart has a way of moving borders. Got to tell the leaders about this. They need to know.

l  a n g u a g e  a f t e r  t h e  1 0 0  y e a r  w a r

 

The Nouns were in control in the neighborhood of Verbiage.

Adjectives were forced to end their 100 Year War.

This war was known as the Great War of Planet Earth in the Days of Rhetoric Only.

Verbiage, like a fireplace bellows of yesteryear,

had simply exhausted its wheeze and could no longer

control the Nation.

Politicians would no longer be described adjectively.

Thus, our President could be described by the Press as, “A   

man whose eyes narrowed when a syllabic word entered the

toy store of his mind; a man whose Rubber Ducky drowned

when his bath water became higher than what is necessary for

the average leader; or, a man who could bob eternally on the

Ocean of Platitude.”

This leader called up his country’s Reserve Marines again.

These Marines were sent to a land which resembled a cannon

to which they would become fodder. They would obey their

mission, climb into these cannons, and be shot out over the

land of buildings which no longer resembled buildings.

Naught would be seen but structures of rubble which resembled

cookies crumbled in the hand of a monster as tall as the

sky.

The Congress would not be allowed to use descriptions

which included the much abused adjective. This caused some

consternation, for our Congress knew of the paucity of adverbs

when running for election. The Congress member

would no longer be able to crawl into that vat of adjectives

filled with words guaranteed to portray an individual Congress

person righteously and puffily. These adjectives, I might

add, are thrown carelessly into this vat, like screen plays in

Los Angeles, like potato chips in a Lays truck which had escaped

from their Bag Containers.

The Nouns issued an edict: “Stick to the Facts, Jack.

Straight Facts for a Straight Land,” a land which had lived adjectivally

and splendiferously for too long, thereby wreaking

an ecological knowledge gap of a very long five years. Politicians

had appeared on the NewsHour program with Jim

Lehrer, and on what used to be Peter Jennings’s NewsHour,

and on Tim Russert, to reveal Sunday after Sunday (or was it

Monday after Monday?) narrow gamboling minds and nuances

of the political dance. These very same politicians verbally

trolled linguistically along to thinly expand titles such as

“Theatre of Operation,” “War Games” and, last but not least,

the most abused noun in the world, Democracy—Democracy

became a gutted, slutty word, misused and stretched like

hardened taffy in a candy machine after the summer crowd

had gone home.

A rape of the Nouns had occurred. What choice did the

Nouns have but to take over the Nation? They cried out,

“Aack, aack, aack! No more.”

And so as this tale is difficultly told, but blessed for its attempts,

all the while failing in adverbial splendor, time will tell how language

controlled its environment so that facts and integrity might emerge again

 children of the world forget that “Truthfulness is the foundation

of all human virtues” (Ruhi Book 1 – Reflections on the Life of the Spirit)

Lynne Hippler and I participated in a remote viewing/healing process about a week ago, on me, the happy subject.  What follows will dip into that type of therapy. Perhaps I should mention, I was a 4 pound baby, had a heart quirk (2 aortic valve openings, instead of 3) which was discovered when I was 53 (smile).  I have done traditional and alternative healing for years.  First one in family to get the childhood diseases, had Mono twice, and when 42, returning to the University, had Epstein Barr Virus, which the medical profession didn’t acknowledge.  What followed were hilarious essays way after the fact.  I was single mom with obstreperous but wonderful young boy, living on campus with him, going to school, hanging in.  I had sold everything to go back to school.  Immune system plague followed me for years.  It liked me, what can I say.  Went to Russia/Ukraine/Belarus, a dip in Siberia.  Home, stenosis of aortic valve, and more, too much to mention.  Health returns through surgery, antidepressents, a good psychiatrist, rolfing, walking, fresh air of Seattle, and a loving husband.  I have had other sagas, but that’s for another day.  So I am pretty much like an old engine which keeps on chugging, and help is found in varied ways.  Below is one of these ways.  I hope you enjoy.

Esther:  You read my Without A Net, a Sojourn in Russia and emailed me.  It turns out we have mutual friends.  I offered to send you my second book You Carry the Heavy Stuff, and then you said you would like to thank me for the book by giving me a remote treatment from where you live, in Norway. Mind you, I am in Pasadena. (Readers:  I have lung and heart stuff, and toot around like a good used truck).Of course I said yes because I’ve done a lot of body work and this intrigued me.

Esther:  Do you have a definition of your practice?

 Lynne:  I give alternative treatments, both onsite and remote.  I’m a Registered Nurse and Zone Therapist, and I’ve helped to form The Norwegian Healer Association and was a member of their first board. 

Lynne: I’ve worked since 1984 in the alternative field.  The methods I use are:  Zone Therapy, Healing, Nutritional Counseling, Energy Balancing, Caring and Counseling Conversation, Electric Acupuncture, Stones and Crystals, Affirmations and Visualizations, Bach Flower Remedies, and Remote Treatments.

 Esther:  You also give remote treatments for animals don’t you?

Lynne:  My intention is to help people and animals to get balanced and feel better.

Esther: I had a Rolfer who practiced on horses.  I called him “Mr. Thumb” because he had so much strength in his hands.  I was Rolfed months after open heart surgery, and it was exceedingly helpful.

Lynne:  Yes, Rolfing has a lot to offer.

Esther:  How did you get started in this type of practice?

Lynne:  It all started when I was working as a nurse in a hospital in Hammerfest,  Norway.  One day, while assisting a patient into a wheelchair, I injured my back.  I had difficulty sitting for a while, and while I was attending my Saami language class (the Saamis are the indigenous peoples of the North Calotte), a friend sitting next to me said, “You should contact my sister.  She’s the only Zone Therapist in Finnmark (the most northern part of Norway).  I did, and after six treatments, I was much improved.  Soon after this I moved to the eastern part of Finnmark to Tana.

While there, I started having problems with my stomach and was sent to the hospital three times.  While in the hospital, I had the good fortune of getting acquainted with a resident doctor who got to know me and then told me to, “Go home and heal yourself.”  And, I did.  Still, I knew that I didn’t know enough, and in fact hardly knew anything at all.  So I contacted the Zone Therapist who lived inHammerfestand said I wanted to become a Z.T.  I asked where she had gone to school.  She gave me the name of her instructor and the school in Oslo.  I applied and was admitted to a 2-year course of study.  I graduated in 1986.  During that time I also learned how to use the pendulum (The pendulum measures energy, i.e. you place it over an area and note which direction it rotates and how large the circle is. This tells you about the energy of the object).  My instructor said, “You have warm hands.  My instructor was also a homeopath, so we learned about homeopathy too.

Esther:  Do you practice this inNorway?

Lynne:  Yes I do, as well in Sweden, Finland, and the States when I am visiting in those countries, or if people want a remote treatment.

Esther:  What are your other interests, professions?

Lynne:  I received a B.S. degree from the University Of  Iowa (USA) in Therapeutic Recreation in 1966.  During my years inEurope I became a Registered Nurse and a Zone Therapist, as well as studied various other forms of alternative treatment.  I was also a member of the first board for The Norwegian Healer Association.

Esther:  Can you give the reader an image or two of what you experience when you view someone from afar? 

Lynne:  When I am doing a remote treatment, I need it to be quiet around me.  I try to create a spiritual atmosphere, and I want to be open to the guidance that comes to me. 

Esther:  I now know they should be lying down quietly, just breathing in and out, calm, and no disturbances.  I tweaked that a bit, but was in a good tranquil space.

Lynne:  Yes.  It is important to have a quiet atmosphere around the person receiving the treatment. It’s also very important that there are no electrical devices close by, i.e., TV, radio, microwave, computer, etc.  They can emit electrical energy that gets in the way of what I am trying to do.  For the same reason, it is important not to eat or drink during the treatment, because the body should be free to receive what is happening and not have other duties to take care of, i.e. if you are giving it food or drink to deal with.

Esther: So take us down the reader path of remote viewing, healing from afar. 

Lynne:   In addition to what I said above, I try to be as open as possible to receive the necessary guidance and then do what seems right. Nothing is planned ahead of time. At the end of the treatment I use muscle testing (kinesiology) to test if there are any affirmations, exercises, diets, etc. that would be helpful to assist in “getting balanced and feeling better”. These are sent in an email to the person who received the treatment. I also encourage people to contact me by email if they have any questions or comments.

Esther: You may use me as an example if you wish.

Lynne:   I don’t discuss what I specifically do during any treatment.

Esther:  Why are you in Norway?

Lynne:   That’s a long story…..The short version is that I decided to move toFinland in 1973, after having become a Baha’i in 1971. At the time I had never been out of North America and I felt there was a lot out there in the world that I could do and experience and many friends out there waiting to be met.

I lived in Finland from 1973-1980, graduating from nurses’ school in 1980. Things worked out in such a way that I moved to Norwayafter I graduated, because some friends suggested that I might like to live in Norway. So, I moved. I have always been open to new and different ways to do things, etc.

I have been a Norwegian citizen since 1985.

Esther:  What are your hopes for the future?

Lynne:  I very much enjoy living in Norway.  It is my home now, so I can’t imagine moving to another country. As far as how I live the rest of my life, I hope I can be useful to others as long as I can, in whatever ways I can, and to enjoy life to the fullest!

Esther: Any other comments?

Lynne:  I’m glad that I bought your first book, Without a Net: A Sojourn in Russia.  That’s why I got in touch with you, and now here I am sharing with others through you. Very interesting how things work out, isn’t it?

Esther:  What other types of work do you do?

I also do translations from Norwegian to English, in case that is of interest to anyone. While I was in the States from 1996-2006 I did some work with genealogy – letters and books that people, originally from Norway, wanted translated.

If people would like to contact me, here is my website: http://www.behandlingsplassen.no.

Lynne:  Below is the text of the email I send out to people who are interested in a remote treatment:

This is how my remote treatments work:

We agree what day and time of day we will have the treatment.

($XX USD or $XX CD is deposited into my account.

You send me an email when this has been done, and then I do the remote treatment at the agreed upon time. Most people experience that it is best to be quiet during the treatment,

i.e. to lie down, just like you would during a physical treatment.

Please turn off computers, radios, TV’s, etc. The treatment lasts one hour.

Usually there are some treatment suggestions I have after the treatment,

and I will email those to you.

If you have any questions or comments, please email those to me: Lynnehi9@live.com

My bank account in Washington Mutual Bank/Chase,Palm Desert,

California is: 440 2088 060.

Thank-you for your interest,

Lynne Hippler

Jon Klæbosv. 1 C

8019 Bodø

Norge/Norway

47 786-03744

Website:   www.behandlingsplassen.no

(Reader, I experienced a state of calm, but towards the end of my session, I felt enormous fatigue.  Her advice to me was right on, and I might add, exceedingly helpful.  Healing is a process, and I’m glad I was part of this process.

Larry: The Most Famous Feline in England.

 

I’m reposting this from http://kofegeek.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/larry-the-most-famous-feline-in-england/

 

She’s an artist, and I like her blogs.  I find this one enchanting.  Best to all!

http://educationunderfire.com/the-vision/

Rainn Wilson did a college tour, not for the sake of comedy, but for that of human rights. Along with other panelists from Amnesty International, Education Under Fire, and the Bahá’í faith,Wilson spoke to a packed auditorium about a serious topic: the religious persecution of over 300,000 Iranian members of the Bahá’í faith.

The history of Bahá’í persecution dates back to the group’s inception. However recent government-sanctified systemic disenfranchisement (or as it’s called in polite circles, the passing of discriminating laws that bar Iranians identifying as Bahá’í from basic human rights like public services and education) has escalated to the point of attempts to shutter the underground university, Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, and mass arrests of BIHE professors.

Many teachers are serving 4-5 year prison sentences from their arrest in May, 2011.

But why is the funnyman on a college campus for something so grave? “My family is Bahá’í. Had our family been living in Iran, my 7-year-old son would not be allowed go to school.”Wilsonhas appeared in Baha’i conferences before, but it was the events in May that helped organize these groups together. Amnesty International had been trackingIran’s human rights violations since the overthrow of the Shah during the 1970′s. Another group produced its namesake documentary, Education Under Fire, was born from the reactions of volunteers to keep the secret school operating and to spread the news of the persecution. The team spoke at several local Boston colleges like Boston University,Wheelock College, Harvard, and Tufts.

                       

Director Jeff Kaufman, actor Rainn Wilson, BIHL graduate Mojdeh Rohani , and Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International Joshua Rubenstein .

The documentary screening and subsequent talk was intended to be a call to action.Wilsontold the audience, “Go and ask your schools to accept BIHE credits or help teach an online class.” Flyers given to attendees listed over a dozen ways potential activists could help their cause. But perhaps the best testimony came from a BIHE graduate, Mojdeh Rohani, now a graduate of BU’sSchoolofSocial Work.

“I still love my country. But when I’ve been asked to go and help them with disasters they find out I’m a Bahá’í, and I am rejected immediately. I have not been able to go back.”

The panel disbanded, and Wilson was whisked off towards the next stop of his tour, the airport.

To find out more about Education Under Fire, check out their website.

I hope people can respond to this! Thank you, Esther

http://educationunderfire.com/multimedia/

how to be a racial transformer

from Colorlines.com, Hatty Lee’s infographic, ARC toolbox, research, activism, media, Rinku Sen, ARC President – arc@arc.org.

This organization gets things done; they put “hope” back in the horizon! I hope it’s okay to publish this

Siobhan Fallon writes well, eloquently and her prose and content are straight arrows to the heart. I don’t know how many books have been written from her point of view, but these stories, with exceedingly diverse points of view, points of view that bring you inside the characters’ soul, are just in time for the rest of the world to view.

Fort Hood.  Women Left Behind.  Heart in throat kind of stuff.  Factual insights into life at Fort Hood.  She brings the sound of loneliness and waiting to the page in a visual way.  Agony, waiting, lives upended, lives united.  These are the stories this reader feels everyone should read.  What a tribute to all who serve and all who wait.

Baha’i International Community calls for release of Christian pastor facing death sentence

GENEVA, 4 October 2011 (BWNS) – The Baha’i International Community has joined the call for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran.

Pastor Nadarkhani, who is the father of two young children, leads a network of house churches. He was found guilty of apostasy – “turning his back on Islam” – and “converting Muslims to Christianity,” and sentenced to death in September 2010.

Iran’s Supreme Court recently asked for a re-examination of the case to establish whether or not he had been a practising Muslim adult before he converted to Christianity. The court ruled he was not but, nevertheless, is still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.

The case has sparked strong condemnation from governments, organizations and religious leaders around the world.

Then on 1 October, following this global outcry, Iranian state media suddenly reported that Pastor Nadarkhani had in fact been sentenced for other reasons – including violent crimes, extortion, Zionism and being a traitor. These charges had never once been mentioned throughout the entire period when Pastor Nadarkhani was charged, tried, sentenced, up to and including the most recent court hearing.

Statement from the Baha’i International Community:

We join with the global chorus of condemnation protesting the sentencing of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and calling for his release.

For a court of law to rule against someone from Muslim ancestry who has freely chosen to be a Christian is yet another instance of the brutality being meted out by the Iranian authorities on their own people.

