I'd also like to welcome those who are here this evening representing the Baha'i community. I'm honoured that my electorate of Mackellar is the proud home of Australia's Baha'i House of Worship, one of just 13 temples around the world and the only one on the Australasian continent. It is a symbol of unity and an icon of our electorate. It stands magnificently in the hinterland of our electorate, nestled amongst the beautiful bushland. It is a place of sanctuary, it is a place of worship and it is a place that is open and belongs to all Australians, where people of all different religions and backgrounds are welcome. This physical building is a reflection of the Baha'i faith and community—one that is committed to social cohesion and harmony and is warmly valued as part of our Mackellar community and as a contributor to Australia's broader community.
The Australian Baha'i Community was established in 1920 and is now represented in over 350 localities and regions throughout our country. They are part of a worldwide community of people of Baha'i faith, an independent world religion with more than five million members. On Wednesday evening, the Baha'i community will hold their annual parliamentary reception to celebrate the birth of Baha'u'llah. This event is also a celebration of the constructive cohesion and resilience demonstrated by Australians across the country and indeed many across the globe. Some of the key principles of the Baha'i faith—such as gender equality, elimination of all forms of prejudice and human rights for all people—are values that are shared by the broader Mackellar and Australian community. In neighbourhoods across Mackellar and across the country, Baha'is are striving to build united and spiritually vibrant communities.
However, as this motion highlights, this is not the experience of the Baha'is in Iran. Baha'i is Iran's largest non-Muslim religion, with around 300,000 Baha'is living in Iran. The Baha'is have a long history of persecution in Iran, especially since 1979 and the Iranian Revolution. Official news media has inflamed this persecution by inciting hatred, which has led to many violent attacks on Baha'is and their properties, including destruction of their cemeteries. Thousands of these attacks over many decades are documented on the website Archives of Baha'i Persecution in Iran, which is administered by the Baha'i International Community, an organisation which draws attention to human rights violations committed against Iranian Baha'is.
Baha'is are routinely arrested, detained and imprisoned in Iran. They are banned from holding government jobs, and their shops are routinely closed or discriminated against by officials at all levels of government. Young Baha'is are prevented from attending university, and volunteer Baha'i educators are often arrested and imprisoned when they attempt to fill the education gap. Since the nationwide protests started this September, there has been an escalation of violent attacks and human rights violations on Baha'is in Iran, including interrogations, beatings and detentions without due process. In her recent address to the UN Human Rights Council, Simin Fahandej, representative of the Baha'i International Community, articulated the deteriorating situation of human rights in Iran. She said:
… the Baha'is in Iran are all too familiar with persecution, with suffering, arbitrary imprisonment, denial of higher education, hate propaganda, executions and daily harassment for 43 years. In fact, what we see in Iran today is the extension of the persecution against the Baha'is to the generality of Iranians. A government that oppresses one group will surely be unjust to all groups in the long term.
I support the member for Moncrieff's motion that condemns the actions of the Iranian Government's persecution of those of the Baha'i faith. Cohesion and resilience are core values of strong communities, and I wholeheartedly support not only the Baha'i community in my electorate of Mackellar but the Baha'i community globally as they face the horrific persecution from the Iranian government. I just want you to know that, here in Australia and here in the parliament as well, we do support you. Thank you for being here tonight.