Baha’is are allowed to practice their faith freely in most parts of the world. In Iran, however, a community of some 300,000 Baha’is, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country, faces severe and pervasive religious persecution. While Baha’is are peaceful and politically impartial, the Iranian government adheres to an official policy of systematic repression and abuse against them. Between 1978 and 1998, over 200 Baha’is were killed, and thousands more were tortured and imprisoned.
While such executions have abated, the Baha’i community continues to face extensive human rights violations. Baha’is are subject to arbitrary interrogations, arrests, and imprisonment, and they suffer vandalism, raids, and attacks on their homes and businesses. Baha’is are denied government jobs and barred from attending university, and they are the targets of an ongoing campaign of vilification in the state-sponsored media.
The Office works with the Department of State, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and other entities within the U.S. government to share information on and to raise awareness about the persecution of Baha’is in Iran. The State Department’s annualInternational Religious Freedom Report and the USCIRF Annual Reportregularly document the persecution of Baha’is. Officials within these entities have made numerous public statements regarding violations of the rights of Baha’is and other religious minorities in Iran.
The State Department’s U.S. mission to the United Nations also supports multilateral efforts to address human rights violations in Iran, including the creation and renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and the passage of UN General Assembly resolutions on human rights in Iran.
The Office also works closely with congressional offices to keep them informed of developments and to promote legislative measures related to the persecution of the Baha’is. In almost every Congress since 1982, the House and the Senate have passed resolutions condemning the state-sponsored persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and calling for the release of Baha’is and all prisoners of conscience. OPA also coordinates with local Baha’i communities across the country to support and advocate for these resolutions.
OPA hosts special events in Washington, D.C. and works with members of Congress on public statements and initiatives to further highlight the situation. Representatives from OPA have occasionally been called to testify before Congressional committees and commissions at hearings addressing religious freedom violations in Iran.