Springfield College Event to Address Baha’i Persecution in IranNovember 10, 2009
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Nov.10, 2009 – The religious persecution of Baha’is in Iran will be the focus of the Springfield College Holocaust Committee’s Nov. 11 and 12 program, in Marsh Memorial Chapel, on the campus.
John Woodall, M.D., psychiatrist and founder and director of the Unity Project, will speak on “Cultural Cleansing and Denial of Access of Baha’i Youth to Education in Iran” on Nov. 12 at noon. Also speaking will be Iranians Saghi and Ashkan Fahandej, now graduate students at the University of Connecticut, who were denied access to higher education in their homeland.
The event will begin on Nov. 11 with a 7 p.m. screening of the animated film “Persepolis,” the coming-of-age story of a precocious Iranian girl when fundamentalists took power, forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. The story follows her efforts to cope with life in a tyrannical society and her eventual escape, while remaining deeply committed to being Iranian.
According to Springfield College Holocaust Committee Member Nina Dini, “Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran and are accorded no rights of citizenship or legal protections by the Islamic Republic’s constitution. They are labeled as heretics, and considered dangerous to the Islamic state and Iranian people. Any act against a Baha’i is not subject to prosecution. Many Baha’is are imprisoned without representation.
“Recently, there has been an upsurge of violence against Baha’is, sparked by statements from prominent Islamic clergy. This foreshadows a potentially genocidal fate for Baha’is in Iran. It also may signal the regime’s willingness to confront more directly what it sees as satanic influences in the world, such as Israel and the United States.”
The Springfield College Holocaust Committee annually devotes the fall semester to educational programs about the seriousness of present-day genocides. Its spring educational programming focuses on the Holocaust of World War II.
Woodall, the featured speaker, has lectured, consulted and developed programs on conflict resolution, human rights, trauma response and resilience in Central America, the Balkans, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories for universities, the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
He convened the Task Force for Accountability for War Crimes in the Balkans at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and consulted to the U.S. Congress and the Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on human rights. The Unity Project, which he founded, develops resilient strengths in children. Following 9/11, it partnered with the City of New York for after-school programming for tens of thousands of children affected by that tragedy.
Woodall concluded from his experiences in the Balkans and New York that large-scale psychological trauma caused by conflict situations cannot be dealt with by treating each victim separately. It is also necessary that the situations be addressed politically and socially.
The Springfield College programs are open to the public free of charge.