Baha'i Follower Speaks Out About Religious Leaders' Arrests

March 2, 2009

Author: Deborah McDermott

Source: Seacoast Media Group

Sina Manoucherhi knows what discrimination is all about. As a member of the Baha'i faith growing up in his native Iran, he was prohibited from attending most public schools and denied a college education. His father was kicked out of the military and his brother was imprisoned for selling "Baha'i jewelry."

Now living in Portsmouth, drawn to the Seacoast because of the Green Acre Baha'i Center in Eliot, Maine, Manoucherhi's attention has in recent months been drawn back to Iran.

Last spring, the seven spiritual leaders of the Baha'i faith there were arrested by the Muslim-backed Iranian government, and according to published news reports, have been imprisoned ever since without access to legal counsel.

Just earlier this month, the seven were charged with spying for Israel, "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic," charges which could result in the death penalty. But the situation has received scant national or international attention, something Manoucherhi would like to change.

"When I read about it, I was like, 'Wow.' I know what it's like to be a Baha'i in Iran," said the 26-year-old man, whose parents and one brother still live there. "The charges are extremely serious. As happens often in Iran, the government has shown it has no problems with execution."