Axworthy, Bani Dugal and Canada’s press mark the fifth anniversary of
the incarceration of Iran’s Baha’i leaders
“You are not alone. There is a
unity. There are others who feel the same sense of outrage,” said Dr.
Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and current
President of the University of Winnipeg, speaking at a public meeting
in Toronto on 9 May. His talk was part of the worldwide campaign, “Five
Years Too Many,” demanding the release of the seven Baha’i leaders in
Iran and calling attention to the increase of human rights violations
in that country.
“Nuclear weapons is a threat; the suppression of human rights is a
reality,” Axworthy noted. He went on to speak about the importance of
the world’s response to the challenge of human security and protection.
“I heard a Baha’i, Dr. Redwan Moqbel, say that, first, unity in spirit,
second, collaboration and, third, giving attention to children and
youth are crucial; and I agree these three points are essential if we
are to try to change the world.”
Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International
Community to the United Nations, and relatives of two of the seven
leaders incarcerated in Iran — Naeim Tavakkoli, son of Behrouz
Tavakkoli and Siavosh Khanjani, nephew of Jamaloddin Khanjani, also
participated in the meeting.
Dugal summarized the history of
the persecution of Baha’is, and the rejection by fundamentalist
religious leaders and the Iranian regime of the progressive Baha’i
principles. She then described the current situation and the details
surrounding the travesty of a trial that led to the imprisonment of the
seven Baha’i leaders. She also spoke of their resilience and courage.
The hundreds of people present were moved by the words from a poem of
one of the Baha’i prisoners, and their behaviour — trying to serve
others, being beacons of light, refusing to be victims even in the
terrible conditions of prison. Dugal closed by identifying the
challenge of prejudice and pointing out that eliminating and undoing
the consequences of such prejudice spread by an unjust regime is the
main challenge facing both Iran and the world today, not merely if the
Baha’is are to be emancipated but if the evil of violence and hate
directed at other minorities and Iranians, who simply want the best for
their country, is to be overcome. This requires, as an essential human
condition, freedom of conscience and belief.
Two of Canada’s most prominent English-language newspapers drew
attention to the challenge of educating the world about the persecution
of Baha’is. The Globe and Mail published a commentary by Lloyd Axworthy
on 9 May, and on 10 May the National Post printed an article written by
Rob Joustra, an Assistant Professor of International Studies at
Redeemer University College.