Letter: Prisoners of conscience

Prisoners of conscience

Editor of the Reformer:

As communities across the land prepare to honor those who have given their lives in service to our Country, my thoughts and prayers this weekend will include my spiritual brothers and sisters in Iran who are serving unjust prison sentences because of their religion or who lie buried in desecrated graves because they refused to deny their faith in Baha'u'llah, Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith.

Fariba Kamalabadi, is one of seven Baha'i leaders who were singled out for a 20-year incarceration eight years ago. Recently, while on a short furlough to see her family, she was visited by former cellmate, Ms. Hashemi, an activist for human rights in Iran, who also happens to be the daughter of the former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Because of her notoriety, her visit with Ms. Kamalabadi put a spotlight on the harsh treatment of Baha'is and other minorities in Iran as well as raising questions about the labeling of Baha'is as impure, heretics, and agents of Israel.

Some Iranians have spoken out in support of Ms. Hashemi's audacious visit with a member of this condemned religion and questioned why Baha'is are not permitted to work in civil service jobs or attend schools for higher education. The debate raised by Ms. Hashemi's controversial visit with Fariba Kamalabadi coincides with the United States State Department' condemnation of the imprisonment of the Baha'i leaders and call for their release along with other "prisoners of conscience."

So, as we remember the brave members of our Armed Services this weekend, may we also remember those who have given their lives for their religious and spiritual beliefs, their racial and ethnic backgrounds, their sexual orientation and their fight for fair labor practices.

Marie L. Procter, Brattleboro, May 27


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