RELIGION
02/09/2011 09:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Baha'is Press Case Of Relatives Imprisoned In Iran

By Richard Yeakley
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) A delegation of Baha'is is making the rounds in Washington in an effort to raise awareness of the treatment and imprisonment of more than 50 Baha'is in Iran, including seven top leaders of the Iranian Baha'i community.

Iraj Kamalabadi, a Southern California engineer whose younger sister is one of the Baha'is in Iranian custody, said pressure from world governments is the only thing that will win the release of the prisoners.

"What we hope to accomplish is to win more and more support of people with capacity and to shed even more light into the plight of the Baha'is as well as other minorities," Kamalabadi said Wednesday (Feb. 9).

Kamalabadi and three other Baha'i representatives -- all of whom have family in prison -- spoke at a special session of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and also met with Amnesty International.

Kamalabadi's sister, Fariba, was one of seven members of the Yaran, an informal leadership of the Baha'i community in Iran, until she and other Yaran members were imprisoned in 2008.

The trial began two years after their imprisonment, and Kamalabadi and other supporters say the group is being held on exaggerated charges with little evidence.

Leonard A. Leo, the chairman of the independent watchdog panel, vowed continued diligence to assist the Baha'is in Iran.

"There are many things, hopefully, we can do to stop the oppression and defend the rights of not only your family members and your brethren, but many other Baha'is in Iran," Leo said.