Daniela recently wrote a guest post about the ‘official’ Baha’i guidance regarding the protest movement in Iran: Don’t Speak Out for Them. There she quoted the UK NSA’s guidance to Baha’is to keep mum about the developments in Iran.
I already linked to a similar message from the NSA of the USA. To summarize:
“the believers should be guided lovingly and firmly to distance themselves from either public or private commentary”.
And there are similar letters from all NSA’s around the world. Which means that this is a coordinated effort from the UHJ/ITC but for some reason it was deemed more prudent for the individual NSA’s to write similar letters rather than just one from Haifa.
In any case, it seems that Baha’is are ignoring such directives.
twitter is a new social networking site that allows people to ‘tweet’ 140 characters (or less) messages from their phones, computers, etc. It gained even more prominence during the first days of the Iranian post-election uprising as youth in Iran would send messages, often from the streets, to the rest of the world. With the harsh crackdown on foreign reporters, the youth became in effect the eyes and ears on the ground.
There are relatively few Iranians using twitter. The vast majority of the users are in the US and through the hashtag #iranelection they have been following the reports coming out of Iran and elsewhere. As a gesture of solidarity in the first days of the movement, many changed their account icons to full green or to the text “Where’s my vote?”
Then someone set up a site which would add a green overlay to the existing account icon and thousands showed their support in this way.
Not surprisingly, Iranian Baha’is have been one of the active sub-groups in following the recent developments in Iran. They are still connected if not by an emotional bond, by family and friends who are still there and are feeding them news. Many of them on facebook and twitter have added a green overlay to their account icons. Among the most prominent is Rainn Wilson. Click the image below to see a recent screenshot of Rainn’s twitter account:
So while the NSA’s around the world are telling Baha’is to keep mum about the Iranian protest, it seems that at least through electronic means, individual Baha’is are largely ignoring this and continuing to be engaged in following and supporting the values that the Baha’is Faith stands for: equality, freedom, justice, separation of church and state, etc. Such values are hallowed above all and any political considerations and to cower in a corner, rather than stand up and defend them is to be ignorant of the very essence of our Faith.
Of couse, we have no problem advocating on their behalf when the downtrodden happen to be Baha’is. No. Not at all. We are asked to contact our government, speak with influential people, take our case to the UN, etc. to draw attention to the injustices heaped on Baha’is. But when Baha’is are not directly involved? Then we are told to STFU.
Turning your icon green may seem to be an infinitesimal gesture when compared to the actions of the youth of Iran right now who are facing beatings, arrest, torture and ultimately death but as spectators thousands of miles away from Iran it helps us as much as them to do something.
Finally, to characterize the protests that have taken place inside and outside Iran as ‘clearly partisan activity’ is to demonstrate utter ignorance. The will of a nation yearning to live free is as distanced from partisan politics as the Baha’is right to live without persecution. I understand that the only tool at the disposal of the NSAs is to characterize the peaceful protests as ‘partisan’ in order to persuade Baha’is to not support them. But mislabeling something so blatantly only damages the integrity of the said national bodies.
We must choose to side with our values and if they perchance make us allies with one or more political factions at any point in time, this is merely coincidence. Such seeming partnership is no reason to abandon one’s values and ignore them in the fear of appearing to be supporting ‘partisan politics’. This was the mistake that we made in South Africa during Apartheid when we stood aside while all the values we cherish as Baha’is were trampled.
How is it that we have no reluctance to approach differing political parties in power to lobby on behalf of the persecuted Baha’i minority in Iran? By what magical device is such activity and partnership not deemed to be ‘partisan’? How different is it to supporting any other group that is persecuted and has their rights removed?
Here is a letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Iranian Baha’is regarding the recent events.