Iran arrested seven leaders of the religious Baha'i community last year, charging them with espionage and alleging that the five men and two women are spies for Israel. Baha'i headquarters are located in Israel.
Iranian leaders view the religion as heresy and it has been banned since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Many followers of the Baha'i faith in Iran have been arrested, imprisoned or executed.
The Baha'i faith is a monotheistic religion with origins in 19th-century Iran. Baha'is are considered Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, with about 300,000 members.
The U.S. has condemned Iran for its persecution of the Baha'is, calling the detainment of religious leaders "baseless."
Worldfocus.org's weekly radio show explored the background and history of the Baha'i faith, religious persecution in Iran and the arrest and forthcoming trial of the seven Baha'i leaders.
Martin Savidge hosted a panel of guests:
Dwight Bashir is a senior advisor for the Middle East at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Mr. Bashir is a specialist in ethnic and religious conflict and preventive diplomacy. He has traveled widely in Europe, the Middle East and West Africa and has lectured and published on a wide array of topics in international affairs, including human rights, religious extremism and U.S. foreign policy.
Kit Bigelow is the director of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the U.S. Since 1985, she has represented the National Spiritual Assembly in the promotion and protection of human rights, including religious freedom, the rights of women, U.S. ratification of United Nations human rights treaties and the elimination of racism. She advocates on these issues at the White House, the State Department, the Congress and the U.N. She has testified before Congress on the oppression of the Baha'is in Iran and of Egypt.
Trita Parsi is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on U.S.-Iranian relations, Iranian politics and the balance of power in the Middle East. He is the author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States" and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute. He was born in Iran and has followed Middle East politics through work in the field and experience on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations.