Let me begin my brief remarks with a question: why is President
Ahmedinejad, who appears to be the antithesis of most of what the
beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stood for (See, for example, Karen
Armstrong's book, Muhammad-A Biography of the Prophet) being hosted
this week in Manhattan at an interfaith dinner, reportedly with The
World Council of Churches, the American Friends Service Committee, the
Mennonites, and the US section of the World Conference of Religions
Who at the event will mention the thousands upon thousands of
children, women and men who are murdered victims of Iran's regime
The event, billed as a dialog, comes the same month that the U.N.'s
very patient nuclear agency announced that it has reached a "dead end"
with Iran due to its refusal to cooperate. The regime has long used
'pretend dialog' primarily to buy time in order to make progress in
developing its nuclear weapon capability.
The Iranian government is also intensifying, although it hardly seems
feasible, the persecution of its own people. Two women in Tehran are
to be stoned to death on allegations of adultery. Others are also
imprisoned and killed for apostasy and blasphemy, although the Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) clearly said that there is to be no compulsion in
matters of religion.
The dinner coincides with the Iranian parliament's adoption of a
mandatory death penalty for "apostasy." Among its primary targets are
the 300,000-350,000-member Bahai minority. Bahais are already excluded
from universities and many occupations, such as "catering"
"childcare," and "real estate."
The entire Bahá'í leadership remains in Evin prison, having been held without charges or access to legal counsel since May14 in the case of six and since early March in the case of the 7th - and have only recently been moved out of solitary confinement;
the Iranian government knows full well that its claims that
Bahá'ís are acting against national security and are Zionist spies are
the Iranian government is pursuing its policy of extinguishing the Bahá'í community as a viable entity through a wide range of UN-documented human rights violations carried out by the state directly and, increasingly, indirectly, through non state actors;
the regime has created a climate encouraging the persecution of the Bahá'ís through the publication in government- controlled media of articles vilifying the Bahá'í Faith, its teachings and followers.
Most of those prosecuted for apostasy are Muslims. Last year, three
student activists, Ehsan Mansouri, Majid Tavakoli, and Ahmad
Ghassaban, were convicted of "insulting Islam." Prominent Shiite
Hashem Aghajari was arrested originally for saying "Muslims are not
monkeys to blindly follow the clerics." At his trial, he said his
punishment was for "the sin of thinking." In 2002, due to
international pressure, his death sentence for blasphemy was commuted
to five years imprisonment, an option the new law forbids as Paul
Marshall and Nina Shea have pointed out.
Experiences of Victim Survivors
Let me relate only parts of some personal stories related last week in
Geneva by Iranians who have fled Ahmedinejad and his predecessors
A man living in France
His wife was murdered by the mullahs. Every Iranian from the diaspora
in Geneva, he said, represents tens of thousands still in Iran who
feel exactly the same way as they do about the regime.
A woman from Norway
She told us she came to Geneva partly because her daughter was
tortured so badly by the regime in 1988 that she still screams
sometimes at night.
A young woman only four years fled from Iran
Many youth in Iran are addicted to heroin and cocaine provided by the
Revolutionary Guards, who above all want Iranian young people to be
passive. Some girls are sold by the regime's agents into other
A woman who spent five years in prison
The judge who condemned her was a mullah who spent only two minutes
disposing of her case. Her son was killed by the regime.
A father with five members of his family killed by the regime
He's raising the children of one of the five. There is nothing Islamic
about the behaviour of the regime, he noted. They use religion only as
a convenient cover for their crimes against humanity.
A grandmother who lost eight family members
One of the eight was 13 at the time of her death; she was raped,
tortured and murdered.
A graduate of Evan prison who was tortured during his two years
His was one of the most mind-numbing experiences. His relative's
grandfather, a grave digger, committed suicide. Why? He told his
family before doing so that the Revolutionary Guards would bring
children of 14, 15 and 16 to the cemetery and murder them there. He
was then forced to bury the children. He simply could not live with
this pressure any longer and killed himself.
My friend and countryman, Irwin Cotler, is absolutely right: the
president of Iran should not be given a dinner. He should be indicted
by the International Criminal Court for his crimes against humanity to
his fellow citizens of Iran.