Five years too many

Five years is a long time to grow

It is lunch break on Wednesday, the day when I telecommute and I am taking full advantage of the flexibility it offers. Earlier today while managing web and data projects for a non-profit company in DC, I had managed to also bake a homemade banitsa — Bulgarian savory pastry made with filo dough, feta cheese, eggs, spinach and yogurt — one of my daughter’s most favorite meal. The ability to share a homemade meal with my girls during their lunch break is wonderful. I appreciate the flexibility I am afforded and the precious freedom to talk with Sofia and Juliet about the current affairs of the world and the plight of Iranian Baha’is, whose informal leadership has been unjustly imprisoned for five long years.

Always eager to draw, my seven year old Juliet had prepared a sign “Five years too many” with nine-pointed star symbolizing the Baha’i Faith.

While sitting in the elementary school’s multi-purpose room, I look around and reflect on how much my kids and the diverse group of their classmates have grown over the past 5 years. I realize, in fact, that five years ago they were not even at this school — five years ago Sofia and Juliet were at a delightfully international Montessori preschool.

Five years is a long time in the life of a child — long time in the life of a parent or a grandparent as well — for five years is a long time to grow! Depriving someone from five years of their life would be such a high price!

Yet for five too long years 7 parents and grandparents have been languishing in Iran’s notorious prisons for nothing else but their belief that humanity is one, God is one, and the ever enfolding religion of God revealed to educate humanity of its noble destiny is one.

Five years too many to take away from growth and service to humanity

For five years too many, seven Baha’i leaders have been wrongly imprisoned in Iran. With 15 years remaining on their 20-year sentences they are prevented from continuing to serve both Iranian society and the Baha’i community. Six of them — Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mr. Vahid Tizfahm — were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. The seventh, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, was arrested on 5 March 2008 while on a trip to Mashhad. They were held incommunicado for weeks and spent a year behind bars without access to legal counsel.

The seven formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends in Iran,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iran Baha’i community.

The Yaran’s 20-year sentences are the longest given to any current prisoners of conscience in Iran. Their harshness reflects the Government’s resolve to oppress completely the Iranian Baha’i community, which faces a systematic, “cradle-to-grave” persecution that is among the most serious examples of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world today.

Baha’i communities around the world have launched a campaign calling for their immediate release – and the release of all innocent prisoners of conscience in Iranian prisons.

Prayer Station “Five Years Too Many” for the release of the Yaran

Last Sunday, we held a prayer meeting for the release of the Yaran. We started with two beautiful songs by Grant Hindin Miller, “To the Baha’is of Iran” and “Forgotten“, and continued with prayers in several languages. We concluded with a gorgeous and deeply moving song by KC Porter, “Yaran“:

 YARAN
(KC Porter)

In Spring 2008,
In a world not yet awake,
Seven loving parents,
Arrested for their faith.

Taken from their loved ones,
And stripped of all they own,
Into a small, dark cell,
Their fate would not be known.

Teaching was their service,
Their leaders would forbid,
And now they’re serving countless years,
For things they never did.

Their only crime was selflessness,
And daring to believe,
That until there was unity,
The world would not know peace.

Yaran,
You Are Remembered And Not forgotten!

The world has come to know you,
As friends, as the Yaran,
Your strength and inspiration,
They help us carry on.

Bereft of every comfort,
Through day and sleepless night,
Still, in your darkest hour,
Your spirit’s shining bright!

We will not sleep,
‘Till you’re released,
We will not eat,
‘Till you are free,
How can we breathe,
While you’re in captivity?
A hundred million of our tears,
Are swelling up,
Swelling up the sea!

You Are Remembered And Not forgotten!
Let your spirit sing!

Let us remember these souls who sacrificed freedom for faith! Let us continue praying and raising our voices for the voiceless! Five years are way too many!

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