Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Baha’i’

A New Era in UK-Iran Relations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 23rd August, 2015

UK Iran 1The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is in Tehran today, reopening the Embassy that has been closed for four years following its invasion by demonstrators. Given the recent progress in international negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions this was an inevitable and welcome step. Though Brtain’s engagement in Iran has not always been positive there are strong reasons for the UK — and indeed the European Union — to have closer working relations with this important Middle Eastern power. Commercial opportunities are obvious, but trade should not be the only focus for attention. If there is going to be a regional settlement of Syria’s ongoing civil war then Iran is going to have to be involved. Similarly, wider regional insecurity as well as the fight against ISIS, require closer contacts with Tehran. In particular, it would be helpful to reduce the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has been a central cause of the recent events in Yemen.

UK Iran Britain can also usefully use its influence to try to calm Israeli rhetoric against Iran and vice versa; yesterday, in an interview, the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that Israel had considered attacking Iran four times over the past decade. Iranian propaganda against what it refers to as the “Zionist entity” is often poisonous, but Israel would find itself in a less ignominious position if it withdrew from occupied Palestine. There is, however, one other major issue that could be an impediment in the way of much closer British-Iranian relations and that is human rights. The Islamic Republic has a poor record in a number of areas, including the treatment of its Ba’hai minority, Kurds, political dissidents, LGBT population and others. And although the UK Foreign Office recently downgraded its emphasis on a worldwide campaign against the death penalty it should not let this issue drop off the agenda in discussions with Iran.

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Mark Williams Speaks up for the Baha’i

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd March, 2011

One of the more exotic consequences of Lembit Opik’s failing to retain Montgomery at last year’s general election was that the Baha’i Community in the United Kingdom lost an entertaining compere for their annual Naw Ruz (‘New Day’, i.e. Spring) reception on the House of Commons terrace. Lembit was an active champion of the cause of the Baha’i, who continue to suffer terrible persecution in Iran. Last night, this year’s reception was instead hosted by the Ceredigion LibDem MP Mark Williams, who gave apologies from veteran human rights campaigner Lord Avebury (aka Eric Lubbock) and reminded everyone that even at this time of celebration of the new awakening of Spring — marked by the Zoroastrians as well as the Baha’i, and various ethnic groups such as the Kurds — there was a sombre undertone, namely the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran for the simple reason that they were serving the religious and social needs of their beleagured community. Iran’s Islamic religious leaders despise the Baha’i because the Baha’i see spiritual truth in many places and acknowledge the contribution of prophets and visionaries of various faiths. But their central message is one of peace and community, which makes their suppression all the more outrageous.

Link: www.bahai.org.uk

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Baha’i Seven on Trial

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 19th January, 2010

With all my political and media activities, I don’t always get to the Comments pages of my daily paper every day, but today I was glad to  pick up on Cherie Blair’s article on the Baha’i in Iran in a recent back issue of The Guardian. On 12 January the trial began of the so-called Baha’i Seven: seven prominent members of the Baha’i faith in Iran who have been accused of spying for Israel — a charge which, if validated could carry the death penalty. The case is, of course, monstruous, like so much in today’s Iran, where any sort of dissent or difference is likely to invite harsh retribution. The Baha’i faith began in Iran in the nineteenth century, but has been systematically persecuted since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 because of its eclectic nature, recognising that of God in prophets of all sorts of different religions. It is an essentially pacific religion, universal and based on human values of love and understanding. The Israel connection is largely because the most spectacular Baha’i religious site is in Haifa: a hillside garden arranged in tiers. It is important that the world keeps its eyes on the trial of the seven Baha’i leaders and deplores the maltreatment of Baha’i followers. The Iranian constitution permits freedom of religion, but alas the reality is quite different.

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Lembit Opik, Ridvan and the Baha’i

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 22nd April, 2009

abdul-baha2lembit-opikLembit Opik MP hosted the annual All Party Group for the Baha’i’s reception on the terrace of the House of Commons this evening, timed to coincide with the Baha’i festival of Ridvan. If the celebrations were somewhat subdued for many people present, it was because seven leading Baha’i figures who were arrested in Iran last year are still in prison. The faith, which is monotheistic and teaches that all religions come from God, was founded in the 19th Century in Iran, though its most famous contemporary religious centre is in Haifa, Israel. It has suffered systematic persecution in Iran since shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Bill Rammell, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, gave a speech of welcome and there were written greetings from a  curious trinity: the Archbishop of Canterbury, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. In his capacity as Chairman of the All Party Group, Lembit quipped that he was too wicked to become a Baha’i himself. Wicked? Surely not, Lembit. Just naughty.

Link: www.bahai.org.uk

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