Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Rainn Wilson’s Baha’i Background and Iran’s Prisoners of Conscience

Hollywood actor Rainn Wilson, best known for bringing life to the aggravating geekery of Dwight Schrute in the NBC sitcom “The Office,” is using his celebvocat status to advocate for the release of seven religious leaders currently imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Wilson was raised Baha’i by his parents, who converted in the 1960s, he told HOH.

The Baha’is of the United States, an official organization, says that the Iranian government has wrongly imprisoned seven Baha’i leaders and given them unreasonably harsh 20-year sentences.

“They’re not out to convert people,” Wilson said in an interview before an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Monday. “They’re just out to have their faith.”


Rainn Wilson speaks about the state of Baha'i prisoners to an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on May 6, 2013/CQ Roll Call, Julie Ershadi

Wilson speaks about the state of Baha’i prisoners to an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

The Baha’i faith began in the mimd-1800s in Iran. A statistics sheet produced by the Baha’i Library Online, an unofficial religious resource, shows that the faith had spread to 190 countries as of 2001.

Wilson isn’t trying to be a spokesman for the Baha’i faith, he said, but to use his fame to draw attention to the plight of its practitioners.

Roxana Saberi, an American journalist of Iranian and Japanese heritage who was imprisoned in Iran in January 2009, was invited to speak at the event about her experience in prison.

In an interview with HOH, she said the situation has gotten worse over the years; moreover, the outcome of Iran’s presidential elections in June might or might not have an effect on the state of affairs in that country.

“It’s unpredictable,” she said.

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