May 14 marks the fifth anniversary of the imprisonment of seven members of the Baha'i Faith in Iran by the theocratic Islamic government of Iran. These five men and two women were all members of a national-level group known as yaran-i-Iran or "Friends in Iran."
Some 20 months after being imprisoned without charge, a trial began on Jan. 12, 2010. Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received hardly one hour's access to their legal council and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship.
The seven were charged with, among other things, espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, the establishment of an illegal administration - charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants.
Their crime, though, is nothing more than being members of the Baha'i faith, a religion which has been a focus of systematic government-sponsored persecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Indeed, the trial of the seven in many ways was the trial of an entire community of Iran's largest minority. Over the last 30 years, more than 200 Baha'is have been killed, hundreds more imprisoned, and thousands deprived of jobs, education and the freedom to worship.
Speaking in Geneva, Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, said "It is really one of the most obvious cases of state persecution and all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education and security."
The Baha'i faith is an independent, monotheistic religion established in virtually every country of the world. The Baha'i's of West Virginia celebrated their 95th anniversary in 2011.
Baha'is believe the world's major religions represent unfolding chapters in God's teachings for humankind.
The writings of Bahaullah, founder of the Baha'i Faith, has as its central teaching unity. Major Baha'i tenets include the oneness of humanity, equality of men and women, elimination of prejudice, harmony of science and religion, universal education and world peace.
All are welcome at the Baha'i Center, 166 Sunset Drive, Charleston, at 11 a.m. Sunday to offer prayers remembering the imprisoned Baha'i' in Iran, the injustices imposed on them, and their sacrifices.
Azita Misaghi, D.D.S
Misaghi is chairwoman of Baha'is of Charleston.