The recent public proclamation reporting that the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani have been changed – as a result of the global outcry at his conviction – only further exposes the arbitrary nature of decisions made by the judiciary system of Iran and the transparent injustice of the situation.

The sentence he faces is not only reprehensible; it is a violation of every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard.

Which temporal government in the world can reasonably decide it has the power to curtail freedom of belief? Belief is not something that can be taken away or bartered; it is a matter of conviction, of the heart, the mind and the soul, beyond the realm of any government’s control.

The Baha’i community understands well the challenging circumstances facing minorities living in Iran today. And now it is evident that those minorities which are nominally recognized by the state are as equally subordinate to the majority as those who have no rights.

There is little need to rehearse here the endless list of executions, torture, imprisonments, privations and other afflictions that are being meted out on the sorely-tried people of Iran.

Everything that country’s representatives profess on the world stage is contradicted by their treatment of their own people at home. Yet, its officials travel freely to other nations where they are offered a platform from which to broadcast their untruths, denying the callous treatment of their own citizens while displaying pretensions of good will for the people of the world.

There is much to be done to alert the people of the world to the hypocrisy of a government which is widely and continually oppressing its people.

There is much to be done for humanity to be alerted to what is going on inside Iran and to be awakened to the appalling memory of what can occur when we fail to act against state-sponsored, campaigns of hatred.

“To All” – A message from Troy Anthony Davis.

Below is the text of a Huffington Post article, with links to further
information

The Trials of an Educator in Iran
Anthony Vance, Director of External Affairs, Baha’is of the United States

“If your tea is too sweet, you can stir it the other way.” This kind of
quip was typical of Mahmoud Badavam and of Persian humor in general. I saw him
frequently as a college student in the mid-1970s in Cambridge,
Massachusetts where he gained a reputation for a quick, wry sense of humor. At that
time, Iranians were few and far between in the U.S. So, it was an eye-opener
to be exposed to the exquisite courtesy, humor, and hospitality that can be
so prevalent in Iranian culture and that certainly was not lacking among
the handful of Iranian students studying in universities in the Boston area
at the time. None of us suspected then that revolution in Iran was just
around the corner. With the large number of political and religious refugees
it would bring in its wake, exposure to Iranian culture would soon become
common place. But, at the time, Mahmoud and a small handful of others were
novel and made a deep impression on me. I met Mahmoud in Baha’i meetings — a
religious faith we both shared. He returned home just before the
revolution and chose, despite the difficulties it created for Baha’is, to stay.

On May 21 of this year and the days that followed, during raids on over 30
Baha’i homes in four cities in Iran, Mahmoud was one of 18 people arrested
for teaching in or administering the Baha’i Institute for Higher
Education. In late July, after the release of some of those arrested, Mahmoud and 7
others were reportedly charged with “conspiracy against national security”
and “conspiracy against the Islamic Republic” by “establishing the illegal
Baha’i Institute for Higher Education”. The first of the trials is
reportedly set to start this Monday, September 12. For years, he had used his
Masters degree in engineering from M.I.T. and his earlier training in Iran to
provide classroom instruction to Baha’i youth who had been barred since the
revolution from Iran’s system of higher education. The arrest on May 22 was
not his first. He returned to Iran in 1978, married shortly thereafter, and
held a job as an engineer in the government. Soon after the Islamic
Revolution, he was fired, lived with relatives in different cities, was arrested
for being a Baha’i and imprisoned for about three years.

In revolutionary Iran, among the many forms of persecution directed at
their community, Baha’is were dismissed from university teaching positions and
students were dismissed from institutions of higher education. After
numerous failed appeals to the government to correct this injustice, in 1987 the
Baha’i community organized what came to be known as the Baha’i Institute
for Higher Education to provide university-level instruction to its youth.
In recent years, BIHE was a central part of Mahmoud’s life with regular
classes in his small apartment in Tehran and administrative and curriculum
review meetings held late into the night. He spent most evenings and weekends
correcting homework and preparing for his classes. If planning with others
to educate young people can in some contorted worldview equate with
conspiracy against national security, I suppose Mahmoud and anyone else who has
ever transferred skills in the arts or sciences to a student is guilty as
charged — and unabashedly so. Over the years, others in Iran and abroad
learned about this endeavor and volunteered to assist with it.

Similar raids and arrests on BIHE were recorded in 1998, 2001, and 2002.
The official government position was documented in a 2006 letter from Iran’s
Ministry of Science, Research and Technology addressed to 81 state run
universities and institutions of higher education and in a 1991 Memorandum
signed by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Golpaygani, the secretary of the Supreme
Revolutionary Cultural Council, with a signature endorsement of the Supreme
Leader, Ali Khamenei. Each of these documents specifically mandates the expulsion
from Iran’s system of higher education of any student who is discovered to
be a Baha’i.

The banning of Baha’is from higher education is a violation of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a
State Party. I hope that such a grievous assault on an entire minority
group consisting of about 300,000 people will not go unprotested by the world
community. In the meantime, from the bleakness of Evin Prison, far from the
beautiful summer to fall change of seasons in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Mahmoud Badavam can only pray that some day he will get back to correcting
homework, preparing for classes, and perhaps even coming up with a new
witticism about tea from time to time.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-vance/the-trials-of-an-educator_b_9546
42.html

http://iran.bahai.us/

Subject: Total Moral Victory in the World’s Worst Prison Today (For Friends, the Public, as well as the Media)

Dearest Family and Friends:

The following is a vivid testimony to the ultimate moral, mental, and spiritual integrity, dignity, and destiny of the Baha’is and indeed of the entire human race:

Ever since the most unjust and undignified imprisonment some three years ago, without a single crime, of the most innocent, the pure, and the saintly Baha’i Leaders in Iran called Yaran, and their subsequent transfer from the Evin Prison to the most backward and unusually harsh prison of Rajaei Shahr where some 5000 topmost killers, drug dealers, and others are kept in clusters under sub-human conditions, despite the lack of food, toilet, sanitation, and basic subsistence conditions, despite the dirt, filth, and illness, in pitiful conditions themselves, the two saint Baha’i ladies Mahvash and Fariba, as with the other five in the men’s quarters, have by the power of their Faith managed to support and uplift the minds and hearts of their fellow pitiful prisoners by giving them their relentless and genuine loving support to the poorer, the more needy, and the more frail fellow prisoners, seeing no evil in any soul, finding and nurturing dignity even in such a man-forsaken hell, and by such genuine constant manifestations of loving kindness, tact, and wisdom, they have now won, as a testimony to human moral triumph, the hearts and minds and the respect of the entire company of these same so-called “criminal” fellow prisoners, despite the moribond conditions and with all forms of dangers to their own very lives!

Over the months, whenever by token of the only good modern-day miracle of cell phone in the prison yard it was made possible for me to hear several times from Fariba herself, and on the one and only occasion when I got the chance and was so blessed by Divine Destiny to visit the two most precious ladies from behind their prison cabins two months ago for one hour myself, as well as from other family members and even directly from prison guard, I heard myself how miraculously the dangerous killers and criminals had been overwhelmingly moved and transformed by the vivifying souls of these two saintly Ladies.

One can recall the moving poem by Mahvash which shook the world, who, amidst the extreme pains of her own, backed against the withered single pomegranate tree in the prison yard, contemplates how the entire burden of these soul-and-body tortured fellow prisoners and indeed all the down-trodden suffering women of the World are now on her shoulder.

I am still amazed how for the entire three years during the rare occasions she could talk on the phone at various times, I never heard Fariba’s voice even once tremble slightly except for joy, with full faith, complete optimism, and total jubilation, as if walking in the highest Paradise all these long suffering days and months and years.

I still recall the moving sharing lessons of Fariba relaying to me how she had found the single remaining hidden spot of beauty and purity in each and all of these worldly despised and abandoned souls. I remember when she described to me the miracle account of how the most feared gang leader of the prison mafia, despite the huge body, knife-cut and broken face and other fearsome features, shun by all other killers and criminals, had been so moved by our twin spiritual heronies over time that she had on one occasion when Fariba had to pass a toilet dirt mud which had become watery sludge after rain, with their prison-customary slippers, she saw Fariba from far and told her from the distance “Please wait, please wait, may your holy feet not be touched and smeared by these dirts”, then, throwing her own slippers bode and insisted Fariba to kindly step on her slippers and pass by the place lest she be mired. No such things happen in any deadly criminal prison anywhere in the world, specially not in any place similar to this Rajaei Shahar, where only for the mere sake of prolonging an already issued death sentence with formalities paperwork procedures, often the killer kills one more unfortunate and helpless person often at random in the prison, days prior to the execution.

I remember how once Fariba was so overjoyed to tell me how one of her friends, where a few had died mercilessly by swine flu and cast and treated like swines by prison authorities, had first completely given up strong drug addiction, only to replace it with super heavy cigarette addiction, then, by the loving care of our two Baha’i Ladies, day by day she had been reducing smooking to the last one cigarette per day. Fariba told me how that day, just a month ago, Fariba hugged that lady, and rather than insisting or requesting her to give up the final cigarette, only told here gently how much she loved her and was proud of her who despite her years of bad luck in life turning her into a despised criminal, she had obtained the positive hope, the will power, and the supreme determination to accomplish what so many others in the free world had failed to succeed despite all facilities, toos, and support. Fariba told me how the lady, now a close friend, immediately threw to the ground the last final cigarette, crushed it with her heels, and, cried and said: Today I finally give up this addiction for the sake of love of you, as I feel and know that some day I shall visit you in your home and tell you and show you the effect of the loving transformation you have affected and created in me and our many other fellow prison mates!

This is how a candle can shine like the torch, nay as the mid-day Sun, in the darkness of desolation, pessimism and hopelessness, and selfishness that has overshadowed the human society.

Now, I just spoke to Fariba few hours ago on the phone who called from the Rajaei Shahr Prison.

For your information, as the latest news, by tomorrow the two most precious angelic ladies, and the crowning pride of future human civilization will be transferred to the worst section of the Prison entitled “The Under-Ground Dungeon for the Worst of the Villains and Criminals”.

This latest panic move by a remorsely helpless oppressor signifies an entirely unparalled scenario in the World History ever, even up to the present date; that is, for the holy and saintly riligious prisoners of conscience to be once more exiled within the prison, one more tier down from the already terrible exiled Prison allocated for the worst of criminals, killers, and drug addicts to the lower degree underground dungeon for the most dangerous criminals amongst them, just becasue these two already grossly-wronged innocent Saint Lady Prisoners, while in the prison under sub-human conditions, have by their shear Faith and their most pure love and consistent un-conditional tireless and selfless caring actions have transformed the prison-hell into a moral and spiritual Paradise, by moving the souls, changing the hearts, educating the minds and rectifying the conducts of the worst criminals, killers, and drug addicts to such a degree as to empower on the one hand many to give up their severe drug addictions simply on their own free will and by natural encouragement they so lovingly received rather than by persuation and without the need to appeal to any medicine or doctors or tools, or force while against all odds in such deprived hell-prison, and on the other hand enable most others to repent and wash their hands and hearts away from all crimes, purely through the power of real love and by the intense natural free persuation of mind and transformation of heart solely affected via the dynamic power of example of the Twin Tahirih’s of the Time!

Fariba said today on the phone that despite the repeated public prison loudspeaker announcements and stern warnings for all prisoners to stay and shun away, and do not associate with the Baha’i prisoners, groups upon groups of prison ladies thronged and gathered around their cell these past three days, with tearful eyes and warm hugging arms and in a unified supreme array of moral support and expressions of reciprocal love and as spontaneous sign of total unified allegience by all prisoners to the Two Saint Ladies whom they have grown to know as Angels from Heaven stationed in this human hell of a notoriously fanatic and repressive unhumane and dark Regime. Even in the oppressors, the Baha’is see light and apply the transforming and healing power of Baha’ullah’s Revelation which is the Most Great Elixir to ultimately
apply the unifying panacea to the ailing body of the World of humanity and finally affect the evolutionary transformation by God’s Will to the entirety of humankind.

“God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of “uncleanness”, whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridván, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand.” Baha’u’llah; Aqdas #75

Just hours ago, Fariba in most happy tone of voice told me that one of the miracles of the Supreme Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah, is that to the degree He gives His loved ones sufferings for the sake of the mental and moral and spiritual education and upliftment of humanity in this dark age of the transition to the collective maturity of the entire human race, to a multiple degree of that He also bestows upon them true felicity, joy, and jubilation; and that how truly happy she is that she is going down to the underground dungeon, with no fear nor a bit concern for imminent interrogations and torture.

This, reminded me vividly of her hand-written letter to me some thirty years back, in 1982 or 1983, posted from Babolsar to Boston, when our dearly beloved martyrs had just ascended to the Abha Kingdom, how she wished to be like the example of the root of the Cause of God, that Divine Tree which is neither of the East nor of the West, whose roots are firm in the earth (dark, cold, wet, lowly soil of the earth as she described), so that its branches and fruits, us, the Baha’is and all the people of good will in the outside world, can overshadow and benefit the entire human kind. Surely that Divine Tree is growing to overshadow the entire human race, now that the roots are going deeprer inside the darkness of human soul in order to bring and apply the world-wide healing remedy of Baha’u’llah.

What a sublime drama in the human history!

Speechless in awe and admiration, I remain.

Ya Baha’u’l – Abha!
(Oh Thou The Most Glorious Glory!)

(name deleted for safety purposes)

To my beloved friends worldwide, please pray for these noble souls. Gratitude, immense gratitude. Love to All, Esther

Baha’i World News Service to me
show details 2:24 AM (6 hours ago)

Grave concern for safety of Iran’s imprisoned Baha’i leaders

NEW YORK, 15 February 2011 (BWNS) – Iran’s seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders have been transferred to more brutal sections of their prison complex.

In the case of the two Baha’i women, the circumstances of the move have raised concerns that it may have been orchestrated as a means of creating an insecure environment that threatens their lives.

The Baha’i International Community has learned that one of them – Fariba Kamalabadi – has already been physically threatened by inmates since being sent to the notorious Section 200 of Gohardasht Prison.

“Apparently, the atmosphere is highly charged in this section, and there is a great deal of tension and animosity among the inmates,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Mrs. Kamalabadi was transferred to Section 200 on Saturday 12 February, along with Mahvash Sabet.

“It is difficult to be certain about the reason for the move,” said Ms. Dugal. “However we believe that, since their arrival at Gohardasht, the Baha’i women – despite their own extremely challenging situation – have nonetheless been a constant source of comfort and hope to other inmates. The prison authorities apparently became alarmed that the two women began to receive signs of respect from a growing number of prisoners. As a justification for the increased harsh treatment, the authorities accused the two of teaching the Baha’i Faith.”

Throughout their entire imprisonment, added Ms. Dugal, the two women have conducted themselves in a spirit of service to others. In early 2009, for example, they shared a cell at Evin prison with Iranian-Japanese-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who later wrote that they had helped her through her ordeal.

Last week, a general announcement was made to all prisoners that they were not to have any contact with the two Baha’i women. Undeterred, however, fellow inmates continued to seek them out.

“After the women were transferred, a number of prisoners made their way downstairs to visit them in their new quarters, despite efforts by the guards to restrain them,” said Ms. Dugal.

