Features

UN + Hostages + Race Unity

September 27, 2019
Maziar Bahari
2 min read
The families of people held in Iranian jails have launched the Families Alliance Against State Hostage Taking, a show of strong solidarity, but also a unified demand for action at the UN
The families of people held in Iranian jails have launched the Families Alliance Against State Hostage Taking, a show of strong solidarity, but also a unified demand for action at the UN
The MP Parvaneh Salahshouri was targeted for her support for jailed activist Sepideh Gholian
The MP Parvaneh Salahshouri was targeted for her support for jailed activist Sepideh Gholian
Sepideh Gholian has spoken out for all women prisoners
Sepideh Gholian has spoken out for all women prisoners
Fariba Adelkhah is one of several dual nationals currently in jail in Iran
Fariba Adelkhah is one of several dual nationals currently in jail in Iran

Hello from New York, where I’ve been at United Nations General Assembly side events speaking about dual nationals and foreign nationals held hostage in Iranian jails. One of the points I’ve been making is that it is imperative that governments take measures to protect their citizens before they travel to Iran, whatever their reason might be — to see family, promote culture and research or launch business initiatives. As we have seen, putting in place these protective measures is much easier than trying to negotiate releases in an ever-more-tense political climate.

Also, the families of people currently in Iranian jails have launched the Families Alliance Against State Hostage Taking, a show of strong solidarity, but also a unified demand for action at the UN. As Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of jailed Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe puts it, “This is not an American problem; it’s not a British problem; it is becoming an international problem.”

Ratcliffe talks about the bravery of calling these jailed dual nationals and foreigners what they are: hostages. We know too that Iranian workers and civil society activists currently in prison are also showing immense bravery, including Sepideh Gholian, who has spoken out on behalf of all women prisoners and described how her interrogator tried to get her to “dance to his song” — a demand she refused to honor, even though it has cost her her freedom. “Listen to my voice,” Gholian says in an audio clip smuggled out of Gharchak Prison. Not only has she been targeted for speaking out, so have others who defend her, including female MP Parvaneh Salahshouri, the victim of a smear campaign, and who has seen fake news about her family widely disseminated across social media.

This week we also launched RaceUnity.us, a website and oral history initiative that tells the stories of American Baha’is and their work to combat racism and promote equality. Starting with the story of a Baha’i leader’s visit to the US in 1912, the project, led by our Education is Not A Crime team, also interviews Baha’is who championed racial unity when it was an absolute taboo in the country, and documents the experiences of those who took part in the Civil Rights Movement. They have a profound and moving understanding of what has been achieved — and what obstacles lie ahead — for racial equality in the US today.

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