LONDON — On Wednesday evening, Central Hall Westminster in London resonated with artistic performances and moving presentations honoring the 10 Bahá’í women executed in Iran 40 years ago.
This global commemorative event was part of the “Our Story Is One” endeavor—a year-long campaign that honors the memory of the 10 Bahá’í women and sheds light on the ongoing struggle for gender equality in Iran. Similar gatherings have been held over the past days in different countries, including at five Bahá’í Houses of Worship throughout the world.
The event was co-hosted by the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) and the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs of the United Kingdom, bringing together 150 attendees, including government officials, United Nations officials, representatives of international civil society organizations, leading human rights advocates, and journalists from several countries. They recalled that tragic event as a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by women everywhere for the principle of equality. The event was livestreamed and extensively covered by media.
Simin Fahandej, a representative of the BIC, spoke about the significance of the event, saying that the Bahá’í community has dedicated the gathering to “all women in Iran who continue to struggle for the cause of gender equality.”
Ms. Fahandej recounted the harrowing tale of the 10 Bahá’í women whose lives were cut short due to their refusal to renounce their faith. She painted a vivid picture of their final moments and the atrocities they endured.
Among those remembered was 17-year-old Mona Mahmoudnejad, who, in a school essay, wrote of her longing for freedom and equality, asking her teachers why she was not permitted to express her beliefs publicly. This essay would lead to her expulsion from school and interrogation in prison, said Ms. Fahandej.
She added: “Today, we make the wishes of Mona come true. Her message is being spread on radio and television around the world. Her words echoing globally, shared in country after country and heard in a room full of distinguished individuals who have come to celebrate her life and the lives of her nine other community members who were executed with her.”
Also present, Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, stated: “The execution of these women was… a sad reminder of the relentless struggle for human rights and gender equality that has persisted in Iran for decades and which has impacted women of all faiths and backgrounds.”
Fiona Bruce, member of Parliament and the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief echoed these sentiments, stating: “I hope and I believe that the collective voice of… our international alliances working together will be stronger on your behalf than the voice of any individual country alone.”
Speaking about the OurStoryIsOne campaign, Nassim Papayianni of Amnesty International highlighted the importance of this initiative, calling on all people “to join and participate and to elevate the voices of so many others who cannot do so freely inside the country without fear of reprisal.”
In a heartfelt presentation, Jim Shannon, member of Parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated “Part of our job is to bear witness, to ensure that no government can say that they were not aware of what is happening.
“In that spirit, I want to read out the names of those who were murdered, both as an act of memorial but also to have it recorded that despite the brutality of the regime these women still inspire us today.”
Ms. Fahandej highlighted the enduring legacy of the 10 Bahá’í women, explaining, “The Iranian government may believe that by executing innocent individuals for their beliefs, it can silence them, but… as this event today shows, like seeds of flowers which are spread… their voices multiply and their legacy continues and becomes the inspiration for millions.”
The commemoration, she said, was not only about looking back at the tragedy but also about acknowledging the ongoing struggle for equality and freedom.
A recording of the gathering can be viewed here. The event was part of the “Our Story Is One” campaign that was launched by the BIC on 18 June with a two-hour social media event that received worldwide coverage, marking the 40-year anniversary of the 10 Bahá’í women.