Mrs. Kamalabadi and Mrs. Sabet were told that – prior to the move – the inmates in Section 200 had been “warned” about them, she said.

Harsh and unsanitary conditions

The seven Baha’i leaders were sent to Gohardasht prison, 20 kilometers west of Tehran, in August last year. Having previously been incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison without charge for 20 months, they were accused of espionage and the establishment of an illegal administration among other allegations. All the charges were denied. After a brief trial, they were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

While Gohardasht is infamous for its harsh and unsanitary conditions, the Baha’i prisoners were at first kept segregated from some of the more violent elements at the complex. They also had relatively frequent access to outdoor exercise areas.

But over the past few weeks, all seven of them have been moved from the quarters they originally occupied into sections where conditions are much worse.

The five men were transferred three weeks ago to a wing set aside for political prisoners, known as Section 4, which is more crowded and reportedly under close surveillance. They are now suffering severe physical deprivations.

“Three of them are together in one cell, with the other two sharing another cell,” said Ms. Dugal. “There are two beds in each cell, so one of them has to sleep on the floor.”

“The inmates in this part of the prison are able to go outside for fresh air only at designated times, whereas previously they could do so whenever they wished,” said Ms. Dugal.

Appeal to governments

“In our open letter of 7 December 2010 to the head of Iran’s judiciary, we stressed that such an odious and degrading environment is unworthy of even the most dangerous criminals,” said Ms. Dugal.

“We say to the Iranian government once again – does it believe the principles of Islamic compassion and justice to be consistent with the imposition of such conditions on innocent citizens?”

“We continue to call upon governments and people of good-will throughout the world to take whatever action they can to impress upon the Iranian government that its actions are being watched, and that it will be held responsible for the safety of these and the more than 50 other Baha’is who are imprisoned throughout Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

http://media.causes.com/1005500

I humbly suggest if this concerns you, not to react with hate or anger towards anyone, but to find Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, and go to page 285, and Paragraph CXXX. “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generaton, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”

thank you, esther

A minister friend sent this to me; thank goodness people are writing about this.

To: sightings@lists.uchicago.edu
Subject: *Sightings* 1/6/2011 – Iran’s Baha’i Minority Suffers Increasing Persecution

Sightings 1/6/2011

Iran’s Baha’i Minority Suffers Increasing Persecution
– Elise Auerbach

Seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community were sentenced to twenty years in prison by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran last August, a sentence that was reduced to ten years in September. They were convicted on serious but baseless charges including “espionage for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the system.” They had also been charged with ifsad fil arz or “corruption on earth.” These charges could have resulted in death sentences. The seven leaders were convicted after a trial that failed to adhere to international standards for fair trials.
The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran about 150 years ago. An estimated 300,000 Baha’is still live in Iran; they are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. Although Baha’is had faced persecution in Iran since the founding of the religion, their treatment grew worse after the Iranian Revolution. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the Baha’i community has faced systematic persecution and harassment. While other minority religions such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity are officially recognized (adherents of those religions having been deemed “People of the Book”), the Baha’i religion is not recognized in Iran’s Constitution and Baha’is are denied equal rights to education, employment and advancement in their jobs. Furthermore, they are not allowed to meet or hold religious ceremonies.

Worse forms of persecution have been committed against Iran’s Baha’i: More than 200 Baha’is were killed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, after which a large number of Baha’is left Iran. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran was disbanded in 1983 after the government outlawed all Baha’i administrative institutions. Since then the community’s needs have been met by the Yaran, or Friends, who are now responsible for the Baha’i community’s religious and administrative affairs.

Although persecution of the Baha’is abated in the 1990s, harassment has increased since President Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005. According to the Baha’i International Community, there are currently 47 Baha’is in detention throughout Iran.

The Baha’i faith is considered heresy by hard-line clerics since it was founded in the mid-nineteenth century. Because it post-dates Islam, it is viewed as a repudiation of Islam. After the Iranian Revolution a “pure” form of Islamic government was established with the support of conservative clerics, which involved discrimination against adherents of more recently founded religions such as Baha’is. The clerics implemented punishments such as stoning and amputation. This theological “purity” is maintained by clerical hard-liners who are crucial allies of the current government.

The Baha’is are convenient scapegoats—the government points to the Baha’is as fomenting the post-election unrest. The Iranian authorities have also blamed the Baha’is, among other groups, for orchestrating much of the unrest that took place on the Shi’a religious observance of ‘Ashoura on 27 December 2009.

The religiously fraught charge of ifsad fil arz has been specifically used against the Baha’is, but another charge, moharebeh, or enmity against God, has been lodged at more and more people in the past year. It has been used to justify imposition of the death penalty for politically motivated “offenses.” Although it should only be used in cases where there is evidence of armed resistance against the government, the charge of moharebeh has been used against ethnic and linguistic minorities who advocate for greater cultural rights or who are otherwise politically active.

The persecution of Iran’s Baha’is—and specifically the harsh sentences imposed on the seven Yaran—has been roundly criticized by prominent figures the world over, including the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. His report of October 14, 2010 noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern over the absence of international observers and the lack of due process in the Baha’i leaders’ trial and that the criminal charges brought against the seven appeared to constitute a violation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular those of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression and association. Despite the international condemnation, the Iranian authorities remain obdurate. In February a high-level delegation, led by Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Secretary-General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, defended Iran’s human rights record before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Mr. Larijani insisted that no Baha’i is persecuted because of his or her Baha’i faith, but rather because of their engagement in illegal activities—completely evading the issue that perfectly legitimate activities or beliefs are construed as “illegal,” that the evidence for such “illegal” activities is generally non-existent, and that the legal procedures that try and convict people on such charges are woefully inadequate.

Elise Auerbach is the Iran country specialist for Amnesty International USA. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

———-

Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Submissions policy

Sightings welcomes submissions of 500 to 750 words in length that seek to illuminate and interpret the intersections of religion and politics, art, science, business and education. Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for acceptable essays. The editor also encourages new approaches to current issues and events.

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Columns may be quoted or republished in full, with attribution to the author of the column, Sightings, and the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Contact information

Please send all inquiries, comments, and submissions to Shatha Almutawa, managing editor of Sightings, at DivSightings@gmail.com. Subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription at the Sightings subscription page. Too many emails? Receive Sightings as an RSS feed. Sign up at http://divinity.uchicago.edu/rss/sightings.xml.

WAR PROFITEERING
2. VA, Prudential Made Secret Deal

Could this resonate as much as the Walter Reed scandal? Bloomberg
reports that since 1999, Prudential Financial Inc. has had a secret
agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that allows it to
withhold lump-sum payments of life-insurance benefits to the family of
fallen soldiers – so that Prudential can invest that money and keep
whatever money it makes for itself. The arrangement was completely
secret for 10 years until it was put into writing in 2009. “Every
veteran I’ve spoken with is appalled at the brazen war profiteering by
Prudential,” says the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense.
Survivors who request lump-sum payments are sent “checkbooks” –
essentially, IOUs that aren’t insured by the FDIC – instead of actual
checks. Prudential makes eight times as much through the investments as
what it pays in interest to beneficiaries.

Read it at Bloomberg:
http://e.thedailybeast.com/a/tBMj9SLB7SwhTB8Us9YCayQbnuB/dail2
*************************************************************************

 

 Okay, Regarding Those Buildings in New York and Everything Else Ishkabibbly

 Was there really a person called Ish-ka-bibble?

 Listen you dweet, in my neighborhood on Wren Street, we knew the name ishkabibble, ‘cept we pronounced it ishhhkahhbibbble.  You know what I mean?  Anyone who listened to radio shows in the 40s knew words like that.  What’s more, my linguistic heritage, you dweet, thank you for asking, was on stuff like Baby Snooks, when she was surprised, and Baby Robespierre wasn’t screaming enough “wah, wah, wahs.”

Those “wah, wah, wahs were loud enuf to hit our pointed roof and bounce off gas lit street lights shining dimly on top of old Buicks and Studebakers (now there’s a vehicle – great ashtrays).  Where wuzz  I? My skill lay in imitating Baby Snooks, “Well, I’ll be a yellow-belled chuck wagon.”  Later in the 50s I went on to memorize the Drop of the Hat dialogue, from a play that ran in London and then New York for years.  Now when people ask about balances and present treasurer’s reports, as we so oft do in my young life, I think to myself in large white cloud-like puffy letters, “Many a Mickle Macks a Muckle.”

 Today,  there’s more than one rumble going on.  And because of this question Ishkabibble, and fighting over buildings and rights to worship and mudslinging both ways, another phrase comes to mind, “Come what, come may, time and the hour pass through the roughest day,” and that was a phrase from Hamlet which graced our walls with indigo, green and traces of yellow and magenta  threads on old white linen, framed with a thin black frame.

 There are so many interesting phrases in the world.  Get your mind off buildings.  Guys are all alike.  Start with blocks and where are you?  Ranting and raving about blocks, except now it’s buildings. 

 But that isn’t to say life was so much better in the olden days, olden meaning the 40s, 50s, and perhaps the 60s, cuz brotha, may I call you brotha dweet, good for who or whom?  I’m beginning to think that phrase, you know about a butterfly flying, or flapping — maybe baby just one wing — has repercussions in the next century. I can’t figure it out mathematically because I’m still trying to figure out how Doris got to Harvard Square by bike with pears and mayonnaise, and Dennis is on his way to West Hollywood with kiwi and crackers, and the  time, mileage thing and fight the despair they’ll never meet, even though they are soul mates, except for the fact that Doris does not like kiwi.

 I think there’s a wing of a butterfly in history called point of view.  Everything depends on point of view an English prof once said. Whose point of view?  Now there’s a handy little four word phrase and a dandy question at that. 

 What if the 50s were a great era?  Yeah for white guys who went to the Diner and ate skinny French fries loaded with salt, and didn’t go home, but grunted dialogue between each other, all the while, the white girls, their counterparts, were worried about “will he like me,” and “please God let me get married.” Down the road apiece in starkly structured architectural lines, invisible walls went up.  Walls so invisible and solid, people like Whitey Bulgur and some of the FBI could load drugs into the Boston projects, and blacks couldn’t move an inch, and they had to get on the elevated at some Station after Green street.  That’s when women were worthless if they weren’t married, and they had to wear veils to Catholic Church, for “bless me Mary, I’m a woman, and I’m sorry.”

 I think a lot of things were done under Imperialism, which some call skin color privilege, but nothing’s that starkly simple.  Hatred is awful in any sector. 

 I think the power boys behind the scene, don’t give a rat’s ass about where buildings are.  I think the power boys and girls want what they want and feel entitled.  I think blessed is the heart that listens to the midnight sighing of the poor, and I ain’t just whistling Dixie, or spitting mud, and this all comes from someone who used to seriously believe in Chicken Little falling from the sky.

 Maybe the sky is falling after all. Dunno.  Many a mickle macks a muckle.  Who knows? The Shadow, that’s who.  The Shadow knows, and if a Jungian read these fast flowing words going to goodness knows where, he/she might say, “Ah, the shadow.  And what is your shadow telling you”?  Words, love em, hate em, can’t live without em.

washingtonpost.com
Opinions » Follow Opinions On:
In Iran, shackling the Bahai torchbearers

By Roxana Saberi
Saturday, August 28, 2010

For several weeks last year, I shared a cell in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two leaders of Iran’s minority Bahai faith. I came to see them as my sisters, women whose only crimes were to peacefully practice their religion and resist pressure from their captors to compromise their principles. For this, apparently, they and five male colleagues were sentenced this month to 20 years in prison.

I had heard about Mahvash and Fariba before I met them. Other prisoners spoke of the two middle-aged mothers whose high spirits lifted the morale of fellow inmates.

The Bahai faith, thought to be the largest non-Muslim minority religion in Iran, originated in 19th-century Persia. It is based on the belief that the world will one day attain peace and unity. Iranian authorities consider it a heretical offshoot of Islam.

After I was transferred to their cell, I learned that Mahvash had been incarcerated for one year and Fariba for eight months. Each had spent half her detention in solitary confinement, during which time they were allowed almost no contact with their families and only the Koran to read. Recently the two had been permitted to have a pen. Oh, how they cherished it! But they were allowed to use it only to do Sudoku and crossword puzzles in the conservative newspapers the prison guards occasionally gave them.

Mahvash, Fariba and their five colleagues faced accusations that included spying for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and, later, “spreading corruption on earth.” All three could have resulted in the death penalty.

The Bahais denied these charges. Far from posing a threat to the Islamic regime, Mahvash and Fariba told me, Iran’s estimated 300,000 Bahais are nonviolent and politically impartial.

Despite the gravity of the accusations against them, Mahvash and Fariba had not once been allowed to see attorneys. Yet my cellmates’ spirits would not be broken, and they boosted mine. They taught me to, as they put it, turn challenges into opportunities — to make the most of difficult situations and to grow from adversity. We kept a daily routine, reading the books we were eventually allowed and discussing them; exercising in our small cell; and praying — they in their way, I in mine. They asked me to teach them English and were eager to learn vocabulary for shopping, cooking and traveling. They would use the new words one day, they told me, when they journeyed abroad. But the two women also said they never wanted to live overseas. They felt it their duty to serve not only Bahais but all Iranians.

Later, when I went on a hunger strike, Mahvash and Fariba washed my clothes by hand after I lost my energy and told me stories to keep my mind off my stomach. Their kindness and love gave me sustenance.

It pained me to leave them behind when I was freed in May 2009. I later heard that Mahvash, Fariba and their colleagues refused to make false confessions, as many political prisoners in Iran are pressured to do.

It was January when the Bahais’ trial began. This month, the same Iranian judge who had sentenced me to eight years in prison on a false charge of spying for the United States sentenced the Bahais to 20 years. The charges they were convicted of have not yet been reported.

Human rights advocates have said the trial was riddled with irregularities. The defendants were eventually allowed to see attorneys but only briefly. The lawyers were given only a few hours to examine the thousands of pages in the prosecution’s files. Early in the trial, state-run TV crews were present at what were supposed to be closed hearings. After the Bahais’ attorneys objected, family members were allowed to attend the hearings, but foreign diplomats were barred, and the only journalists permitted were with state-run media. It appears that no evidence was presented against the defendants.

As their lawyers appeal, Mahvash and Fariba sit in Rajai Shahr prison outside Tehran. Even Evin prison, cellmates told me last year, is preferable to Rajai Shahr. The facility is known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.

While Iranian authorities deny that the regime discriminates against citizens for religious beliefs, the Bahai faith is not recognized under the Iranian constitution. The known persecution of many Bahais includes being fired from jobs and denied access to higher education, as well as cemetery desecration. (The Bahais created their own unofficial university, which Mahvash used to direct; Fariba earned a degree in psychology there.) In addition to the seven leaders, 44 other Bahais are in prisons in Iran, the Baha’i International Community reports.

People of many nations and faiths have called for the release of the Bahai leaders. But many more must speak out — such as by signing letters of support through Web sites such as United4Iran.com. Protests of these harsh sentences can make clear to authorities in Iran and elsewhere that they will be held accountable when they trample on human rights. Mahvash and Fariba occasionally hear news of this support, and it gives them strength to carry on, just as the international outcry against my imprisonment empowered me.

