Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns an allegation made by the official news agency IRNA on 6 August that endangers Nobel peace laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi and her family. An IRNA report claimed that Ebadi's daughter "converted to the Bahai religion nearly a year ago."
A Muslim who converts to another religion is guilty under Islamic law of apostasy, which is punishable by death. By publishing this allegation, the government-controlled news agency has made a serious threat to the life a woman who defends human rights and free expression in Iran. Reporters Without Borders deplores this and urges the authorities to guarantee the safety of Ebadi and her family.
Denying the IRNA allegation, Ebadi told the Tehran daily Kargozaran that she thought it was prompted by her decision to defend six Iranian members of Friends of Iran - a group that coordinates Bahai activities - who were arrested on 14 May. "Two of my colleagues and I agreed to defend them," she said.
Confirming the arrest of the Bahais, the government described them on 5 August as a "group that acts against the country's interest and has links with foreigners, especially Zionists."
The Bahai faith originated in Iran in 1863. Bahais regard Bahaullah, who was born in 1817, as God's last Prophet, a status which Muslims ascribe to Mohammed. Bahaism is not recognised as a religion by the Islamic Republic and its followers are harassed and persecuted. Around 1,000 have been executed since the 1978 revolution.
Q&A: Shirin Ebadi, documenter of refugee issues in Iran
Reuters AlertNet, UK
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