A Message for Christiane Amanpour

On genocide
Added: Sunday, 1 March 2009

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Dear Christiane,
You are currently investigating the reason why the world repeats its cycle of genocide again and again and again. As a member of a community that is on the brink of experiencing genocide right now, this minute, let me share with you one reason why I think these things are able to happen again and again and again. Our global media has failed to adequately pick up on dangerous societal trends before they fester into full-blown genocide.

Several months ago, 7 Baha'is were imprisoned in Iran. The Baha'i Faith is Iran's largest religious minority and it has been persecuted since its inception, but most viciously in the last 30 years by the current Iranian government. Baha'is have been denied the right to attend tertiary institutions, their properties have been confiscated, their graves desecrated, their pensions withheld, their children vilified in schools and thousands of Baha'is have disappeared or been killed.

When those specific 7 Baha'is were arrested last year, I was one of many who went around to the media in my own country, South Africa, asking them to report on this situation and draw attention to the plight of the 7 Baha'is. They had been arrested without warrants and without communication to the outside world. They disappeared for months and their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, did not have access to their case files. She still does not have access to them and faces her own problems in Iran.

CNN and other news channels in the world have been reporting on these developments - on their websites, largely. Thank you. But I have yet to see an actual, big news story on the issue. In my own South Africa, news stations, newspapers and other media have said to me that it's not worth their time to report on these events, unless something newsworthy happens – in other words, unless they are executed. Then and only then, might they begin to report on what is happening.

Now today, those 7 women and men stand to be tried in Iran before the revolutionary court. Their charges are espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic. These charges are completely manufactured and such charges have been used in the past to kill Baha'is. So what will probably happen is that Iran will, in the absence of a proper, internationally monitored trial and in the absence of their lawyer Shirin Ebadi, withhold a proper trial from these Bahai's. They will probably say to the world that these Baha'is have admitted to their charges and they will go so far as to execute them. And they will do that quietly, when the world media is not looking. Because we don't find things newsworthy until they become big enough – and bad enough.

And even if Iran doesn't execute them (God knows what they doing to them right now) – the quiet and systematic strangulation of the Baha'i community in Iran can already be called a genocide. Because when your life becomes unlivable, there is nothing left for you but to die a slow, social death.

My call to you is to publicize this story – more than ever. The world needs to know about what is happening to the Baha'is in Iran. The world's spotlight needs to be on this case so that we can prevent yet another genocide.

We as media people, filmmakers, journalists need to talk about dangerous trends all over the world – so that we don't turn around later say why didn't the world do anything about it? Here is a chance to do something right now.

Help prevent a Baha'i genocide in Iran.

Read the Baha'i International Community's letter to the Prosecutor General of Iran.

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