I know that despite what they have been through and what lies ahead, these women feel no hatred in their hearts. When I struggled not to despise my interrogators and the judge, Mahvash and Fariba told me they do not hate anyone, not even their captors.

We believe in love and compassion for humanity, they said, even for those who wrong us. Roxana Saberi, a journalist detained in Iran last year, is the author of “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.”

Dear One and All in my world.

the recent sentencing of seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders in Iran, impels me to place on my personal blog a request that anyone and everyone who is able or willing to write to the repreentative of their congressional district and to their senators about the unjust sentences of 20 years. We seek humanity’s assistance.

Background information and updates about this situation are available at http://iran.bahai.us and http://news.bahai.org. We, the Baha’is in my area (San Gabriel Valley, California, USA) are enlisting the support of our friends and co-workers, as well as other faith communities and civic organizations, to take whatever actions within their power to shine a spotlight on the Irananian government’s behavior. We respectfully suggest that one should never underestimate the effect their words can have in making the Iranian authorities aware they cannot violate basic standards of international human rights unseen by a watchful world.

For thos who can support this cause, please know that it will bring solace and comfort to the hearts of the long-suffering Iranian Baha’is.

You can find who your senators and congressional representatives are by visiting http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

Below is a suggested example of a letter to write to an official. Gratitude to all who care and let us hope some day the oneness of humankind will be a reality and suffering of all the peoples will be a thing of the past.

Dear Senator ___?___/Representative___?___,

The Baha’is of Iran have been subject to religious persecution and
execution for the past thirty years at the hands of the Islamic
Republic regime of Iran. Recently the Islamic Republic court
sentenced seven innocent former Baha’i leaders to twenty years of
imprisonment each – a total of 140 years. These seven innocent
Baha’is have already been in prison for over two years awaiting trial.

The flagrantly unjust sentence has provoked vehement protest from
governments throughout the world – including Australia, Canada,
France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.A. Most
recently, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a
statement condemning the sentence and reaffirming that the American
government has not forgotten the beleaguered Baha’is of Iran. The
following is a link to Clinton’s recent statement:
http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/08/145953.htm

I urge you to take whatever actions are within your power to shine a
spotlight on the Iranian government’s gravely unjust behavior. Your
words and actions will have a powerful effect in making the Iranian
authorities aware that they cannot violate basic standards of
international human rights concealed from a watchful world.

Background information and updates about the situation are available
at http://iran.bahai.us and http://news.bahai.org.

Your words of support will bring comfort and solace to the hearts of
the long-suffering Iranian Bahá’ís, the American Baha’i community and
human rights advocates all over the world who keep watch with these
innocent prisoners.

Sincerely,
___?___

Reply |Baha’i World News Service to me
show details 2:23 AM (6 hours ago)

Next trial session in Iran for seven Baha’is set for tomorrow

GENEVA, 9 April (BWNS) – A third session of the court proceedings against seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders is scheduled for tomorrow in Tehran.

It is unknown whether the hearing – scheduled in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court – will be open to families of the defendants and other observers. The first two sessions were closed.

The seven defendants, who have been imprisoned for two years, were responsible for tending to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s 300,000 Baha’is.

In January of this year they were finally presented with formal charges, which include espionage and “corruption on earth” – accusations that they categorically deny.

For more information, see recent news stories http://news.bahai.org/story/760 and http://news.bahai.org/story/759. For further background and photographs, see http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/iran-update/

Dear friends,
The Internet has made amazing things possible, like freeing the Jena 6 and electing President Obama. None of it could have happened without an “open” Internet: one where Internet service providers are not allowed to interfere with what is seen and by whom.
Now, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon — the most powerful broadband providers — are trying to fundamentally change the way the Internet works. They’re seeking to make even bigger profits by acting as gatekeepers over what we see and do online. If they succeed, the Internet would be more like radio and television: a few major corporations would control which voices are heard most easily, and it would be much harder for grassroots groups, individuals, and small businesses to compete with large corporations and well-funded special interests.
The FCC wants to do the right thing and keep the Internet open, but the big providers have been attacking their efforts, with help from Black leaders who have financial ties to the industry. And a recent court ruling just made the FCC’s job even tougher.[1] If the FCC is to preserve an open Internet, they will have to boldly assert their authority and press even harder. It’s why they need to hear directly from everyday people about the importance of an open Internet, now.
Will you join me in sending a message to the Federal Communications Commission supporting their effort to preserve an open Internet? It takes only a moment:
http://colorofchange.org/opennet/?id=2153-222969
The FCC is working to create rules that would protect “net neutrality,” the principle that protects an open and free Internet and which has guided the Internet’s operation since it began. It guarantees that information you put online is treated the same as anyone else’s information in terms of its basic ability to travel across the Internet. Your own personal website or blog can compete on equal footing with the biggest companies. It’s the reason the Internet is so diverse — and so powerful. Anyone with a good idea can find their audience online, whether or not there’s money to promote the idea or money to be made from it.
AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are spending millions of dollars lobbying to create a new system where they can charge large fees to speed up some data while leaving those who can’t afford to pay in the slow lane.[2] Such a system could end the Internet as we know it — giving wealthier voices on the Internet a much bigger megaphone than poorer voices, and stunting the Internet’s amazing equalizing potential.
Buying the support of Black organizations?
President Obama strongly supports net neutrality, and so do most members of the FCC. With so much at stake for Black communities, you would expect Black leaders and civic organizations to line up in support of an open Internet.
But instead, a group of Black civic organizations is challenging the adoption of net neutrality rules. Some of the groups are nothing more than front groups for the phone and cable companies. Others, however, are major civil rights groups — and all of them have significant financial ties to the nation’s biggest Internet service providers. For example, AT&T donated half a million dollars last year to the NAACP, and led a drive to raise $5 million more[3], and boasts of donating nearly $3 million over the last ten years to a number of Black-led organizations.[4] Verizon, meanwhile, recently gave The National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza a $2.2 million grant.[5] Comcast is one of the National Urban League’s “national partners” (Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen now sits on the NUL’s Board of Trustees)[6], and the NUL’s 2008 annual report notes that Comcast donated over $1 million that year.[7] Many of these groups have now filed letters with the FCC opposing or cautioning against net neutrality,[8,9,10,11] and the Internet service providers are using the groups’ support to promote their agenda in Washington.[12,13]
The main argument put forth by these groups is that net neutrality rules would widen the digital divide. They say that unless we allow Internet service providers to make bigger profits by acting as gatekeepers online, they won’t expand Internet access in under-served communities. It’s a bogus, trickle-down argument that has been thoroughly debunked.[14, 15] Expanding access to high speed Internet is an extremely important goal. But Internet service providers are already making huge profits,[16, 17] and if they believed that investing in low-income communities made good business sense, they would already be doing it. Allowing them to make more money by acting as toll-takers on the Internet won’t change that. When these civil rights groups have been asked to back up their arguments, none have been able to do so without appealing to discredited, industry-funded studies.[18] Nevertheless, the FCC has taken notice of what these civil rights gro ups are saying about net neutrality, and is wary of going against them for fear of being perceived as insensitive to minority concerns.[19]
Now it’s up to you
The FCC wants to do the right thing and implement net neutrality rules. FCC commissioners know, as we do, that the anti-net neutrality arguments coming from civil rights groups are bogus. But they don’t want to appear to be on the wrong side of Black interests.[20]
We need to demonstrate that there’s support among Black folks and everyone else for protecting an open Internet. Please join me in telling the FCC that we support net neutrality.
You can add your voice here:
http://colorofchange.org/opennet/?id=2153-222969
Thanks.
References:
1. http://bit.ly/drWbQ3
2. http://www.savetheinternet.com/threats-open-internet
3. http://bit.ly/akyXZS
4. http://bit.ly/aGOz89
5. http://www.nclr.org/content/news/detail/54262/
6. http://bit.ly/93zDr6
7. http://bit.ly/dnqyq4
8. http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020141807
9. http://mmtconline.org/lp-pdf/NatlOrgs%20NN%20Comments%20011410.pdf
10. http://colorofchange.org/opennet/jan-letter.pdf
11. http://colorofchange.org/opennet/naacp-letters.pdf
12. http://colorofchange.org/opennet/usindustry-letter.pdf
13. http://bit.ly/d8GdOu
14. http://www.freepress.net/files/nn_fact_v_fiction_final.pdf
15. http://bit.ly/ay0dx7
16. http://bit.ly/9JQSDk
17. http://nyti.ms/cZaGq8
18. http://bit.ly/cpPA51
19. http://huff.to/awKtvk
20. http://huff.to/awKtvk

October 20, 2009
We Are All Baha’is

BY RABBI MARK S. DIAMOND
http://www.jewishjournal.com/ opinion/article/we_are_all_bahais_20091020

Are we our brother’s and sister’s keepers? Last week I joined a group of distinguished community leaders in a resounding affirmative response to this timeless question. We gathered together at the University of Southern California in “Belief Behind Bars: A Call for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Iran,” co-sponsored by the USC Office of Religious Life, the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, and the Los Angeles Baha’i Center. We were a large assemblage of faith leaders and celebrities, musicians and dancers, human rights activists and university officials, faculty and students.
Our honored guests in absentia were seven Baha’i leaders currently being held in a prison in Tehran, Iran. They are awaiting trial on trumped-up charges of “insulting religious sanctities,” “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” “espionage for Israel” and “spreading corruption on earth.” In Iran, the last two charges are punishable by death.
The false imprisonment of these seven men and women is the latest and most egregious step in Iran’s sordid history of persecuting members of the Baha’i faith and seeking to destroy the Baha’i community. In the early years of the Islamic Revolution, some 200 Baha’is were murdered and more than 1,000 were thrown into prison because of their religious beliefs. It is ironic that Iran does not recognize the Baha’i faith as a minority religion, since Persia is the birthplace of this noble faith tradition. It is tragic that the 300,000 Iranian Baha’is suffer state-sanctioned discrimination and persecution. It is ominous that human rights observers have documented a dramatic increase in acts of persecution and hatred directed at Iran’s Baha’i community in recent years.
The program at USC featured an array of speeches, musical performances and video presentations highlighting the plight of the Baha’i community in Iran. Actor Rainn Wilson hosted the event and quickly moved beyond humor to set a serious tone for the evening. The cast of performers and presenters included jazz musicians Alfredo Rodriguez and Tierney Sutton, noted composers JB Eckl and K.C. Porter, “American Idol” star Kai Kalama and a video appearance by Oscar-nominee and Emmy-winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo.
There were few dry eyes in Bovard Auditorium when seven talented young children dramatized the stories of the seven men and women in Tehran’s Evin prison. The prisoners include Jamaloddin Khanjani, 76, a factory owner who lost his business because of his religious beliefs; Behrouz Tavakkoli, 58, a psychologist and social worker who was jailed for four months without charge due to his faith; and Fariba Kamalabadi, 47, a developmental psychologist who has been arrested three times because of her volunteer work in the Baha’i community. They languish in jail cells in Tehran along with Afif Naemi, 48; Vahid Tizfahm, 36; Mahvash Sabet, 56; and Saeid Rezaie, 52. They are two women and five men — hard-working, highly educated Iranian citizens, loving husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, children and siblings — whose only “crime” is their steadfast devotion to the teachings and practices of the Baha’i faith.
Anyone who has studied the Baha’i religion understands its core teachings of world peace and perfect unity. Anyone who has met Baha’i followers appreciates their gentle demeanor and heartfelt commitment to harmony and reconciliation between individuals and nations. The Baha’i leaders I work with share my passion for interfaith discourse between people of diverse faiths and backgrounds. In a profound sense, we are all Baha’is.
When I took my turn at the podium, I expressed the Jewish community’s solidarity and support of the imprisoned Baha’i leaders. While we are here in Southern California, our hearts are 7,500 miles to the east in Tehran. Our words and actions strengthen and sustain these seven brave individuals during their lonely days and nights in prison.
As Jews, we bear witness to the tragic horrors of the Shoah and the vile anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of Iran’s president. We of all peoples understand the grim implications of the Iranian government’s secret 1991 memorandum regarding “The Baha’i Question.” We recognize that an assault upon the Baha’i community is an assault upon all of us.
We are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers. When we light Shabbat and holiday candles, let’s remember the seven Baha’i leaders in our prayers. Let’s work together to bring these courageous freedom fighters from darkness to light.
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond is the executive vice president of The Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
For more information on the persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran, visit http://iran.bahai.us or www.iranpresswatch.org

Trial of Baha’is in Iran:  coverage by CNN:

Amid turmoil, Iran set to try 7 Baha’i leaders

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Seven Baha'i community leaders have been held at Tehran's Evin prison since their arrests in March and May 2008.

Seven Baha’i community leaders have been held at Tehran’s Evin prison since their arrests in March and May 2008.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Seven Baha’i prisoners accused of espionage to go on trial Tuesday in Iran
  • Baha’is are accused of spying for Israel, spreading propaganda against Iran
  • One of defendants’ attorneys is in jail; another is outside the country
  • Case of the seven Baha’is has drawn global attention
var cnnRelatedTopicKeys = [];

RELATED TOPICS
  • cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push(‘Iran’); Iran
  • cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push(‘Trials’); Trials

(CNN) — A trial for seven Iranian Baha’is that has come to symbolize the persecution of followers of the faith is set to unfold next week with added controversy and global attention.
Recent turmoil and governmental crackdowns on protesters in Iran have raised concern about the fate of the seven Baha’i community leaders who have been held at Tehran’s Evin prison since their arrests in March and May 2008.
And now other Baha’is, arrested during demonstrations last month on the Shiite holy day of Ashura, will also face trial in the coming days, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Saturday.
“These people were not arrested because they were Baha’is,” said Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, prosecutor for Iran’s Public and Revolution Courts. “In searching their homes, a number of weapons and ammunition were discovered.”
He said the Baha’is had “played a role in organizing the riots and sending pictures of the riots abroad. That is why they were arrested.”
But a spokeswoman for the Baha’is said the government’s latest allegations were designed to sow prejudice and hatred against the minority faith in Iran.
“This is nothing less than a blatant lie,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. “Baha’is are by the most basic principles of their faith committed to absolute nonviolence, and any charge that there might have been weapons or ‘live rounds’ in their homes is simply and completely unbelievable.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has also criticized Iranian officials for blaming the Baha’is for anti-government demonstrations.
“These allegations are not only without merit, but downright fabricated,” said Leonard Leo, chairman of the commission, which acts as an independent advisory board to the U.S. government.
“If the Iranian government moves forward next week with the trial of the seven Baha’i leaders, the U.S. government and international community must demand fair and transparent proceedings in accordance with international human rights standards,” Leo said.
After two delays, that trial is scheduled to open Tuesday.
On Thursday, prominent Indians of the Baha’i faith held a news conference in New Delhi, urging their government to intervene.
“This trial is designed to harass and intimidate, and is one more in a long line of persecution of this community,” said Maja Daruwala, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. “Our country has a long record of pluralism and tolerance and must speak out.”
The Baha’i World Centre estimates there are more than 5 million Baha’is spread around the globe; India has the largest community, with about 2 million.
The seven Iranian Baha’i leaders — two women and five men — are accused of spying for Israel, spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic and committing religious offenses, charges that can carry the death penalty.
Ala’i said the trial has been delayed twice because the Iranian regime has no basis for a case.
“These people are innocent, and that’s a problem,” she said.
She said the Islamic regime is trying to rouse public sentiment ahead of that trial by accusing Baha’is in Iran of instigating the protests that were held on December 27, the day Iranians marked Ashura.
“In general, they are blaming everybody — the foreign media, human rights activists and now the Baha’i,” Ala’i said. “It’s scapegoating.”
Ala’i said concerns deepened Sunday, when her organization received word from families in Iran that 13 Baha’is had been rounded up from their homes, taken to Evin prison and asked to sign documents that they would not engage in future demonstrations.
“Putting two and two together, the situation facing these Baha’i leaders is extremely ominous,” Ala’i said. “We are deeply concerned for their safety.”
The Baha’i faith originated in 19th century Persia, but the the constitution of today’s Islamic republic does not recognize it as a religion and considers followers as apostates.
The Iranian government denies mistreating Baha’is, who number about 300,000 in Iran and are the nation’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, according to Baha’i International. But the Baha’is say believers in Iran are victims of systematic discrimination and targets of violence.

