Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (9:42): I rise to speak about the ongoing persecution in Iran of those citizens who practice the Baha'i faith. It is a subject that should be of concern to all of us.
Founded in Iran in 1844 by Baha'u'ullah, there are now around six million Baha'is across the globe. Their key message is one of unity—one God, one human race, dedicated to the pursuit of harmony among the people of the world.
Over the years I have had the good fortune to meet a number of people who share the Baha'i faith, some of whom have become close friends. Indeed, my electorate is home to the newly-planned Victorian Baha'i Centre of Learning in Canterbury, and the Baha'i Bookshop and Information Centre exists in Hawthorn.
In my meetings with the Baha'i community, they have raised with me the horrific treatment suffered by their fellow believers at the hands of the Iranian government. Arrests and intimidation, detention and questioning, the confiscation of businesses, school expulsions and the prohibition from centres of learning such as universities are common forms of persecution meted out to Baha'is in Iran.
In fact, since August 2004, 545 Baha'is have been arrested in Iran. More than 100 are still in prison, including seven Baha'i leaders who have been incarcerated for more than 10,000 days. Such behaviour by the Iranian authorities is not only in breach of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights but also but abhorrent to freethinking people the world over.
I am pleased to say that the Australian parliament and successive governments in a bipartisan manner have consistently condemned Iran's behaviour.
In fact, world leaders, including US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird have all called on Iran to respect the rights of the Baha'i community.
In fact, David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister said last year:
I remain deeply concerned about the ongoing plight of seven Baha'i leaders and the continued attacks on the Baha'i Faith in Iran. Your dignity and patience is admirable in the face of such severe discrimination and intimidation for simply staying true to your faith.
The Australian and the international communities must do everything to pressure Iran to respect the people of Baha'i faith until that time comes when the Baha'i community in Iran can practice their faith free of persecution.