Washington, 19 February (IranVNC)—Iran is engaging in a “systematic” effort to “eradicate” the banned Baha’i faith in that country, a senior analyst at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom [USCIRF] told IranVNC yesterday.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Judiciary spokesperson, Alireza Jamshidi, said that seven Iranian members of the national Baha’i coordinating committee, charged with espionage, could be indicted by next week. The seven individuals have been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison, since their arrests in March and May 2008.
“There’s now a systematic, clear effort to eradicate and destroy the Baha’i community at large,” said Dwight Bashir, a senior policy analyst at the USCIRF.
Bashir told IranVNC that the seven Baha’is who were charged with espionage were part of a coordinating group for educational and other social activities.
“So these kinds of activities and so clearly the charges that are being leveled by the regime here, I think add to the growing concern that there could be some ominous results in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.
Bashir also urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to press Iran on its human rights record, in any future dialogue with Tehran.
“We have said very clearly that… in terms of potentially wanting to open the hand if Iran unclenches its fist, as President Obama has said, that there needs to be clearly an agenda item, right at the top there on human rights issues,” he told IranVNC.
On 13 February, the USCIRF expressed concern over the imminent trial of the seven Baha’is, saying the charges were “baseless” and that the case lacked due process.
“It is disappointing that the Iranian government is demonstrating that it will use any pretext, however baseless, to harass and detain those whose religious beliefs differ from those enforced by the state,” said commission chair, Felice Gaer.
The Baha’i faith, which was founded in Iran in 1863, is not recognized by the Iranian government.
According to the Baha’i World News Service, nearly 30 other members of that faith are imprisoned in Iran “solely on account of their religion.” They too have been “falsely charged” and are awaiting trial, the group said.
Established in 1998, the USCIRF monitors the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief outside the United States. The commission provides independent policy recommendations to the US president, secretary of state, and lawmakers.