Ala’i said the trial of the community leaders in Tehran has mobilized Baha’is around the world and has taken on symbolic significance — one that could very well transcend the fate of seven men and women.


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’re writing you because seven of our dearly loved Baha’i brothers and sisters in Iran are in grave danger, and possibly face execution. They have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison for over a year with no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Their crime: being Baha’is.
7 Baha’i Leaders imprisoned in Iran

7 Baha’i Leaders imprisoned in Iran

The US State Department, the UK Foreign Office Minister, Amnesty International and others have roundly condemned the imprisonment and trial of the Baha’is: http://iran.bahai.us.

Support from our Congresspersons

On February 13th, 2009, a bill was introduced in Congress, H. Res. 175, “Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Our Congressman, Adam Schiff, supports it. S. Res. 71, a concurrent resolution to H. Res. 175 regarding the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, was introduced into the U.S. Senate on March 9, 2009, receiving support from our Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Why should you care?

The Baha’i Faith is a peaceful religion that seeks to promote the unity of mankind. Our principles are in alignment with American values: http://www.bahai.org.

We may be small in number (about 6MM worldwide), but we are spread out across almost every country in the world and are trying to be of service to humanity. Baha’is have been in Pasadena since the early 20th century.

We need your help

You were probably unaware our situation until now, but we need advocates beyond the Baha’i Community:

* Come meet us on Wednesday, August 12th at the Western Justice Center (55 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena 91105). Attending and/or speaking will be US Congressman Adam Schiff, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Police Chief Bernard Melikian, and the Hon. Dorothy Nelson, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Your friends and neighbors,

The Baha’is of Pasadena, California

un24
Jailed Bahá’í leaders set to stand trial in Iran on July 11

01:02 pm on Jun 24th 2009 OEA

The trial of seven Iranian Bahá’í leaders, arrested in the spring of 2008, is scheduled to be held at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on July 11, 2009. American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi was recently convicted of espionage in Branch 28 of this Court and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. She was eventually released, but only after an international outcry at the clear politicization of the case and manifestly unjust legal procedures.

News of the July 11 trial date was conveyed only orally to the family members by authorities at Evin prison, where the seven Bahá’í leaders are being held. As information conveyed by officials concerning the judicial process has often proved unreliable, it is possible that the Iranian authorities may find some reason to change the trial date.

The seven Bahá’í leaders have been held for over a year without formal charges or access to their attorneys. Official Iranian news reports have said the Bahá’ís will be accused of “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” The charge of “espionage for Israel” is punishable by death.

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Dear Friends, these are personal observations of an individual Baha’i:

Bahá’í Epistolary

What have seven Baha’i prisoners, and the oppressed community they serve, achieved for the nation of Iran?

Posted: 28 Feb 2009 04:31 PM PST
As seven heroic souls in Iran await an impending trial on absurd and dangerous charges, which place their very lives at risk, while excluded from their lawyer, the brave Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, the question recurs: why?

Why this fear, this virulent hatred of a community so self-evidently committed to peaceful coexistence, sometimes criticised for its absence of partisan political activism, let alone any form of militant stance that might threaten a government, a nation, in the form of hostility, or that staple of government fabrications, espionage?

The nature of the activities of this extraordinary group of people, is explained by the editors of Iran Press Watch as follows:

“After the abduction and disappearance of the nine members of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran after the revolution in 1980 and the summary execution of most members of the second such Assembly of Baha’is in 1983, the governing body of the Baha’i community in Iran voluntarily suspended its administrative activities in 1983, and the affairs of the Baha’i community were managed by small groups of three individuals in each locality.

“After a few years, this group of three individuals on the national level became more organized and was named the institution of “The Friends of Iran.” The main responsibility of this institution was managing the affairs of this large religious minority, such as recording marriages, handling divorces, assisting with burials, sending letters of introduction for traveling Baha’is, arranging for worship services, and similar activities. “The Friends of Iran” guided the Baha’i community through many tumultuous years, and provided hope and reassurance through critical times with a unified vision and exemplary resolve.

“The activities of the “Friends” were completely transparent and were devoid of any hidden agenda. Incidentally, during this period, a particular office was designated in the Ministry of Intelligence to follow the activities of the Baha’is. This office would contact the “Friends” directly with any questions about a specific activity. Even Ayatollah Dorri Najafabadi, Iran’s chief prosecutor, has referred to this close monitoring. At the time of the suspension of Baha’i administrative activities in 1983, a letter was sent by the National Assembly of the time to Mousavi Ardabili indicating that in exchange for this suspension, the Baha’i community requested that the government allow its high school Baha’i graduates to enter universities, that the dismissed Baha’i university professors be reinstated, and that the Baha’is fired from the public sector be given permission for employment. The government did not heed or honor any of these requests for minimal civil rights for the Baha’is of Iran.”

Many have been the responses to such dismal and absurd charges. The most memorable for me are perhaps those of Mr. Hamid Hamidi and Moojan Momen. The former, non-Baha’i Iranian intellectual, in a truly remarkable, even historic talk, chronicles impartially with remarkable accuracy and passion the history and context of assaults against the human rights of the Baha’i community as fellow citizens in Iran from the days of Reza Shah to the present day. Moojan Momen’s own statement specifically exposes the absurdity of each of the charges leveled specifically against those seven precious souls who gambled with their lives in service to their community, and to humankind. The context of egregious human rights violations in Iran, not only against the Baha’is, but against many sectors of the population, is eloquently and movingly expounded by a Baha’i uniquely qualified to do so, former UN War Crimes Prosecutor, Payyam Akhavan, reminding us that the world Baha’i community’s struggle for the rights of its cherished brothers and sisters in Iran is part of a wider struggle for justice for all, of whatever faith or none.

Against this backdrop, I was encouraged by a friend whom I deeply respect, to share some excerpts from a paper I wrote in 2001, for an academic journal by the name of the Middle Eastern Studies Association Bulletin, exploring the reasons for the comparative silence of scholars of the Middle East, and of Iran in particular, in relation to all things Baha’i.

As I pondered the suggestion, I reflected that perhaps the discussion that he felt was relevant to what is happening today, was the general exploration of the continuities and discontinuities which the Baha’i Faith represented upon its emergence in the 19th century, and which led to its becoming an “Other” to the people of Iran, to the extent of disappearing from sight, and, if successive governments had had their way, as chronicled by Mr. Hamidi in the link above, dissappearing from existence altogether. In fact, revisiting that paper in the context of today’s fearful persecutions, one finds, not gloom, but extraordinary hope.

For if Baha’is were non-existent then relatively speaking, if one were to judge by their utter absence (outside frequent polemics that form part of their oppression)from the written discourse of their fellow countrymen, intellectuals, activists, artists, journalists, inside Iran and abroad, Iranian Baha’is certainly “exist” now in the voices and the minds of their compatriots, as never in this Faith’s 165 year history.

It is almost a truism for Baha’is, borne out not only scripturally, but by long experience of repression, yet one that cannot ever lose its pathos, that each wave of persecution, each effort to erase this Faith’s existence, is unfailingly accompanied by an unprecedented victory, that only digs its roots the deeper, and establishes its claims before the sight of men. The preceding chapter of extreme and nation-wide oppression, in the 1980’s, achieved in fact, globally speaking, the Baha’i Faith’s emergence from obscurity, and endowed the Baha’is with an extraordinary capacity for global concerted action, that countless activist organizations admire and respect, as Baha’is across the world for the first time arose as one voice in creative and united ways to seek reddress and protection for their fellow believers, mobilising public opinion from city councils and local press to the European Parliament and the United Nations, and averted genocide.

The most immediate victory that the present episode of persecution has already achieved in a manner that has astounded observers, foremost among them the Baha’is themselves, is the final integration of the Iranian Baha’is into the broader identity of their nation. For the first time in their history, the Baha’is are not the Other which I observed in my paper, they are, for a rising, mighty wave of non-Baha’i Iranians, the prominent and the obscure alike, elite and ordinary people, from all walks of life, “one of us”, fellow citizens, and the silence of the past is not only finally and irretrievably broken, but explicitly repudiated, and for all time.

Achieving this, such an extraordinary victory over mass prejudice sustained by unremitting propaganda and lies, from earliest childhood to the grave, is not just a victory for the Baha’i community, but for the people of Iran, and facilitating such a leap of consciousness, such a broadening of hearts, of minds, and social consciousness, is an extraordinary service which these seven prisoners have rendered the noble Iranian nation, together with the ranks of fellow believers who even now languish in dark incarceration, mourn loved ones killed for their religious identity, and strive to contribute to the welfare and prosperity of their country while the avenues of education and livelihood are either severely limited, or altogether shut.

Why did so many millions shiver, irrespective of their politics, when President Obama gave his inaugural speech? Because the United States, as a nation, had achieved a thing of wonder, it had placed an “Other” that arrived in bondage and slavery, in the highest place of honour it was in its gift to choose. And in so choosing, beyond honouring President Obama, beyond honouring a given minority or minorities, as a nation, it honoured itself, to such an extent, that many souls beyond its borders felt honoured too, at their own humanity’s potential to transcend the universal legacies of hate.

This turning tide began most noticeably, as may be followed in the remarkable website, Iran Press Watch, with Iran’s foremost and most prominent human rights advocate, Shirin Ebadi, agreeing to represent the Bahas’is as defense lawyer. More recently, history was made when 267 personalities, not Baha’is, from famous academics to Iran’s most well known pop star, from the most famous student dissident, to the former Miss Iran and second runner up to Miss World,in other words thinkers, journalists, cultural and popular icons, who for decades held their peace, now spoke and said: “we are ashamed”, of the silence that for so long signalled to their Baha’i compatriots, “you are not Us”, while oppression weighed on them. The Iranian Writers’ Association has likewise made its own voice heard, as have writers and journalists of Kurdistan. Even the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1980-1981) has spoken in support of Baha’i rights, and, more astonishing still, one of Iran’s most caustic attackers in print of the Baha’i Faith, has compellingly been moved to write in defense of a community he spent three decades attacking. Similarly Ayatollah Montazeri, once one of the very highest ranking clerics in Iran, and who in his memoirs recorded proudly his youthful persecution of Baha’is in the 1950’s, broke new ground by proclaiming them legal citizens. The record of new voices continues, as political prisoners in a prison in Karaj raised, amidst their own captivity, a “proclamation in support of our Baha’i countrymen”, while 26 Muslim students in a university of Mazindaran protested the expulsion of Baha’i fellow students. The non-Baha’i Iranian journalist Ali Keshtgar captured the spirit of this mighty victory of non-violent example and resilience over the fear and exclusion of centennial prejudice in the title of his piece: “We are all Iranian Baha’is”.

To grasp the extent of this trajectory, and its cultural significance for Iran, I return, as requested, to that paper from 2001, with the following excerpts which might be germane to this discussion:

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Baha’i faith could be aptly described as an underground messianic movement. Nevertheless, it was not the first such movement. The tradition of Persianate religious radicalism goes back to the origins of Persianate Islam and has always been linked in significant and often predominant ways to chiliastic fervor. The work of scholars such as Madelung, Hodgson, Dickson, Daftari, Corbin, Nasr, Modarresi, Arjomand, and, more recently, Amanat, Babayan, and Cole, has shed much light into the character of these movements, and permitted the beginnings of an integrated picture to emerge. Babayan in particular has sought to identify, following Hodgson and Madelung, common features that, amidst the bewildering diversity, provide grounds for seeing, in the recurrence of certain outlooks and motifs, a tradition of religious innovation in a Persianate context, rather than a collection of sporadic and more or less isolated incidents and movements. At the center of ghulati movements, suggests Babayan, has been found what she describes as “a sense of immediacy in the desire to experience a utopia on earth.” The ghulat are often “idealists and visionaries who believe that Justice could reign in this world of ours”:

“Reluctant to await another existence, perhaps another form, or eternal life following death and resurrection, individuals (ghulat [exaggerators]) with such temperaments emerged at the advent of Islam expecting to attain the apocalyptic horizon of Truth.…They do not see the universe in linear terms of a beginning and an end, but as successive cycles where the end of one era spontaneously flowed into the beginning of another…there is no Final Apocalypse, no End-Time as is believed by “mainstream” Jews, Christians and Muslims….What distinguishes each cycle is a new prophetic vision, each time unveiling layers of the mystery of the universe. And since the cosmos was understood to be alive, endlessly unravelling new dimensions in a way that ultimate Truth was inexplicable, almost unfathomable, creativity and new imaginings saw no bounds for the ghulat.”[Kathryn Babayan, Mystics, Monarchs and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran]

I have cited rather extensively because in this one paragraph a distinguished scholar seeks to encapsulate the essence of a specific tradition of religious innovation in the Persianate world. I would like to compare the citation to the following messianic proclamation by Bah’u’llah:

“It is evident that every age in which a Manifestation of God hath lived is divinely ordained, and may, in a sense, be characterised as God’s appointed Day. This Day, however, is unique, and is to be distinguished from those that have preceded it. The designation “Seal of the Prophets” fully revealeth its high station. The Eternal Truth is now come. He hath lifted up the Ensign of Power, and is shedding upon the world the unclouded splendour of His Revelation.”[Bah’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, (London: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1978), p. 59.]

Clearly, Baha’u’llah’s messianic message strongly resonates with the themes enunciated by Babayan and may be regarded as emerging out of that tradition. This view finds further reinforcement from the fact that Baha’u’llah repudiated finality for his revelation, holding fast to a cyclical yet evolutionary approach to eschatology that envisaged no end to the periodic and progressive (re)appearance of divine Messengers.

Such links with the tradition of ghuluw are of course as much historical as intellectual, the Baha’i vision having evolved in direct engagement with the Shaykhism of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsai and Siyyid Kazim Rashti, various strands of irfani and sufi thought and, above all, the rich and living heritage of Siyyid Ali Muhammad, the Bab. The use Baha’u’llah made of this tradition, however, was fundamentally not imitative but creative, resulting in a radical transformation to which we will return below.

