Tag Archives Human Rights

Changing the World One Wall at a Time: A New Film about one of the World’s Largest Street Art Campaigns

A few days ago in Los Angeles, USA, I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of an exciting new documentary film called “Changing the World One Wall at a Time”. The film is about one of the world’s largest street art campaigns held over the last year to raise awareness for the thousands of young Baha’is who are barred from higher education in Iran because of their beliefs.

The campaign was called “Education Is Not A Crime“, and it was initiated by Maziar Bahari, an Iranian Canadian journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist, who although not a Baha’i himself, feels that the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran (Iran’s largest religious minority) is emblematic of many of the problems Iran faces. Continue reading

Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name

Manijeh Not Only a Change of Name 350x570In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.

Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.

Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.

What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.

With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.

In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”. Continue reading

7 Things Men Can Do to Help Undo the Oppression of Women

As Baha’is we believe in Baha’u’llah’s explicit teaching of the equality of men and women, but believing in something and acting on it are two different things, and we each have to strive continually to ensure that Baha’u’llah’s teachings are translated into our everyday lives.

The reality is that we live in a male dominated world, and even though the landscape of the inequality of the sexes is currently changing to varying degrees and rates in many countries and societies, we’ve still got a long way to go as we’re products of our environment and there’s still a lot we can do as individuals to help change things.

Living in a male dominated world, as men especially, we have a lot of responsibility in regards to this inequality, so I’ve listed below seven things men can do to help undo the oppression of women – but before we get to that, it’s important to understand that we live in a materialistic society, and one definition of materialism is that it’s “a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress”. Given this definition, we clearly live in a materialistic society as success in our society is most often defined as an attainment of material advantage, whether it’s money, possessions, rank, competitiveness, or power. When people talk about what the greatest country in the world is, the greatest corporation, or the greatest sports team, these are invariably the criteria they use. This is clearly out of step with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith:

… consider how base a nature it reveals in man that, notwithstanding the favors showered upon him by God, he should lower himself into the animal sphere, be wholly occupied with material needs, attached to this mortal realm, imagining that the greatest happiness is to attain wealth in this world. How purposeless! … What an ignorance this is! What a blindness! (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 185)

Women are viewed almost exclusively through this materialistic lens. Widespread unhealthy and unchaste images, pressure to spend time and money on appearance, and the distressingly high danger of harassment and rape are just some of the damaging effects. So here are a few ideas for how men, particularly Baha’i men can address this situation:  Continue reading

Some Background to the Persecution of the Baha’is in Iran

The House of the Báb in Shiraz, one of the most holy sites in the Bahá’í world, was destroyed by Revolutionary Guardsmen in 1979 and later razed by the government. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

An issue very dear to the hearts of Baha’is around the world is the situation of the Baha’is living in Iran. There’s been some international coverage about the persecution which Baha’is in Iran face, and many of my friends and colleagues often ask about this. Even a lot of my Baha’i friends are still not fully aware or understand what’s been happening there, so I thought it would be a good to idea to try and explain some of the background and the current situation relating to the persecution of the Bahai’s in Iran. Continue reading

6 Reasons to Steer Clear of Partisan Politics

In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.

Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected. Continue reading

Education: A Right for Everyone

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The recent arrests of some Baha’i’s in Iran for running the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) has been met with outrage across the world.

Iran’s attack on Bahá’í educators has also struck a strong chord with me for a number of reasons.

The BIHE is an online university and it was established in 1987 for Bahá’ís in Iran.  Bahá’ís in Iran have repeatedly been denied access to a higher education ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  A leaked confidential Iran memo in 2006 (from Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology) exposes a government-level policy to deny Bahá’í students university education.

I’m a Bahá’í, and I’ve had the opportunity to go to university, graduate, and now specialise in adult education – but hey, I don’t live in Iran. To be honest, I never thought going to university was such a big deal. I just saw it as a natural continuation from my schooling years.  My only source of stress during my university years was waiting to see if my marks were good enough to get into the course of my choice, as well as some of the last minute study cramming I used to do for my exams.  In fact, my years at university were some of the best years of my life, so far! This is why I find it confusing and unthinkable that Bahá’í students in Iran are repeatedly denied the opportunity to pursue a further education, and even be arrested for trying!  Continue reading

Everyday Human Rights

Just months after the sentencing of the Baha’i leaders in Iran to 20 years imprisonment, Iran has once again come under international scrutiny for its long-standing persecution of Baha’is. On 21 May, a coordinated series of raids were carried out in various locations in Iran on the homes of Baha’is who have been involved with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).

The BIHE was established in 1987 as a way of providing an education to young Baha’is who have been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian regime. Baha’i Thought has a great article up discussing the raids and the Iranian regime’s violation of a number of universal human rights such as the right to freedom of belief and the right to education.

As Baha’is, it is only natural that the issue of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran weighs heavily on our hearts. It is always distressing to be reminded of how rampant war, persecution and injustice still is in today’s world. In this case, it’s particularly devastating to us – as Baha’is – to see the friends in Iran suffer so terribly for a faith that simply embraces all humanity and affirms the value and worth of each individual. Some of us are even friends or family of those in Iran who have been directly affected, making it all the more heart-wrenching.

A few days ago.,I came across a fantastic essay by Matthew Weinberg (published in 1997) which looks at contemporary human rights discourse from the perspective of the Baha’i Writings. I found it to be a fascinating read and it made me reflect on the way in which I – as a product of the society we live in – talk about and understand human rights.

Continue reading