Several eminent citizens came together at Bahá’í House in New Delhi on Tuesday to express solidarity with the seven Bahá’í leaders and other prisoners of conscience in Iran. Senior BJP leader L. K. Advani along with former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, convenor of Working Group on Human Rights in India Miloon Kothari, and Professor of Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University Amitabh Kundu signed an appeal which would be sent to the Iranian Embassy and the Ministry of External Affairs.

Mr. Advani stated it was disturbing to see the Bahá’ís being subjected to torture and persecution in Iran. “For the success of democracy, the most important attribute is tolerance to the diagonally opposite point of view. Intolerance is greatest in the field of religion, where a person who subscribes to a form of faith is reluctant to accept any other form of faith,” he said.

Mr. Sorabjee said the test of any nation’s claims of being civilised and democratic is the way it treats its minorities. “Ultimately history has shown that the forces of spirit will overcome the forces of the sword. I am sure this will happen in Iran and our hearts go over to the Bahá’ís, who have been subjected to so many human rights violations. I hope that the authorities have a good sense to at least release them.”

Mr. Kothari applauded the statement released by four UN Special Rapporteurs for the release of seven Bahá’í leaders and other prisoners of conscience.

“Religious freedom itself is a cornerstone of democratic citizenship. I think it’s very important that we collectively urge the Indian Government to put pressure. The persecution has reached the level that we need to address the Prime Minister and others and say that they have to publicly condemn Iran for the religious persecution of the Bahá’í,” he said.

Prof. Kundu argued that the Iranian Government was not applying the international laws and covenants. “I totally agree that five years is too much. Let us raise our voice to the Yaran, our friends in Iran.”

In her message, Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed argued that the continuous persecution of the Bahá’ís was inimical to the tradition of democracy and freedom which Iran has always prided itself with. “Protection of the rights and liberties of minorities is the international covenant that binds Iran, as it binds all other state parties. Iran should free these seven women and men in the true spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Dr. Hameed said.

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