Motion – Baha’i Faith

29 Nov | '2022

I move the motion relating to the Baha’i faith in the terms in which it appears on the notice paper.

It gives me great pleasure to rise in the chamber today after meeting, out on the parliament lawn, with Iranian Australians and many from the Baha’i faith to speak about what’s going on in Iran but also to defend the right of those of the Baha’i faith to practise their religion without being persecuted. Earlier this year, in my office, I met with Sepehr Abedian and Houta Sabet, two members of the Gold Coast Baha’i Community, and we spoke about their concerns regarding the treatment of their friends and family in Iran. Baha’is are the largest non- Muslim religious minority in Iran, and for decades they have been routinely persecuted, arrested, detained and imprisoned. More recently, international media has reported that homes were raided, confiscated or bulldozed and members of the Baha’i community were arrested in various cities throughout Iran because of their faith. None of this is new. The Baha’i Faith community in Iran has been dealing with mistreatment and persecution for decades. Since 2005, more than 800 Iranian Baha’is have been arrested or detained due to their faith, and there have been more than 780 incidents of economic persecution documented. I heard one just the other night, of a Gold Coaster whose family had escaped on camelback. He won an export award at the Australian Export Awards the other night, in the Great Hall, and is very, very proud of his achievements in this country.

Baha’is are barred from holding government jobs, their businesses are routinely closed or discriminated against and young Baha’is are prevented from attending university because of their faith. Where they can, Baha’i elders hold underground universities, where they can learn and receive an education. The elders must be careful, as those caught educating young Baha’is can be, and have been, sentenced to five-year jail terms. This is the 21st century, and we are witnessing young people refused the opportunity to further their knowledge because of their religion. Many Bahai’s have left Iran, as I mentioned before, to seek a better life elsewhere, including in my community on the Gold Coast. I want to share a story that Seppi—as we call him with great warmth—shared with me during our meeting about a young Baha’i who came to Australia recently.

After arriving in Australia, Sep took this young person on a tour of a nearby university campus where there was an option to study. As part of the tour, they visited the campus library. This Baha’i, new to our country, was so nervous about entering the library that she asked Sep if he was sure she was allowed to go inside. Could you imagine feeling like that—unsure whether you’re welcome in a place where so many of us feel safe, such as a public or university library? It’s heartbreaking to hear the story. To know that young people are banned from places of learning and banned from having educational opportunities is heartbreaking. Baha’is in Iran are subject to systemic violence and harassment with hundreds of incidents reported of torture, physical assault, disappearances, suspicious deaths, arson against homes and businesses, vandalism, cemetery desecration and the abuse of schoolchildren, which is fuelled by a continuous campaign to incite hatred against Baha’is in Iran.

Iran’s human rights record has been a longstanding and serious concern for Australia. During our time in government, the coalition repeatedly raised our concerns with Iran in Canberra, Tehran and in multilateral forums. Australia is a co-sponsor of the annual UN General Assembly resolution on the human rights situation in Iran. We also co-sponsor the UN Human Rights Council resolution extending the mandate of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. In December last year, there was a UN General Assembly calling for an end to the harassment and discrimination against the Baha’i Faith. We are troubled by the high number of death sentences and continued executions in Iran, and the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls, and the LGBTIQA community.

I want to thank the Baha’i Faith community on the Gold Coast for the incredible job they do in raising awareness and campaigning against the treatment of Baha’is in Iran. They’ve done such a great job, and I also want to say thank you to Kimberley Diamond who represents the Baha’i Faith on my youth Gold Coast community cabinet. I thank her for her voice for the future of the Baha’i Faith on the Gold Coast.

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