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14 May 2013

Alliance joins call to release Bahá’í prisoners in Iran

Alliance joins call to release Bahá’í prisoners in Iran

The Alliance's head of public affairs was among a delegation of faith leaders from across the UK who today pressed the Foreign Office to push for the release of Baha'i leaders in Iran.

Five years ago, the Iranian government imprisoned seven former leaders of the Bahá’í community because of their beliefs.

The Bahá’í faith was founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia and its adherents have long been persecuted in Iran.  

In a letter addressed to William Hague, the foreign secretary, leaders of the UK's faith communities called on him to renew his support for the prisoners.

The letter, which was delivered to foreign office minister Alistair Burt MP in parliament today, said: "Iran has abandoned every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard, routinely violating the human rights of its citizens.  The government’s shocking treatment of its religious minorities is of particular concern to us as people of faith.

"The state-sponsored persecution that has plagued the Bahá’ís for decades is an egregious example of Iran’s violence against minorities."

Dr Don Horrocks, the Alliance's head of public affairs, joined faith leaders including Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Vivian Wineman – president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid – chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK.

Don said: "It is a privilege to stand with other faith leaders in formally asking the foreign secretary to do all he can to join other world leaders in pressing Iran to release the Bahá’í leaders who have been imprisoned in their own country for five years for no other reason than their beliefs.

"Religious liberty is a precious freedom but is also an increasingly global issue. As Christians suffer persecution on account of their faith in many parts of the world it is right to stand shoulder to shoulder with those of other faiths who, as religiously persecuted minorities, suffer in similar ways."
Speaking after the meeting, Alistair Burt MP said: "I am happy to accept this open letter calling for the release of seven Bah á’í leaders currently in prison in Iran. It is a fine example of interfaith co-operation from across the many faith groups in the UK. 

"The letter coincides with the fifth anniversary of the incarceration of the seven Bahá’í leaders on baseless charges. The continued persecution of the Bahá’í is but one example of the intolerance that many religious minorities face in Iran. I urge Iran to release the seven Bahá’í leaders and to take immediate steps to stop the systematic persecution of the Bahá’í community. 

"Iran should stop the repression of any group on the grounds of their religion or belief, should respect the human rights of all its citizens, and engage seriously with the international community on improving its human rights record."