It takes, however, more than a messianic figure to make a messianic movement; the response has to be forthcoming. In the case of Baha’u’llah (and of the Bab before him) the response was considerable not just in numbers, but in spread. Among the sectors from which the leadership of the Baha’i community was drawn in Baha’u’llah’s time, according to Momen, were: major `ulama, such as mujtahids, and imam-jum`ihs; minor `ulama, such as religious students (tullab) and sufi darvishes (rawdih-khans); the nobility, including members of the royal court, Qajar princes, governors, high government officials, and military commanders of rank of sartip and above; major land-owners and factory-owners (sahib-kar); minor government officials, secretaries, couriers, and soldiers; wholesale merchants (tujjar) and financiers (sarraf); retail merchants, usually guilded; skilled urban workers such as guilded craftsmen (asnaf) usually ustad (master craftsman), and traditional service workers (for example, tabíb, doctor); unskilled urban workers; peasant and rural workers; tribal peoples; and eventually modern professionals as well. Not only Iranians of Twelver Shi’i background were represented, but also Zoroastrians, Jews, Ahl-i Haqq, Afshari turkomen, Kurds, and Lurs—and this list is drawn only from within the borders of Iran itself. Baha’i presence in urban settings was only slightly more important than in rural settings.[Moojan Momen, “Iran” l] It is suggested that the swift emergence of a substantial Babi, and subsequently Baha’i, following in Persia constitutes a landmark response to ideological tensions that go back to the beginnings of Persianate Islam, and belongs to, yet also breaks with, the Persianate tradition of religious dissent.

In his seminal interpretive essays on the birth and demise of the late Antique world Browne emphasizes the cultural tensions engendered by the irruption of Arabo-Muslim culture into Sassanid Persia. Islam was the space where these tensions were played out. On the one, it was used as a source of legitimacy and a tool for cultural and political hegemony by the initially Arabized rulers of Persia. On the other hand, Islam served as an instrument for cultural and political appropriation and survival by a distinctive Persianate society. The result was a Persianate religious idiom that remained distinctive, far-reaching, and fragmented. Thus, we see in Persia and its cultural sphere movements and belief systems take root and develop which in the epicenters of the Arab cultural sphere stand out (in the main) as both foreign and alien―examples ranging from orthodox Shi’ism, Twelver and Sevener alike, to much of Sufism and, of course, ghuluw. These religious currents, it is suggested, reflect enduring attempts to appropriate Islam into a Persianate idiom and resolve tensions going back to late Antiquity between a Persianate (gnostic/cyclical) religious heritage, and a Semitic (nomic/linear) worldview inherited from Islam.

From the outset of Persianate Islam, successive political regimes in Persia evolved and jealously guarded Islamic identities that buttressed their power by imposing cultural hegemonies over a volatile cultural mix. In this context, radical religious innovation not only challenged the cultural hegemony of a given Islamic identity, but inescapably undermined the legitimacy of the political order that upheld it. With such weight accruing to ideological conformity in a milieu brimming with cultural tensions, it comes as no surprise that Islamic heresiography should have specially flourished in the Persianate sphere, as groups fought for political power through cultural control. Religious dissent was inevitably political dissent too. Such links between political revolt and religious radicalism are certainly not unique to Persia. What makes Persianate religious dissent distinctive is its persistent attempt to reconcile its Islamic identity with a pre-Islamic heritage that refuses to relax its ideological grip. We thus find, for instance, formulations of the Islamic escathon not only turning to pre-Islamic theological orientations, but even making room for pre-Islamic Iranian legend, as in the case of the radical Sufism of the Safavi period. Or should we say rather that an enduring pre-Islamic Iranian mindset made occasional room for Islamic eschatology?

True to the Persianate tradition of religious innovation, Baha’u’llah’s vision was able to transcend a strictly Islamic worldview through realized eschatology. Only, Baha’u’llah appropriated not merely the pre-Islamic past but, crucially, the non-Islamic present, to predicate a post-Islamic future. In the past, Islamicate religious dissent had been used to challenge other Islamic cultural hegemonies. Persians who embraced Baha’u’llah’s message, and, even more, Persians who embraced the Bab’s message, were responding to similar pressures, seeking to resist cultural encroachments from a new religious-political hegemony fractiously championed by the ‘ulama and, to a lesser degree, the secular rulers of Qajar Persia. The Baha’í teachings, typically, criticized the clerical establishment and formulated an alternative, spiritualized, and disestablished view of its place in society, legitimizing the sovereignty of secular rulers independently of clerical authority.

For the first time, however, equally strong pressures on identity came from a source outside the Islamicate world altogether: the Western world, whose expansion was accompanied by a subtle but insidious assertion of cultural hegemony in the form of Empire, one of the drivers of globalization. The Baha’i teachings gave nineteenth-century Persians who wished to do so a vehicle to resist the cultural (hence social and political) hegemony not only of the ’ulama, but of the intruding Western world. The Baha’i teachings could appropriate the idiom not just of Persianate Islam, but also of the West and use it to resist its cultural hegemony, in the same way as Islam gave the Sassanids a means to appropriate the cultural idiom of the Arabs to resist their attempt at cultural dominance. In other words, the Baha’i teachings opened an avenue for a new, post-Islamic identity that promised to overcome and finally resolve the cultural (and by implication political and social) tensions of the day. They also posed an unmistakable challenge to the existing order. What was seen by some as the fulfillment of Islam, was regarded by others as its open subversion.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that through the far-reaching political and social changes that have taken place since the days of Nasir-i Din Shah, the repression of Iranian Baha’is has remained constant, varying only in intensity, regardless of the prevailing order of the day. Coverage of these persecutions has focused on the Qajar period and the persecutions under the Islamic Republic, but Baha’is also suffered periodic persecutions throughout the whole Pahlavi period, not least being the country-wide campaign orchestrated against them in 1955. Even in quiet periods under the Pahlavis, the Baha’is never achieved rights as basic as having their marriages legally recognized. The consistency of this persecution suggests powerful cultural, social, and political continuities that may easily pass unnoticed by scholars of the ever-changing Iranian socio-political landscape.

The Baha’i Faith as Departure

Having concentrated on historical continuities, we may now elaborate on the discontinuities. For even as there can be little doubt that the worldview and community that crystallized around Baha’u’llah has inextricable connections with the rich currents of tradition, there can likewise be little doubt that in Baha’u’llah’s hands, the traces of tradition were embedded in something altogether new, something Other, something amounting, both in intent and consequence, to a new religion. The theological transition from Islam has recently been mapped by Buck. The author describes Baha’u’llah’s doctrinal teachings as “an ideological bridge to a new worldview.”[Chris Buck, Symbol and Secret (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1995), chapter 5] This new worldview implied sociological innovations too. Traditionally, the energies released by large-scale Islamicate responses to a messianic claim have sought outlet in military enterprises. Such indeed was the case with Babism. The idea of the conquering Mahdi or Qaim pervaded prophetic expectations, and the conquest was expected to occur by military and supernatural means. This Islamic ideal of messianic conquest, like so much else in the Islamic heritage, was not rejected by Baha’u’llah, but it was recast in spiritualized form, community building, and moral regeneration taking the place of physical combat as the proper instruments of victory. Baha’u’llah would eventually conquer the world, but would do so by spiritual means, through the attraction of hearts, and the battle would be waged by Baha’is through a consecrated dedication to community building and the cultivation of moral rectitude. Not surprisingly, a doctrinal outlook that appropriated the prophetic expectations of all religions yet upheld the relativity of truth led to early experiments in multiculturalism. On the one hand were the imperatives from Baha’u’llah to consort with the followers of all religions; on the other was the conversion of non-Muslim minorities, which initiated a slow and gradual process of cultural rapprochement between converts from these various backgrounds, as has been broadly examined by Stiles-Maneck.[“The Conversion of Religious Minorities,” Journal of Baha’i Studies 3. 3 (1991)]

At this juncture it would be worth asking what contemporary Persians themselves regarded as innovative about Baha’u’llah’s teachings. One testimony comes from a Baha’i convert from the later period of Baha’u’llah’s ministry, a former cleric, writing in 1911 when the Baha’i community had been securely established in the East and had begun to penetrate into the West. The features he highlights as the most significant innovations of Baha’u’llah include: abstaining from crediting verbal traditions; prohibiting individual claims to authoritative interpretation; abrogating conflict and controversy on the basis of differences of opinion; the prohibition of slavery; the obligation to engage in allowable professions as a means of support, and obedience to this law being accepted as an act of worship; the compulsory education of children of both sexes; the command prohibiting cursing and execration and making it obligatory upon all to abstain from uttering that which may offend men; the prohibition on the carrying of arms except in time of necessity; the creation of the House of Justice and institution of national parliaments and constitutional governments; the exhortation to observe sanitary measures and cleanliness, and to shun utterly all that tends to filth and uncleanness; and the provisions of inheritance laws designed, in his view, to prevent the creation of monopolies.[Mirza Abu’l-Fadl Gulpaygani, Letters and Essays, 1886-1913, trans. Juan R. I. Cole (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1992)]

The concerns highlighted in this testimony are not unique, or even rare, although the specific responses are distinctly Baha’i. They reflect issues exercising the minds of many contemporary Persians, regardless of their faith. Iranian Baha’is, like the Baha’i teachings, were distinctive, but far from incomprehensible to fellow Iranians.

…As an outsider to the field, I would have anticipated that at a time when the study of ‘minorities’ is in vogue, the largest religious minority in Iran today would have generated more interest. The absence of even one solid academic monograph on the Baha’i faith in Iran is positively intriguing. This absence is in stark contrast to the volume of work devoted to Persian Jewry, for example, which has, I suspect, received notice outside of Jewish circles.

Similarly, the prominence which the recent persecutions of Baha’is in Iran has had in the Western world has hardly sparked discussion about the roots or cultural significance of persecution, or even the socio-cultural impact of 150 years of continuous repression against a substantial segment of the Iranian population. The place of the Baha’i persecutions in Irano-Western political discourse has hardly been noted, even when major NGOs, numerous national parliaments, the General Assembly of the United Nations, and major heads of state such as former President Clinton have issued condemnations and resolutions and even sent commissions to Iran to investigate human rights abuses against Baha’is.[45] Such contemporary prominence of the Baha’i faith in Irano-Western relations appears to be deeply uninteresting to scholars, to judge from the attention it has received. Even more intriguing is to find that Baha’i historical documents have not been mined in areas such as the social and political history of Qajar Iran, even though they are often extremely rich in detail and broad in geographical spread.[46]

Figures in the history of Babi and Baha’i who attracted the attention of Browne’s generation, such as Qurratu’l-Ayn, scholar-poetess-prophetess, or Abdu’l-Baha, who pioneered the successful translation of a Persianate religious idiom into a Western milieu, have recently received little attention, notable exceptions merely proving the rule. Qurratu’l-Ayn’s ritual unveiling appears to be a particular omission, given the emergence of feminist scholarship on Iran.[47] The transplantation into over 2100 ethnic groups of a Persianate nineteenth-century religious innovation, touching as it does on processes of globalization, modernity, tradition, nationalism, and more, also has passed virtually unnoticed in the literature, perhaps as something that has nothing to do with the Persianate and Middle Eastern milieu that witnessed its genesis.

Finally in this review of, to me, puzzling silences, is the place of the Baha’i community in the drive towards modernization that ran through Iran in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Baha’i community of Iran at the turn of the century was closely linked to agricultural reform and elementary education at the village level. Modernization extended to educational formats and content as well, as Iranian Baha’is established schools for boys and, significantly, for girls, in partnership with American Baha’is, enjoying, until they were banned, a substantial intake of students from outside the Baha’i community. No serious attention has been given to these schools, nor to Baha’i medical clinics and hospitals or to the role of Baha’is in the introduction to Iran of Western pharmaceutical knowledge. The eradication of illiteracy among all Iranian Baha’i women under the age of forty in the 1960s and 1970s likewise does not appear in the history of Persian women.

In most disciplines, a social movement that sweeps across a country, touches virtually every demographic segment of a population, and has a 150-year history would have a solid body of literature behind it. Is my puzzlement legitimate, or is it merely due to my lack of experience in the field? One possibility is that silence breeds silence, insofar as it might be thought that if leading scholars have not written about a subject for almost a century, there is probably good reason. The question is, what is that reason? Regardless, it is likely that silence does reinforce and perpetuate silence in its own right…

There is one other possibility for the neglect of Baha’i studies. Could it be that in the orthodoxy of Iranian and Islamicate studies, like in the orthodoxy of Iranian religion, a stigma attaches to all things Baha’i? Could it be that beyond academic considerations a certain amount of prejudice is at work? Allow me to explore this question. It appears that, given the prominent presence of the Baha’i faith in Iran historically, the wealth of material available, and the precedent of serious academic study of its history and doctrines by the foremost Iranologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the more recent silence on the Baha’i faith and the complete indifference even to Baha’i historical sources mark a definite boundary which designates it as Other. Other, that is, from the perspective of a disciplinary paradigm from which it is largely excluded.

This exclusion is significant. The nineteenth-century Persians who converted to the Baha’i faith evidently felt that the boundary between the Islamicate world to which they truly belonged―they could belong to no other―and the Baha’i faith was bridgable. Members of this faith were nineteenth-century Persians, representing a microcosm of Persian society, steeped in its culture, its traditions, its values. They were both Baha’is—they belonged to a distinctive community, with traits that differentiated them from all other Persian communities—and they were Persians—they shared with their compatriots a common education, common material circumstances and pressures, and a great deal more. Yet, in current Islamicist scholarship they are not integrated into the spiritual, social, religious, or political landscape of the nineteenth-century Middle East in the way that the Zoroastrians, Jews, merchants, or ’ulama might be. Nor are they even explicitly excluded. Instead, they are negated.

Let us discard conspiracy theories. I do not believe that many academics in this field would consciously choose to exclude a range of potentially relevant sources merely because they were tagged Baha’i. Rather, the Baha’i faith occupies a disciplinary blind-spot in the perspective of scholars of the Middle East, so that when we look at the Persianate world we do not see the Baha’i faith, when we search for sources we do not notice Baha’i sources, and when they come into our field of vision we push them aside so we can see more clearly what we are examining. It is as if the disciplinary paradigm of contemporary Persianists is predicated on an ‘imagined’ nation, to allude to Anderson, which, emulating the imagined nation of many Iranians throughout the century and across all political divides, cannot explain or even accommodate the existence of the Baha’i faith in Iran. In other words, it may be that an element of cultural bias has filtered into the discipline of Islamics, in a sort of inverted Orientalism, in which the Iranian Baha’i community is exiled from the Iranian cultural experience.

If this is so, then we might be missing an entire dimension of the Islamicate, and particularly the nineteenth-century Persian landscape. In the throes of modernization and the first deep encounters with globalization, we contend that the Baha’i faith opened up possibilities of identity to which nineteenth-century Persians could relate even if they could not always accept the faith. To integrate the Baha’i faith into the nineteenth-century mentality might well change many of our understandings of the multilayered processes of identity formation, affirmation, and development in nineteenth-century Persia. The same might apply to present-day Iran. Who is Baha’u’llah? Who are the Baha’is? What did these questions mean in nineteenth-century Persia? What do they mean in Iran today? Is it not likely that by completely ignoring their existence, we may have a distorted picture of nineteenth-century Persian society? By ignoring their presence in Iran today, their situation, and their place in contemporary Iranian religious and political culture (and international relations), do we not distort our understanding of contemporary Iran?

