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Marie-P. Charette-Poulin

The Hon. Marie-P. Charette-Poulin, O.St.J., B.A., LL.B., M.A. Called to the Senate of Canada in September 1995, Senator Marie-P. Poulin was the first woman to chair the Senate Liberal Caucus, and the first senator to chair the Northern Ontario Liberal Caucus.

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Baha'i Community in Iran

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Statement made on 16 June 2010 by Senator Roméo Dallaire

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire:

Honourable senators, I would like to talk to you about a most serious situation in terms of preventing mass atrocities and potentially even genocide against the Baha'i community in Iran.

Honourable senators, I rise to draw your attention to the extremely difficult situation confronting the Baha'i community of Iran. With roughly 300,000 members, the Baha'i community is Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority.

Honourable senators may be aware that the Iranian government, ever suspicious of religious minorities, systematically persecutes leaders from the Baha'i community in violation of domestic and international laws. Seven members of the group that coordinated the social and spiritual affairs of the Baha'i community in Iran have been imprisoned for two years on trumped-up charges. Their trial took place this past Saturday. It has now concluded and the verdict is eagerly being applied.

However, state-sanctioned persecution also extends to the broader Baha'i community. The Iranian government has sanctioned arbitrary arrests and detention, mass expulsion from educational institutions, and denial of employment in the public sector, along with the incitement of hatred and the constant threat of violence.

As a member of the United Nations' Secretary-General's Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention I can say that there is no clearer example of a nation leading its way into a potential genocide scenario. It is meeting all the criteria.

Having banned the elected bodies and the ad hoc groups responsible for seeing to the needs of the Baha'i community, the Government of Iran is now attempting to prevent Baha'is from having any form of community life, a flagrant denial of the religious freedoms outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The government's efforts to identify and monitor individual members of the Baha'i community are a particularly troubling part of the strategy to eliminate the Baha'i community of Iran as a viable entity. In the past, aggressive efforts to identify members of a minority group often have been the precursor to deliberate and premeditated violence in the form of ethnic cleansing and, ultimately, genocide.

Individual members of the Baha'i faith have been summoned to government offices and asked to identify members of their communities who are involved in planning religious gatherings and other events. Others have been ordered to leave their homes or to sign agreements stating that they will no longer speak to specific individuals. The Ministry of Intelligence also disrupts events and asks those in attendance if they are members of the Baha'i administration and how they are receiving the messages from the international governing body of Baha'i in the United Kingdom. As well, the government has been known to spread misinformation about the Baha'i community, claiming that they are spies and that they encourage other Iranians to take whatever action they wish in response to baseless allegations against members of the Baha'i community. We are watching genocide in slow motion in Iran.


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