Dozens of businesses in Iran owned by members of the Baha’i faith have been indefinitely shut down by the authorities after some owners closed their establishments to honor the birthdays of two of the faith’s holiest figures.
“We have done nothing wrong, but we know that the closure of Baha’i businesses on this scale throughout the country isn’t a coincidence,” a Baha’i business owner from the city of Karaj who asked not to be identified told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “I only ask the authorities to be fair. We, too, are Iranians. We have a right to live, have a family, and work for a living to support our family. I hope they open their eyes.”
“I have been going to the business bureau and the local trade association every day, but all they say is ‘come tomorrow.’… Other Baha’is whose shops and businesses were recently closed haven’t gotten a proper answer either… In the past two weeks dozens of Baha’i business have been sealed. I don’t think there is any other reason but our religion,” he added.
Between November 6-10, 2016 the police closed down several Baha’i shops in Karaj, the Campaign has learned. The Baha’i World News Service also reported that 104 Baha’is shops in the cities of Noshahr, Shahsavar, Tonekabon, Amol, Bahmanir, Kerman, Bandar Abbas, and Sari “were sealed by Iranian authorities after they were temporarily closed to observe Baha’i holy days on 1 and 2 November.”
According to the Baha’i calendar, November 1 is the birthday of the Bab, the faith’s prophet, and November 2 is the birthday of Bahá’u’lláh, the faith’s founder.
The Baha’i community is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran. The faith is not recognized in the Islamic Republic’s Constitution and its members face harsh discrimination in all walks of life as well as prosecution for the public display of their faith.
“The sealing of so many businesses demonstrates the emptiness of assurances by the Iranian government that the Baha’i community is not discriminated against,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the New York-based Baha’i International Community, on November 7. “We call upon the international community to denounce these unjust actions and exhort the Iranian government to take immediate, visible, and substantive measures to reverse the situation.”
The Baha’i business owner in Karaj told the Campaign that six agents raided his workshop on the morning of November 6.
“I asked them why they are shutting down my business,” he said. “I haven’t hoarded anything or sold contraband. But all they said was that they have an order to seal the shop. I told them: ‘why don’t you just say you’re shutting me down because I’m a Baha’i and I’m now allowed to have a business.’ One of them said, ‘If you know, why do you ask?’”
Despite decades of international condemnation of their discriminatory behavior, Iranian leaders—particularly the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei—have justified the continued persecution of Baha’is by describing them as “unclean” and even forbidding Muslims from shaking hands with members of the faith.
On September 6, 2016 the Baha’i International Community called on President Hassan Rouhani to put an end to Iran’s “systematic injustice” against Baha’i citizens in Iran.