Plea to Iran over detained Baha'is


AT A hearing of the Dáil subcommittee on human rights yesterday Senator David Norris said: “Everyone has the right to be an apostate, to change your faith. If convinced, there is a moral imperative to do so.” He felt it was a weakness of Islam that it tried to force people to pretend to believe in something they didn’t.

The subcommittee had been presented with a submission from representatives of the Baha’i community in Ireland on the persecution of their co-religionists in Iran. Senator Norris remembered “the awful consternation” in Ireland “when anyone turned”. It was, he said “the Irish version of apostasy. It was nasty. Why shouldn’t people turn? I fully deprecate any system which claims ‘to know’ – the Grand Ayatollah, my fella the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope. They don’t know. It is wrong [for them to claim so] and leads to unpleasant consequences.”

Labour TD Michael D Higgins warned against Baha’i persecution being “caught up in the sort of bellicose language aimed at Iran . . . none of which justifies its breaches of human rights.”

Brendan McNamara of the Baha’i community in Ireland said that worldwide, the faith had five million adherents. It had emerged in mid-19th century Persia, now Iran, where it has 300,000 adherents today. The Baha’is had been persecuted throughout their history in Iran, primarily because Islam saw Muhammad as the final prophet of God, he said.

More than 200 Baha’is had been executed or killed in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, he said, highlighting the detention of five men and two women, an informal leadership group of Baha’is in Iran, at Evin prison in Tehran since last year. Lawyers had been denied access and there was “little prospect of a fair trial in the circumstances”, he said.

The subcommittee agreed to write to the Iranian ambassador, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Commission of Jurists and its president Mary Robinson, concerning the detained Baha’is.