SOURCE: Not A Crime

Not A Crime

May 18, 2016 16:02 ET

Not A Crime Founder Maziar Bahari Reacts to Iran's Criticism of Former President's Daughter Visiting With a Woman Imprisoned for Her Faith

Government Officials Publicly Call for the Arrest of Faezeh Hashemi -- Daughter of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- Who Met With Baha'i Leader Fariba Kamalabadi

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 18, 2016) - Not A Crime, a campaign to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Iran, today released a statement on the Iranian government's public criticism of a former president's daughter for meeting with a leader of the Baha'i faith currently serving a 10-year sentence for her religious beliefs. Fariba Kamalabadi, the Baha'i leader, was on temporary prison furlough to visit her newborn grandchild at the time of the meeting. Senior Iranian officials are speaking out against Faezeh Hashemi -- including her own father, ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- with some conservatives calling for her arrest.

Maziar Bahari, Not A Crime founder and former Newsweek journalist who was jailed in Iran and later became the subject of Jon Stewart's film "Rosewater", today issued the following statement:

"Iran is fighting a losing battle against the Baha'is. The more the government attacks them -- with arbitrary arrests and the denial of all their rights, including the right to higher education -- the more Iranians learn about the Baha'is and discover they are peaceful people. Every time jailed dissidents meet Baha'is in prison, they seem to become their friends. Faezeh Hashemi said that she didn't know anything about the Baha'is until she met them inside Evin Prison. Iran's hardliners are frustrated by all this attention. Even some otherwise conservative Iranians have showed some support for the Baha'is by not adding to the criticism of the hardliners. I am thrilled that Iranian opinion is shifting in favor of respecting the human rights of all Iran's citizens, but a lot remains to be done."

Hashemi met Kalamabadi when she was imprisoned in 2012 on charges of "propaganda against the state" for her role in protests that followed the disputed Iranian presidential election of 2009. The current political storm escalated earlier this week when pictures emerged on social media of Hashemi sitting with Kalamabadi and other Baha'is.

Over the past year, there have been renewed efforts from the Iranian government to eradicate the Baha'is -- catching the attention of the U.S. government, who last weekend demanded the release of Kalambadi and the six other Baha'i leaders with whom she was arrested.

Bahari, who is not a Baha'i, founded Not A Crime to expose Iran's human rights violations and put pressure on the government to enact change. Now in its second year, the campaign shines light on the treatment of the Baha'is, Iran's largest religious minority. Not A Crime is currently executing a summer-long street art project in Harlem to provoke conversation about education discrimination against the Baha'is leading up to the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September -- when Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, will be in New York City.

The Not A Crime campaign is the most ambitious mural art project ever brought to New York City, with the first campaign covering four of the five boroughs and New Jersey in 2015. Currently, Not A Crime's murals span locations across the globe, including a recent campaign in Atlanta and Nashville and grassroots efforts in dozens of cities, such as Dallas.

"Education Is Not A Crime"
The Baha'is, Iran's largest religious minority, are frequently jailed on false charges and denied access to higher education. There are 74 Baha'is currently imprisoned and more than 200 were executed in the early 1980s after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Thousands of Baha'is are currently studying through an underground education system known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). Not A Crime is working to stop the human rights abuse of young people barred from studying because of their beliefs and is encouraging universities worldwide to admit Iranian Baha'i students.

The education campaign started in 2015 with an Education Is Not A Crime Day (the last Friday of February 2015) and screenings of a film Bahari made called "To Light a Candle" -- and now it has grown into a movement. Mark Ruffalo of "The Avengers", Rainn Wilson of "The Office", Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and rights activist, and Shirin Ebadi, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, have spoken against the persecution of the Baha'is. Nearly 100 universities -- including Stanford and Yale -- currently accept the BIHE certificate.

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