On October 8, five Baha’is from the Portland area met with Jeanne Atkins, State Director of Senator Jeff Merkley’s Office to raise awareness of the persecutions of the Bahai’s in Iran and specifically the plight of the seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned there.
The delegation, which included Merat Bagha, Farzaneh Kord, Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, John Ng and Nancy Puente, acknowledged Senator Merkley’s views on the principle of universal freedom including freedom of religion and cited his recent article in the Oregonian regarding the Muslim Center being constructed in Lower Manhattan. Given his views on this principle, the delegation offered the human rights violation of the Iranian Baha’is as an issue of interest and concern to the Senator.
Explaining the history of the current situation, the delegation described the arrest, imprisonment, sham trial and sentencing of the members of the Baha’i leaders. Most recently the 20 year prison sentences for these Iranian Baha’is was reduced to 10 years, most likely a result of international pressure on Iran to maintain human rights standards. In light of these developments, the delegation suggested that any strong statement from the Senator would have a direct impact on the situation in Iran.
The delegation then detailed the types of systematic persecution endured by the Iranian Baha’is, including denial of education, unwarranted arrests and harassment, intimidation, inability to work, receive a pension or have a proper burial. Several of the delegation shared personal stories of their own family and friends being arrested and/or murdered in Iran as a result of simply being Baha’i.
Ms. Atkins asked many questions on the denial of rights of Iranian Bahais and Baha’is in other countries and what is being done nationally and internationally. Concluding the meeting, Ms. Atkins thanked the delegation for sharing the information on the plight of the Baha’is in Iran and promised to convey to Senator Merkley the delegation’s request for assistance.