Seven red roses for seven empty chairs

Seven red roses for seven empty chairs

Seven empty chairs on a stage in NSW Parliament House on Tuesday 7 May 2013 will symbolise a grievous breach of human rights that has deep personal ramifications in Australia.

The chairs will symbolise the places of honour that could have been occupied by seven innocent Baha’i leaders who are now five years into a 20 year sentence in Iran, the longest given to any current prisoners of conscience in that country.

Four of the seven leaders have close relatives who are citizens of Australia, including a son, a sister, a brother, an aunt and a nephew.

At a national forum in Parliament House calling for the release of the seven leaders, representatives of the major religions in Australia will solemnly place red roses on each of the chairs.

That action will follow prayers by each of the leaders and short addresses by some of the relatives.

Appearing in his personal capacity as a member of the Australia Baha’i Community, Mr Ali Noroozi, Australia’s Inspector-General of Taxation, will be the event MC.

A special message from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, will be read to the forum, which will be held  from 12.30-2pm in the Theatrette.

State persecution

The continuing imprisonment of the seven leaders is part of what the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, has described as “one of the most obvious cases of state persecution [that spans] all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education, and security.” 

This systematic campaign of religious persecution of Iran’s biggest non-Muslim religious minority has drawn international condemnation, including by Parliaments in Australia and in other countries and by the UN General Assembly.

The forum is part of the Baha’i International Community’s “Five Years Too Many” campaign calling for the immediate release of these seven Baha’i leaders and all prisoners of conscience in Iran. This global campaign will run from May 5 to 15, 2013.

Australian relatives

The seven leaders are: Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi, Mr Saeid Rezaie, Mrs Mahvash Sabet, Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr Vahid Tizfahm.

Life-size images of the seven will be displayed on 7 May. Photographs will  be taken with the cut-outs and will be distributed via social media.

The relatives, all Australian citizens, who will speak at the event include: Roya Kamalabadi, sister of Fariba Kamalabadi; Mehrzad Mumtahan, nephew of Saeid Rezaie; Amin Tavakoli, brother of Behrouz Tavakkoli; and Ghodsieh Samimi, aunt of Mahvash Sabet.

Faith representatives

The religious leaders present will include: Rev Tara Curlewis, General Secretary, National Council of Churches; Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Senior Rabbi, The Great Synagogue; Dr Amin Hady, Imam, Zetland Mosque; Professor Nihal Agar, Chairman, Hindu Council of Australia; and Dr Eric Kingston, National Secretary, Australian Baha’i Community. The Buddhist and Sikh communities will also be represented.

Five Years Too Many

A spokesperson for the Australian Baha’i Community, Natalie Mobini, said the seven Baha’i leaders are totally innocent.

“For years, and with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the government authorities, they had been merely attending to the basic spiritual needs of the Baha’is of Iran such as marriages, divorces, and the spiritual education of Baha’i children and youth.

“Their continued imprisonment is an absolute travesty, and we call for them to be released immediately,” Dr Mobini said.

Dr Mobini said Australian Baha’is welcome the support of the Australian Government and Federal and State Parliaments, which have joined with their counterparts in many other countries in calling for Iran to abide by its human rights obligations.


Photo/TV opportunity: Life-size images of the seven will be on display on 7 May.  

Interviews: Relatives will be available for interviews at Parliament House on 7 May.

Venue: The Theatrette, NSW Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney.

Date: Tuesday 7 May 2013 Time: 12.30-2pm.

More information:

Visit the official campaign site, "Five Years Too Many"

Read more about the situation of Baha'is in Iran

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