An Open Letter

from a group of academics, writers, artists, journalists

and Iranian activists throughout the world

to the Baha’i community

We are ashamed!

A century and a half of oppression and silence is enough!

In the name of goodness and beauty, and in the name of humanity and liberty!

As Iranian human beings, we are ashamed for what has been perpetrated upon the Baha’is in the last century and a half in Iran.

We firmly believe that every Iranian, “without distinction of any kind, such as, race, color, sex, language, religion, politics or other opinions,” and also without regard to ethnic background, “social origin, property, birth or other status,” is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, from the very inception of the Baha’i Faith, the followers of this religion in Iran have been deprived of many provisions of human rights solely on account of their religious convictions.

According to historical documents and evidence, from the commencement of the Babi Movement followed by the appearance of the Baha’i Faith, thousands of our countrymen have been slain by the sword of bigotry and superstition only for their religious beliefs. Just in the first decades of its establishment, some twenty thousand of those who stood identified with this faith community were savagely killed throughout various regions of Iran.

We are ashamed that during that period, no voice of protest against these barbaric murders was registered;

We are ashamed that until today the voice of protest against this heinous crime has been infrequent and muted;

We are ashamed that in addition to the intense suppression of Baha’is during its formative decades, the last century also witnessed periodic episodes of persecution of this group of our countrymen, in which their homes and businesses were set on fire, and their lives, property and families were subjected to brutal persecution – but all the while, the intellectual community of Iran remained silent;

We are ashamed that during the last thirty years, the killing of Baha’is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over two-hundred Baha’is have been slain on this account;

We are ashamed that a group of intellectuals have justified coercion against the Baha’i community of Iran;

We are ashamed of our silence that after many decades of service to Iran, Baha’i retired persons have been deprived of their right to a pension;

We are ashamed of our silence that on the account of their fidelity to their religion and truthfulness in stating this conviction, thousands of Baha’i youth have been barred from education in universities and other institutions of higher learning in Iran;

We are ashamed that because of their parents’ religious beliefs, Baha’i children are subjected to denigration in schools and in public.

We are ashamed of our silence over this painful reality that in our nation, Baha’is are systematically oppressed and maligned, a number of them are incarcerated because of their religious convictions, their homes and places of business are attacked and destroyed, and periodically their burial places are desecrated;

We are ashamed of our silence when confronted with the long, dark and atrocious record that our laws and legal system have marginalized and deprived Baha’is of their rights, and the injustice and harassment of both official and unofficial organs of the government towards this group of our countrymen;

We are ashamed for all these transgressions and injustices, and we are ashamed for our silence over these deeds.

We, the undersigned, asked you, the Baha’is, to forgive us for the wrongs committed against the Baha’i community of Iran.

We will no longer be silent when injustice is visited upon you.

We stand by you in achieving all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights.

Let us join hands in replacing hatred and ignorance with love and tolerance.

February 3, 2009

Please read a statement by U.S. Congressman Kirk introducing a resolution
regarding the current situation in the Cradle of the Faith:

http://www.iranpresswatch.org/2009/02/congressman-mark-kirk/

Also, read a historic statement by the Kurdish writers and journalists in
support of the Baha’is at:
http://www.iranpresswatch.org/2009/02/kurdish-statement-support/

This statement is addressed to the Universal House of Justice.

Ahang Rabbani, PhD
http://ahang.rabbani.googlepages.com/
http://iranpresswatch.org/

http://pasadenabahai.wordpress.com

Word of a possible trial against imprisoned Baha’is came yesterday in an Iranian ISNA news agency report quoting Tehran’s deputy public prosecutor, Hassan Haddad. According to the report, a case will be sent to the revolutionary courts next week accusing the seven Baha’is of “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.”

It is presumed that the seven referred to by Mr. Haddad are the group of Baha’i leaders from Tehran who were arrested last year in raids reminiscent of sweeps nearly 30 years ago at the start of the Islamic revolution. Those sweeps led to the execution of dozens of Baha’i leaders at the time. …

To read the full article, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/story/694

To read profiles of the seven members of the Baha’i committee who are in prison, go to:
http://news.bahai.org/story/695

For the Baha’i World News Service home page, go to:
http://news.bahai.org

BAHA’I INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY REJECTS IRANIAN ALLEGATIONS ON RECENT ARRESTS

NEW YORK, 21 May 2008 (BWNS) — Allegations by Iran that six Baha’is were arrested last week for security reasons and not for their faith” are utterly baseless and without documentation, said the Baha’i International Community today.

All of the allegations issued in a statement on Tuesday by the Iranian government are utterly baseless,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, referring to statements made in a press conference given yesterday in Tehran by Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham, at which he acknowledged the arrest and imprisonment of six Baha’i leaders last week.

The allegations are not new, and the Iranian government knows well that they are untrue,” Ms. Dugal said. The documented plan of the Iranian government has always been to destroy the Baha’i community, and these latest arrests represent an intensification of this plan.

The group of Baha’is arrested last week, like the thousands of Baha’is who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwise oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs. The best proof of this is the fact that, time and again, Baha’is have been offered their freedom if they recant their Baha’i beliefs and convert to Islam, an option few have taken.

Far from being a threat to state security, the Baha’i community of Iran has great love for their country and they are deeply committed to its development. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that the vast majority of Baha’is have remained in Iran despite intense persecution, the fact that students denied access to education in Iran and forced to study abroad have returned to assist in the development of their country, and the recent effort by Baha’is in Shiraz to provide schooling for underprivileged children – an effort the government responded to by arresting some 54 Baha’i participants in May 2006,” said Ms. Dugal.

In its coverage of Mr. Elham’s press conference, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the six Baha’is were arrested for security reasons not for their faith.” The IRNA report also quoted Mr. Elham as saying that the six Baha’is were somehow linked to foreigners, the Zionists in particular.”

Ms. Dugal addressed that issue also, saying:

The charges linking the Baha’is to Zionism are a distortion of history: The Baha’i Faith has its world headquarters in Israel because Baha’u’llah was, in the mid-1800s, sent as a prisoner to the Holy Land by two Islamic countries: Ottoman Turkey and Iran.

The charge that Baha’is are Zionists, which has in fact been made against Baha’is for the last 30 years by Iran, is nothing more than an effort by the government to stir animosity against Baha’is among the Iranian population at large. This is but the most recent iteration in a long history of attempts to foment hatred by casting the Baha’is as agents of foreign powers, whether of Russia, the United Kingdom, or the United States and now Israel all of which are completely baseless.

The real issue, as it relates to Baha’is, who are committed to nonpartisanship and nonviolence, is the ideology of the government, which has undertaken a well-documented effort to utterly block the development of the Baha’i community not only through arrests, harassment and imprisonment but also by depriving their youth of education and preventing adults from obtaining a livelihood.

We would ask whether issues of state security rather than ideology were involved in recent incidents such as the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery and the use of a bulldozer to crush the bones of a Baha’i who was interred there; the harassment of hundreds of Baha’i schoolchildren throughout Iran by teachers and school officials in an effort to make them reject their own religion; or the publication of dozens of defamatory anti-Baha’i articles in Kayhan and other government-sponsored news media in recent months,” said Ms. Dugal.

She also noted that over the years, a number of government officials, clerics, and members of the judiciary have in fact made statements in private noting the nonpartisan conduct of the Baha’i community and the unjustified nature of government charges against Baha’is.

She added that the present government s ideology is based in large part on a belief that there could be no Prophet following Muhammad. The Baha’i Faith poses a theological challenge to this belief.

Freedom of religion is the issue and Iran itself is a signatory to international covenants that acknowledge the right of individuals to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one s religion,” Ms. Dugal said.

What the Iranian government cannot tolerate is that the Iranian people are less responsive to the government s propaganda, because they see the reality that Iranian Baha’is love their country, are sincere in their desire to contribute to its well-being, are peace-loving, and are law-abiding and that these qualities stem from their beliefs. Consequently, there is growing sympathy for the Baha’is. Increasingly, people at all levels of the society are coming to their defense both privately and publicly, and there is growing interest in and attraction to the Baha’i Faith amongst the population,” Ms. Dugal said.

To view the photos and additional features click here:
http://news.bahai.org

Iranian Baha’i School Children
In April 2007, the Bahá’í International Community reported that Baha’i students in primary and secondary schools throughout Iran were being increasingly harassed, vilified, and held up to abuse because of their Faith. Many incidents of mistreatment were reported at the time, and it appears that these incidents have been escalating in recent months.

Bahá’í school children in Iran are being subjected to cruel and harsh treatment as part of a government-sponsored campaign against the Bahá’í community. Reports indicate that Baha’i pupils are secretly monitored and reported upon by school officials, are subjected to vilification by their teachers and school administrators, and are forced to listen to vile and outrageous tales about the teachings of their Faith and the moral behavior of Baha’is. It has now become clear that Baha’i pupils in primary and secondary schools are being expelled on the basis of the stipulation in the “Golpaygani memorandum” that Baha’is “can be enrolled in schools provided they have not identified themselves as Baha’is”. Pupils are often expelled when they identify themselves as Baha’is, when they try to defend the Faith against utterly unfounded accusations, or when they respectfully attempt to correct gross misrepresentations of the Faith’s history in the textbooks they must study. It has also been reported that Baha’is in secondary schools are to be given grades sufficient to graduate but too low to allow entrance to university.

To learn more about some of the incidents that have been taking place from June 2007 to January 2008, click here to get a summary.

How can you help?

People are encouraged to raise awareness about this deplorable maltreatment of young Bahá’í pupils with groups that focus on the interests of children, such as parents of young children, parent-teacher organizations, teachers and teachers’ unions, principals and headmasters, school boards and community education organizations.

You could:

If you are a member of a professional teachers association or parent-teacher association, or a school administration association, please approach your colleagues about what actions they might take.

IRANIAN BAHA’IS SENTENCED TO PRISON WERE HELPING UNDERPRIVILEGED YOUTH

GENEVA, 6 February 2008 (BWNS) — Accusations by the Iranian government that 54 Baha’is were engaged in anti-regime “propaganda” when they were arrested almost two years ago are patently false, the Baha’i International Community said today.

In November, three of that group were re-arrested and imprisoned for four years. The others have reportedly been given suspended one-year sentences.

“Far from working against the government, the Baha’is who were arrested in May 2006 were engaged in a humanitarian project aimed at helping underprivileged young people in the city of Shiraz,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

“Charges by the government that suggest otherwise are nothing less than an attempt to repress Iranian Baha’is generally and to deflect international criticism of Iran’s human rights record,” she said.

Concern over the status of the Baha’is sentenced in Shiraz was highlighted last week after an Iranian government spokesperson accused them of engaging in anti-government “propaganda,” according to wire service reports. (While those reports put the total arrests at 54, Baha’i sources indicate that only 53 Baha’is were arrested in May 2006.)

That charge of anti-regime propaganda came several days after the US State Department and Amnesty International expressed concern over the fact that three of the Baha’is arrested had been summarily imprisoned in November for terms of four years.

According to Agence France-Presse, an Iranian judiciary spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed the prison sentences for the three and also told reporters on 29 January that 51 others had received suspended one-year jail terms, conditional on their attendance of courses held by the state’s Islamic Propaganda Organization.

“The accounts emerging from Iran tell of a government that is desperate to justify its actions in the jailing of three innocent people by accusing them of teaching the Baha’i Faith, which is synonymous with ‘anti-regime propaganda’ in the government’s twisted perspective, said Ms. Ala’i. “This is further evidenced by the requirement that the others attend re-education classes, which are clearly aimed at coercing them away from their religious beliefs.

“While teaching the Baha’i Faith cannot be considered a crime of any sort, given that freedom of religion is protected by international law, the fact is that the Baha’is who were arrested almost two years ago in Shiraz were not working to spread Baha’i teachings — rather they had initiated and were participating in a number of literacy and youth empowerment projects in various locations in and near Shiraz.

“Moreover, the group had introduced the projects to the Islamic Council of the city of Shiraz in 2005 and had subsequently received a letter from the Cultural Commission granting permission to continue their activities,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Ms. Ala’i also discussed charges, made in court documents, that the use of a workbook titled “Breezes of Confirmation,” which focuses on teaching language skills and basic moral principles, constitutes part of the evidence that Baha’is were teaching the Baha’i Faith.

“The fact is,” said Ms. Ala’i, ” ‘Breezes of Confirmation’ makes no direct reference to the Baha’i Faith — and its lessons reflect moral lessons common to all religions.

“In view of the government’s continued rebuff of international appeals for the immediate release of the three prisoners, it is important to provide a detailed account, so as to set the record straight,” said Ms. Ala’i. The names of the three are Haleh Rouhi Jahromi, 29; Raha Sabet Sarvestani , 33; and Sasan Taqva, 32.

NEW TACTIC OBSTRUCTS BAHA’I ENROLLMENTS IN IRANIAN UNIVERSITIES

GENEVA, 31 January 2008 (BWNS) — More than a million students take Iran’s national university entrance examination each year. So Halaku Rahmaniyan was extremely pleased when he learned he had placed 76th from the top.

“I was happy, because I knew that it was a good result and that I could enter any subject in any university with that ranking,” the 18-year-old student from Tehran wrote in a blog recently.

He did not understand why, then, he still had not been accepted anywhere by December. So Mr. Rahmaniyan called the national Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization (EMEO), which administers the exam, and spoke with a top official.

The official, too, was puzzled — until Mr. Rahmaniyan said he was a Baha’i.

“Suddenly, after the word ‘Baha’i,’ he discontinued the call,” wrote Mr. Rahmaniyan.

Then he received a letter from the EMEO.

“Respectfully, in response to your request for the issuance of a certificate of ranking for the year 2007, we would like to inform you that owing to you having an incomplete file, issuance of a certificate of ranking is not possible,” stated the letter.

The story is one of many from Iran in recent months that highlight the latest tactic by the Iranian government in its long-running campaign to block Baha’is from access to higher education: to claim that their examination files are somehow “incomplete.”

Almost 800 of the more than 1,000 Baha’is who sat for and properly completed the entrance exam in June 2007 have received word that their files are “incomplete” — thus preventing their enrollment.

“These latest figures show that, despite its denials, the Iranian government is continuing its campaign to prevent Baha’is from going to university,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

“The tactic of claiming that the examination files of Baha’i students are somehow ‘incomplete’ is yet another ruse by the government to act as if it respects human rights while covertly moving ahead with its persecution of Baha’is,” said Ms. Ala’i, noting that none of the some 900 Baha’is who sat for the examination in 2006 received a notice of “incomplete files.”

For more than 25 years, Baha’is have been banned from public and private universities in Iran. After pressure from the United Nations, governments, academic, educational, and human rights organizations, the government indicated in 2004 that it would stop asking university applicants about their religious affiliation, which seemed to open the door to Baha’i enrollments.

