This Saturday 14 May 2011 will mark the completion of a full three years behind bars for six of the seven Iranians who had been serving as ad hoc administrators Baha’i community of Iran, known as the Yaran (Farsi for ‘friends). This milestone comes at the same time as we receive word that the two imprisoned women, Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet have been moved from Gohardasht Prison to Qarchak Prison. Apparently Qarchak Prison is basically a warehouse occupied by about 400 female criminals and political prisoners somewhere outside Tehran.
While Baha’is are encouraged to raise awareness of the oppression of their coreligionists in Iran, we are also asked not to circulate information until it has been confirmed to be completely true. That said, Facebook messages and emails currently circulating on this recent development are underscoring the fears of friends and loved ones around the world for the health and safety of Mrs. Kamalabadi and Mrs. Sabet now that they are in Qarchak Prison.
What type of people are we talking about here? American journalist Roxana Saberi shared a cell with Mrs. Kamalabadi and Mrs. Sabet in Evin Prison for a few weeks in 2009 and shared this account in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post:
…my cellmates’ spirits would not be broken, and they boosted mine. They taught me to, as they put it, turn challenges into opportunities — to make the most of difficult situations and to grow from adversity. We kept a daily routine, reading the books we were eventually allowed and discussing them; exercising in our small cell; and praying — they in their way, I in mine. They asked me to teach them English and were eager to learn vocabulary for shopping, cooking and traveling. They would use the new words one day, they told me, when they journeyed abroad. But the two women also said they never wanted to live overseas. They felt it their duty to serve not only Bahais but all Iranians.
Later, when I went on a hunger strike, Mahvash and Fariba washed my clothes by hand after I lost my energy and told me stories to keep my mind off my stomach. Their kindness and love gave me sustenance.
…I know that despite what they have been through and what lies ahead, these women feel no hatred in their hearts. When I struggled not to despise my interrogators and the judge, Mahvash and Fariba told me they do not hate anyone, not even their captors.
We believe in love and compassion for humanity, they said, even for those who wrong us.
What can reasonable, concerned people do about this? We are talking about the actions of a government that seems to be totally ambivalent to international pressure, content to live in its own version of reality. Do they care what we think? I have no idea what will prove effective in the long run, but it behooves us to do whatever we can, right? Here are some ideas:
- Read the article on this anniversary and latest development from the Baha’i World News Service.
- Read the special report by the Baha’i World News Service.
- Events are coming up in India, the US and Netherlands. Click here for details.
- Send an email to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here.
- Americans! Contact your Senators and representatives to order them to support some particular pieces of legislation.
- Tweet, share on Facebook, email or blog any of the above or other resources that you think your contacts will find useful.
- Pray. Yes, prayer counts as doing something.
Other ideas? Please comment!