Standing up for Canberra

Private Members Motion: Bahai Community

I rise tonight to move this motion concerning the widespread and systematic campaign of persecution of Baha'is in Iran.

I thank the member for Moore for seconding it when I submitted it and the member for Newcastle for seconding the motion tonight. I also want to recognise the member for Wills, the member for Berowra, the Member for Moore and the member for Newcastle for speaking on this motion tonight.

The points outlined in this motion are of significant concern to the Baha'i community here in my electorate of Canberra, and I imagine a considerable concern to the Baha'i community right throughout the rest of Australia and the world. I'm very pleased so many of them could join us here tonight for this discussion. Thank you so much for being here tonight. I'd like to specifically acknowledge Dr Natalie Mobini, director of the Office of External Affairs for the Australian Baha'i community, for her tireless advocacy for Baha'is here in Canberra and in the broader Australian community.

The Baha'i faith is a peaceful faith that was founded over 150 years ago and has been present in Australia since 1920. According to the Australian Baha'i community, the faith's central theme is that humanity is one family and that the time has come for its unification into a peaceful global society.

The Baha'i community advocates equality. It advocates education. It advocates scientific endeavour. There are more than five million followers around the world. They come from all backgrounds and can be found in virtually every country on earth. Many, as I said, can be found here in my electorate of Canberra as the ACT Baha'i centre is located in a fabulous location in Weston Creek.

The Baha'i community here in Canberra began in 1951 and, on 21 April 1957, the community became firmly established with the election of its first local spiritual assembly, a local governing council elected by Baha'is in every locality where there are nine or more members. The community here in Canberra has continued to grow steadily and contributes to our city in many ways. From the mid-1980s, the diversity of the community was enhanced by the arrival of Baha'i refugees from Iran. Since becoming the member for Canberra, I've been involved in a number of events at the Baha'i centre by the Baha'i community. Just last week, along with a number of colleagues, I attended the anniversary of the birth of Baha'u'llah right here in Parliament House, where I was proud to share a message from the Leader of the Opposition.

In 2012 and again in 2015, I also raised private members motions in the House condemning the persecution of Baha'is in Iran. Iran has been actively persecuting Baha'is for the last 30 years. In 2008, it imprisoned the entire governing body of Baha'is. That was just 10 years ago that the entire governing body of Baha'is was imprisoned in Iran. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Baha'is have been systematically persecuted. During the first decade of this persecution, more than 200 Baha'is were killed or executed, hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned and tens of thousands of lost jobs, access to education and other rights, all solely because of their religious beliefs.

Persecution is ongoing. One death sentence has been passed and a mass trial is ongoing on similar charges against more than 20 Baha'is. Five of these people are currently imprisoned for their faith. These developments are taking place in the northern portion of the country, which is under Houthi control in Yemen. The Houthis are strongly influenced by Iran, which is continuing its longstanding persecution of the Baha'i community in its own country. The international community must call on the Houthis to drop the charges, release those in prison and cease the persecution of Baha'is. This is urgent.

Tonight, this motion receives bipartisan support, and together we call for the basic human right of freedom of religion and for an end to the persecution of Baha'is in Iran. We also call for the immediate release of all Baha'is currently in prison in Iran for their religion, the Iranian government to repeal all discriminatory legislation and practices; respect for the right of freedom of religion and belief for all; and the repeal of the death sentence against Mr bin Haydara; and the immediate release of all Baha'is imprisoned in Yemen for their religion.