Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise before you today to draw attention to the appalling human rights situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in that country.
Last month, Vahid Tizfahm was released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence given to seven Bahá’í leaders jailed on false and baseless charges. Vahid was arrested and imprisoned in 2008 when he was 34 years old. His young son was in third grade and had to spend some of the most important years of his life without his father. Vahid was imprisoned for no other reason than his faith. He was a Bahá’í.
While I am relieved to know that Vahid can return to his family, he returns to a Bahá’í community under increasing pressure by the Iranian government. Despite initial optimism that President Hassan Rouhani would take steps to improve civil rights for all citizens of Iran, the persecution of Bahá’í has become worse under his presidency. Since 2005, more than a thousand Bahá’ís have been arrested — over 300 alone since President Rouhani was first elected.
I am deeply troubled by the Iranian government’s efforts to incite hatred against Bahá’ís.
The Iranian government’s tactics of oppression have also begun to focus on what has been called “economic apartheid.” Bahá’ís are not permitted to attend university or work in the public sector. They are denied business licences, work permits and trade membership cards.
More recently, several independent sources have repeatedly confirmed that Iranian authorities are directing efforts to persecute the Bahá’ís in Yemen, including statements by influential Yemeni leaders that amount to incitement to genocide.
The Bahá’ís imprisoned in Yemen for their religious beliefs at the behest of the Iranian government must be released.
Honourable senators, the response of Bahá’ís in Iran and Yemen has been entirely non-violent, and they have sought to assert their rights to full citizenship through available public and legal channels. However, they require constant support and solidarity from us.
Canada continues to lead on a United Nations resolution on the human rights situation in Iran. We can do more. We can raise our voices individually and collectively to express our support for the Bahá’ís to worship, serve and live peacefully in their communities in Iran. Thank you.