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The Baha’is of Iran—the largest non Muslim religious minority in the country—have suffered the “most egregious forms of repression, persecution and victimization” over the last 40 years, notes Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adding that the Iranian authorties should ensure that all religious minorities are recognized and able to enjoy the right to freedom of religion or belief.
In his report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur outlines a series of human rights violations against the Baha’i community of Iran and other ethnic and religious minorities, and sets out a number of recommendations to the Iranian authorities.
“The absence of constitutional and legal recognition for non-recognized minorities entails denials of fundamental human rights for their followers. Left outside the national legal framework, unrecognized minority religious groups such as Baha’is, Christian converts, [and] Sufis...are the targets of discriminatory legislation and practices,” the report reads.
The report adds that the “constant threat of raids, arrests and detention or imprisonment...remain the main features of the country’s persecution of Baha’is”, and calls on the Iranian authorities to amend all articles in the Islamic Penal Code that discriminate on the basis of religion or belief.
“Given that the Baha’i Faith is regarded as a ‘misguided sect’ and Baha’i worship and religious practices are deemed heresy, they frequently face charges such as ‘breaching national security’, ‘propaganda against the holy regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran’ or ‘propaganda activities against the regime in the interests of the Baha’i sect,’” the report adds.
The report further outlines:
—Since 1979, more than 200 Baha’is have been executed, solely on the basis of their religious beliefs, with nearly half of them representing the elected members of the local and national Baha’i governing councils. Regarded by the Iranian authorities and by the Iranian criminal justice system as “unprotected infidels”, Baha’is have been murdered with impunity and violations of their human rights have not been investigated.
—A total of 95 Baha’is were reportedly arrested in 2018, compared with at least 84 in 2017 and 81 in 2016. This suggests that, while the number of such arbitrary arrests each year may fluctuate, the persecution is not subsiding.
—There have been more than 800 incidents of violations of economic rights of the Baha’is since 2013, including arbitrary shop closures, unfair dismissals from employment and the actual or threatened revocation of business licences.
—Baha’i cemeteries have been desecrated and Baha’is have not been allowed to bury their dead in accordance with their religious laws. Local cemeteries in Tehran and other major cities had been turned into parks and cultural buildings.
First-hand testimonies heard by the Special Rapporteur included accounts of Baha’is arrested by Iranian authorities on the basis of false accusations of spying for foreign states and “using their business to change Islamic culture”. The Special Rapporteur also called attention to the denial of access to higher education for Baha’is in the country.
The Baha'i International Community welcomes the publication of the report and calls on the Iranian authorities to implement the recommendations outlined therein.
“The Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied in UN fora and elsewhere that the Baha’is in Iran are persecuted on the basis of their religion. This latest and well documented report sheds light on the reality on the ground. It is our sincere hope that the Iranian government will finally take heed and redress an injustice that is in contradiction with Islamic principles and their human rights obligations. The numbers in the report are but a sampling of the true extent of the persecution which extends to deprive tens of thousands of Baha’is of university education in large numbers of families of a source of income. ” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.
“The Baha’is of Iran have no goal other than the well-being of their fellow compatriots and their wider society. We look forward to the day when the senseless persecution against the Baha’is will have ceased and Baha’is and other minorities may live peacefully alongside their fellow citizens.”
James Samimi Farr US Baha'i Office of Public Affairs 202-833-8990 firstname.lastname@example.org