Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the global day of action for the Education is Not a Crime campaign to dramatize the painful reality that education is a crime for the Bahá’i community in Iran, a case study of the persecution and prosecution of the Bahá’i, Iran’s largest religious minority, who are treated as non-citizens devoid of fundamental rights, including being arrested for their beliefs at an alarming pace; violent attacks on the Bahá’i continuing to go unpunished amidst a culture of impunity; state-sanctioned incitement to hatred of the Bahá’i dramatically increasing, by tenfold in 2014 alone; and seven Bahá’i leaders continuing to suffer arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and detention, in which the trial of the seven is a trial of the Bahá’i community as a whole.
The Iranian government has made being a Baha’i a crime, but we can change that. We can give voice to their rights. We can tell the Iranian government, as Bishop Tutu put it, that banning the Bahá’i is hurting Iran and the Iranian people. As former Iranian Canadian political prisoner Maziar Bahari put it, and the slogan for this global campaign reads, we can light a candle on their behalf.