Birthday Party For Sister In Jail
A Message of Joy From Rosa: "My sister, Rozita Has Been Released Today Wednesday, 21 January 2015, After Spending 5 Years in Prison in Iran." Rozita’s seventy-year-old mother, who has witnessed the ongoing persecution of her family, bailed out her daughter by leveraging their home. Rozita was released from prison, and while awaiting her court hearing, endured several home invasions and episodes of property confiscation. Rozita was summoned, with several other members of the Baha’i community, in January 2010 to hear the court’s decision on their fates. Rozita received a 5 year prison term and banned from leaving Iran for 10 years. [Read More: IranPressWatch]
What could be more ordinary than a woman organizing a celebration for her sister's birthday? Except in this case, the hostess is Melbourne writer Rosa Vasseghi, and her hundred guests won't be able to wish the guest of honour a happy birthday. That is because Rosa's sister, Rozita, is currently serving a 10-year prison term in Iran for being a member of that country's Baha'i religious minority.
Welcome to one of Melbourne's more extraordinary birthday parties.
Not only will the guest of honour be absent, but the venue is an unlikely one for a birthday celebration. It will be held at Foundation House (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture), 6 Gardiner Street, Brunswick on Friday 27 September at 6.30pm.
Guests will include Rosa’s many friends—an MP, mayors and city councillors, representatives of Melbourne’s religious communities, media personalities, refugee advocates, artists, musicians, teachers, doctors, authors and police. The gathering will be addressed by Wills MP Kelvin Thompson; Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture director, Paris Aristotle; Moreland City mayor, Oscar Yildiz; Melbourne Pen president, Arnold Zable; Foundation House counsellor-advocate, Mardi Stow; Baha’i spokesperson, Natalie Mobini. Rosa Vasseghi will also address the gathering, beginning with these words: “Today is your birthday and you are behind closed doors. When I wake up and look at out of my window I feel as though I have lost some something…” [speech available here]
Rozita Vasseghi, who will be marking her 45th birthday behind bars in Mashhad is no stranger to Melbourne.
In 2008 she visited her sister Rosa who had come as a refugee to Australia in 1999. Rozita enjoyed six weeks here and took back toy kangaroos for orphans in Iran. After her return, she was arrested on the false charges of “teaching against the regime, taking action against national security and insulting religious sanctities”. After a sham trial in 2009 in which no evidence was presented, Rozita was detained in March 2010 and then, as Rosa recalls, could not be found by her family in the prison system.
“My mother eventually discovered that Rozita had been held in solitary detention in a Ministry of Intelligence Detention Centre in Mashhad for more than six months,” Rosa said. “When my mother was first permitted to see Rozita she barely recognised her because she had lost so much weight, was in pain and could barely walk.”
Last year, Rozita was taken to court again in shackles and sentenced to a total of 10 years imprisonment.
Her treatment is part of a widespread, ongoing and systematic program of persecution of the 300,000 Baha’is in Iran. This assault on a peaceful, law-abiding religious community is marked by dawn raids, frequent arrests, long jail terms for leaders and ordinary members, bans on tertiary education, desecration of cemeteries, defamatory media campaigns, and the firebombing and closure of businesses.
Baha’is believe that there is one God, that the core of the world religions is one, and that humanity is one family and should be united in a world society where men and women of all backgrounds are equal. They are being targeted by the clergy-run regime in Iran because the Baha’i Faith was established after Islam, a heresy to Islamic fundamentalists.
Visit the official website of the Australian Baha’i Community: www.bahai.org.au - Venus Khalessi
Director of Public Information - email@example.com - 0412 344 865
(Photo with billboard: World calls for unconditional release of Baha'is and all Iranian prisoners of conscience - Sydney's famous opera house in Australia provides the backdrop for a mobile billboard depicting Iran's seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders, on Sunday 1 April, 2013.[http://www.bic.org])