Each year since then, however, the government, which has been actively pursuing a campaign to identify all of the Baha’is in Iran and therefore is able to target Baha’i university students, has come up with some type of obstruction.

MORE DETAILS

For the 2006-2007 academic year, the main tactic used to deprive Baha’is of access to higher education was expulsions.

As noted, about 900 Baha’i students sat for the exam in June 2006. Nearly 500 passed and were listed as eligible to apply to university. Yet of the roughly 200 who ultimately managed to enroll in university in autumn 2006, the majority were gradually expelled over the course of the academic year.

The students were expelled as their identity as Baha’is became known to university officials.

That those expulsions reflect official government policy was confirmed in a confidential 2006 letter from Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology instructing Iranian universities to expel any student who is discovered to be a Baha’i.

Baha’i students have been speaking out on blogs and in other forums. Nevertheless, the names have been withheld in the following accounts to protect their identity.

In October, a male student from Hamadan, who was expelled last year, told how many Baha’i students wished to educate themselves in part to help advance the development of their country.

“In order to better play our role in the reformation and distinction of this sacred land, we ask the respected officials to remove all obstacles for the entrance and continuation of the education of Baha’i students and lovers of knowledge at all universities in the country,” he said.

In February, a young woman wrote to a high official to ask why she had been suddenly expelled from Payame Noor University.

“Of what crime have we been accused?” she asked. “After many years of yearning to receive a university education, I was ultimately given permission to enroll at a university this current year. Alas, I was expelled because of my religion after attending classes for a few weeks.”

As noted, for the 2007-2008 academic calendar, of the more than 1,000 students who sat for and properly completed the entrance examination, nearly 800 were excluded because of “incomplete files.”

Mr. Rahmaniyan learned of his high score from an Internet posting in the fall. “I ranked 54th in the regional quota and had come 76th nationwide,” he wrote in a blog entry.

“Soon after, I found out that most of the Baha’i youth of my age group, were not even permitted to see their exam results because of having what had been announced on the Internet as ‘incomplete file,'” he wrote. “My joy turned into sorrow….”

Ms. Ala’i noted that Mr. Rahmaniyan’s case is not unusual. Many Baha’is this year, as in previous years, scored well on the national university entrance examination but were not allowed entry, even though other students with lower scores were allowed to enroll, she said.

“The low percentage of Baha’is in university in Iran is not because of low test scores or poor academic achievement,” said Ms. Ala’i. “It is simply because the government has sought by various means to block Baha’is from enrolling or staying in university.”

In 2004 and 2005, she said, the Baha’is were prevented from enrolling because the government sent back the examination papers with the word “Islam” printed in the data field for a prospective student’s religion. That was unacceptable to Baha’is until it was clarified in 2006 and 2007 that that notation only meant the student had passed the exam’s section on Islam, and did not indicate religious identity.

“Despite repeated protests by Western academics, university officials, and college students in many countries, not to mention resolutions at the United Nations and efforts by human rights organizations, Iran has clearly continued its campaign to prevent Baha’is from gaining access to higher education, even while they claim that no such discrimination exists.

“A serious effort by the government to end this injustice would be a first step towards showing the world its genuine commitment to international human rights standards and equal treatment of all its citizens regardless of their religious belief,” said Ms. Ala’i.

EGYPT COURT UPHOLDS BAHA’I PLEA IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CASES

CAIRO, 29 January 2008 (BWNS) — In a victory for religious freedom, a lower administrative court here today ruled in favor of two lawsuits that sought to resolve the government’s contradictory policy on religious affiliation and identification papers.

The Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo upheld arguments made in two cases concerning Baha’is who have sought to restore their full citizenship rights by asking that they be allowed to leave the religious affiliation field blank on official documents.

“Given the degree to which issues of religious freedom stand at the heart of human rights issues in the Middle East, the world should cheer at the decision in these two cases today,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“The compromise offered by the Baha’is in these two cases opens the door to a way to reconcile a government policy that was clearly incompatible with international law — as well as common sense,” said Ms. Dugal.

“Our hope now is that the government will quickly implement the court’s decision and allow Baha’is once again to enjoy the full rights of citizenship to which they are duly entitled,” said Ms. Dugal.

The decisions today concerned two cases, both filed by Baha’is, over the issue of how they are to be identified on government documents.

The first case involves a lawsuit by the father of twin children, who is seeking to obtain proper birth certificates for them. The second concerns a college student, who needs a national identity card to re-enroll in university.

The government requires all identification papers to list religious affiliation but restricts the choice to the three officially recognized religions — Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Baha’is are thus unable to obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their religious affiliation.

Without national identify cards — or, as in the case of the twin children, birth certificates — Baha’is and others caught in the law’s contradictory requirements are deprived of a wide range of citizenship rights, such as access to employment, education, and medical and financial services.

These problems were highlighted in a report issued in November by Human Rights Watch and the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

“Employers, both public and private, by law cannot hire someone without an ID, and academic institutions require IDs for admission,” said the report. “Obtaining a marriage license or a passport requires a birth certificate; inheritance, pensions, and death benefits are contingent on death certificates. The Ministry of Health has even refused to provide immunizations to some Baha’i children because the Interior Ministry would not issue them birth certificates accurately listing their Baha’i religion.”

The issuance of birth certificates is at the heart of the first case, which concerns 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi. Their father, Rauf Hindi, obtained birth certificates that recognized their Baha’i affiliation when they were born.

But new policies require computer generated certificates, and the computer system locks out any religious affiliation but the three officially recognized religions. And without birth certificates, the children are unable to enroll in school in Egypt.

The second lawsuit was filed by the EIPR last February on behalf of 18-year-old Hussein Hosni Bakhit Abdel-Massih, who was suspended from the Suez Canal University’s Higher Institute of Social Work in January 2006 due to his inability to obtain an identity card because of his refusal to falsely identify himself as either a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew.

In both cases, lawyers representing the Baha’is have made it clear that they were willing to settle for cards or documents on which the religious affiliation field is left blank or filled in, perhaps, as “other.”

This solution is what makes these two cases different from the lawsuit that was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court last year. In that ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected a decision by the lower that upheld the right of Baha’is to be properly identified on government documents.

Egypt religious freedom cases continued to 22 January
CAIRO, 25 December 2007 (BWNS) — Court hearings on two lawsuits filed by Baha’is over the government’s policy on religious affiliation and national identity papers have been continued until 22 January 2008. The two cases, the first by the father of twin children who is seeking to obtain proper birth certificates for them and the second by a college student who needs a national identity card to re-enroll in university, had been set for “final judgment” by the Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo today.

“It is time for us to stop expecting others to take care of us,” Thomas Homer-Dixon said in talk to a Baha’i audience.Rebirth can follow breakdown, says best-selling author
MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO, Canada
29 August 2007 (BWNS)
Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of the Canadian best seller “The Upside of Down,” says he has spent a lot of time working out a diagnosis of what is wrong in the world today. His conclusion, he says, is scary.

“We are in real trouble,” he said in a talk at the 31st annual conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies in North America, held in mid-August near Toronto. More than 1,200 people from 16 countries attended the four-day conference.

He said five enormous pressures – demographic change, energy scarcity, environmental damage, climate change, and the widening gap between rich and poor – are bearing down on humanity. These problems are magnified by the interconnectedness of people today and the increased capacity for destruction, he said.

People want to turn for leadership to supposed experts – in finance, in science – thinking that someone at the top should know the answers, he said.

“But something tells us that the experts really don’t know what is going on,” said Professor Homer-Dixon, who is the director of the Trudeau Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto.

Although not a member of the Baha’i Faith, Professor Homer-Dixon said he agrees with Baha’is that individuals must become knowledgeable about problems and solutions rather than waiting for leaders to provide top-down strategies.

“It is time for us to stop expecting others to take care of us – those knights on white horses,” he said. “As power has moved down the hierarchy, responsibility has moved down that social hierarchy, too.”

Knowledge is key, he told his audience, many of whom were academics, scholars, or highly trained professionals.

Surveys have shown, he said, that a significant number of Americans of college age do not know that the earth revolves around the sun in one year.

“How can you have a conversation about climate change if you are talking to someone who does not know this?” he said.

Although Professor Homer-Dixon gives a pessimistic assessment of the crises in the world, he looks for hope in what he dubs “catagenesis” – rebirth through breakdown.

“This is the opportunity for you Baha’is,” he said, proceeding to quote from the writings of Baha’u’llah on the subject of knowledge and hope: “Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words. …”

(Sandra Bean contributed to this article.)

(For reports from the Canadian Baha’i News Service on the recent conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies, go on the Web to http://www.bahainews.ca. For information about the association itself, go to http://www.bahai-studies.ca.)


BAHA’I WORLD LOSES MOST DISTINGUISHED MEMBER

HAIFA, Israel, 24 September 2007 (BWNS) — The worldwide Baha’i community has lost its most distinguished member with the death of Dr. Ali-Muhammad Varqa.

He passed away on the evening of 22 September 2007 at his home in Haifa.

In 1955, Dr. Varqa was appointed to the high rank of “Hand of the Cause” by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith. Dr. Varqa served in that capacity, on the international level, for 52 years until his passing. He was the last survivor of the 27 Hands of the Cause who were alive when Shoghi Effendi passed away in 1957.

Dr. Varqa came from a well-known Iranian family that has served the Baha’i Faith with distinction for generations. After obtaining a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1950, he taught in Iran at the universities of Tabriz and Tehran and served the Baha’i community there in various administrative capacities. In 1979 he moved to Canada, and later established his residence in Haifa to serve at the Baha’i World Center.

He was born in 1912 in Tehran, Iran, and received his name from ‘Abdu’l-Baha in memory of his grandfather, who had been killed for being a follower of Baha’u’llah.

Dr. Varqa traveled to many countries as a representative first of Shoghi Effendi, then of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing council of the Baha’i Faith. In that capacity, Dr. Varqa attended the first national conventions held in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Congo, Mauritania, Central Africa Republic, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Czechoslovakia and Greenland.

Dr. Varqa is survived by three daughters and six siblings. His funeral was to take place the morning of 24 September, with burial in the Baha’i cemetery in Haifa.

To view the photos and additional features click here:
http://news.bahai.org

Confidential Iran memo exposes policy to deny Baha’i students university education
NEW YORK
27 August 2007 (BWNS)
The Baha’i International Community has received a copy of a confidential 2006 letter from Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology instructing Iranian universities to expel any student who is discovered to be a Baha’i.

The letter refutes recent statements by Iranian officials, who say Baha’i students in Iran face no discrimination – despite the fact that more than half of the Baha’i university students enrolled last autumn were gradually expelled over the course of the 2006-2007 academic year.

“This latest document, which flatly states that Baha’i students should be expelled from universities once they are discovered, proves unequivocally that Iranian authorities remain intent on utterly blocking the development of Iranian Baha’is, despite what they say to the outside world,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“Along with other recently received reports and documents, the letter exposes a duplicitous campaign by Iran to pretend that it does not violate the internationally recognized right to education while, in fact, the government is actually continuing to implement its secret, long-term plan to prevent Baha’i students from obtaining a university education.

“Coupled with ongoing reports of physical and economic harassment directed against Baha’is of all ages and in all regions of the country, this latest development should serve to remind those who care about human rights that Iran’s 300,000-member Baha’i community remains gravely threatened,” she said.

“Not only Baha’is, but also others – students expelled under directives that target them on absolutely baseless grounds; women whose human rights are grossly violated through the enactment or perpetuation of discriminatory laws; and other victims of injustice in that land – need international defense,” she added.

The 2006 letter is from the Central Security Office of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT) and was issued by its director general, Asghar Zarei, to 81 universities around the country. Stamped “confidential,” the exact date of the letter is undecipherable, although its contents are legible. (Document 1 in list of original documents.)

“[I]f the identity of Baha’i individuals becomes known at the time of enrollment or during the course of their studies, they must be expelled from university,” states the letter, which was signed by Mr. Zarei. The Ministry of Science, Research and Technology oversees all state-run universities.

The directive flatly contradicts public and private statements of Iranian government officials over the last several years. They have sought to portray their educational system as open to Baha’is and free of discriminatory practices.

In early March, for example, newspapers carried a story by the Reuters news agency reporting that some 70 Baha’i students had been expelled from universities in Iran since autumn 2006.

In the Reuters story, however, an anonymous spokesperson for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations was quoted as saying in reply: “No one in Iran because of their religion has been expelled from studying.”

The number of 70 students expelled as of March 2007 as reported by Reuters has since risen to more than 128, out of approximately 200 who were enrolled last autumn after more than 25 years during which Baha’i students were banned from universities in Iran.

Last year, as well, deceitful statements by Iranian officials came to light when Clare Short, a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, received a communication from Hamid Reza Arefi, the charge d’affaires of the Iranian Embassy in London, who likewise denied that Baha’is are discriminated against in their access to higher education in Iran.

“Although Bahaism [sic] is not recognized as an official religion but by law Baha’is are entitled to equal rights,” wrote Mr. Arefi in an 8 June 2006 letter to Ms. Short, adding: “In Iran, no individual is excluded from higher education solely because of his/her ideology.”

Similar statements have been made by Iranian diplomats and officials in other venues.

The 2006 letter from the MSRT’s Central Security Office also makes a clear reference to the secret 1991 Golpaygani memorandum about Baha’is, which was released to the public in 1993 by a United Nations official.(Document 5.)

Despite Mr. Arefi’s assurances that Iranian Baha’is are legally entitled to equal rights, other voices state that the Golpaygani memorandum takes precedence.

That 1991 memorandum outlined a comprehensive plan to “block” the development and progress of the Iranian Baha’i community. The 1991 memorandum states for example that Baha’is shall be denied “any position of influence” and that “employment shall be refused to persons identifying themselves as Baha’is.”

The 1991 memorandum states clearly that Baha’is “must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Baha’is.”

Signed by Hujjatu’l Islam Seyyed Mohammad Golpaygani, secretary of the Iran Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council, the 1991 memorandum was approved by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As such, it reflects the highest policy of the government.

A number of fair-minded Iranian individuals have offered sympathy and a measure of support for the plight of the Baha’is; however, they are largely powerless in the face of the official policy of the government to oppress the Baha’is, Ms. Dugal said.

“The Baha’i International Community asserts that unless and until the Iranian government revokes this pernicious document, there is little hope of any justice for the Baha’is of Iran,” she said.

The Baha’i International Community has also recently received several other documents and letters that clearly indicate the policy outlined in the 2006 letter is being actively implemented.

These documents include:

— A second, follow-up letter from the MSRT’s Central Security Office to officials at Payame Noor University, dated 17 March 2007, which instructs them to “prevent the enrollment of the Baha’i applicants.” (Document 2.)

— An 18 May 2007 letter from the academic counseling and higher education office at Guilan University to the director of university academic affairs, asking for the immediate discharge of a Baha’i student. (Document 4.)

— A 27 May 2007 letter, also from the academic counseling and higher education office at Guilan University, to the above-mentioned Baha’i student, notifying the student that she has been “disqualified” from studying at Guilan, as required by the 1991 Golpaygani memorandum. (Document 3.)