Sealing of Baha’i-Owned Businesses

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Source:  didgahenow.com

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Since the Islamic Revolution, systematic oppression of the Baha’i Community in Iran by the Islamic Regime has been ongoing, with economic oppression being one of the methods used by Iranian authorities to undermine the Baha’i Community in Iran. Policies, such as confiscation of Baha’i assets, has brought a massive fortune to the 1979 Revolutionaries and severe consequences to the Baha’i community. Recent years have seen a marked increase in forced emigration among Baha’is, with economic oppression and resultant financial difficulties being a major cause. It is estimated that the current Baha’i population has been reduced to approximately 300,000.

Campaigns of forced seal and closure of Baha’i business has occurred in recent years in many parts of the country, including Western Azerbaijan, Mazandaran, Shiraz, Semnan, Hamedan and Kerman. In Karaj last year, ten Baha’i citizens had their business sealed and assets confiscated, and to date, despite appealing to authorities, they have not found any relief.

Speaking with Didgahenow on condition of anonymity, a Baha’i business owner in Urmia, whose own place of business was repeatedly sealed over the course of a year, related,

“For the first time, in the year 2016, after the Baha’i holy days in April known as Ridvan, we received a warning from the city’s Public Places Office, ordering the removal of all perishable merchandise from places of business for 10 days, after which the office intended to seal the businesses. After the 10-day period, the Provincial office of Public Places, began the process of sealing the places of business. In 2016, after two months the sealed places of business were unsealed. Of course, during those two months, we were approached many times, including with illegal requests for a pledge to not close the businesses during Baha’i holy days, which were summarily declined by all the Baha’i business owners, and the seals were removed without any such pledges.”

“In June 2017, we received another warning that businesses would be sealed; this time giving us only 3 days notices (shorter notice than the previous year), and eventually on June 22, the places of business of myself and other Baha’is were sealed again – a total of 25 business within a few days.”

Despite of continuous inquiries regarding the unsealing of their businesses, to-date the Baha’is have not received any reasonable response. In this regard, the business owner from Urmia, who is facing economic difficulties due to his religious beliefs, stated,

“After numerous follow-up attempts with all the agencies and authorities in charge, including submission of 25 official letters to 25 different government and official agencies, no logical and clear answer has been given to us. In all inquiries made to agencies such as the provincial government, the Public Places office, Police 197, the police intelligence, the prosecutor’s office, the provincial Imam Jomeh (Friday prayer Imam) and many other organizations, the only response received has been, ‘We are unaware of this issue and there is nothing we can do.’ It should be noted that in most encounters with authorities we were treated cordially and met with respect. However, there were the occasional unpleasant responses as well.”

When asked what policy is behind sealing of the Baha’i places of business, and what exactly is being asked of the Baha’is, the Urmia business owner responded,

“The repression policy against the Baha’i minority in Iran, which has in the recent years intensified anew, manifests itself in many ways. Economic oppression, including forced seal and closure of businesses, banning Baha’is from employment in government and semi-public positions and some the private sector jobs, exclusion of Baha’is from higher education with its resultant impact on employability, are all enacted with the goal of exerting pressure on the Baha’is of Iran, to force them to emigrate or to succumb to their other demands. In my opinion, the policy of sealing businesses is just a preamble to the gradual escalation of other pressures. This systematic pressure definitely has many purposes, of which I personally believe, emotional and psychological stresses and similar problems are the pivotal aspects, which are tied to the forced emigration policy. Anyway, their demands are illegal. For instance, after nine months of sealing 25 places of business, going on since last year, we still have not received a logical response, and have been repeatedly approached, both collectively and later individually, with requests for illegal commitments, even in official forms and on official records, and their main demand is for the Baha’is to work on our holy days, which is against our religious beliefs.”

“In the commercial system, each commercial unit is entitled to close its business up to 15 days. But the Public Places office threatens to void our business license, due to closing during the Baha’i holy days. They do not want us to act against their wishes, and we are not entitled to close our own business, and that we should coordinate with them anytime we want to close our business. This approach is against the law and is only taken towards the Baha’is and not any other businesses.”

Another Baha’i business owner who has had his business sealed, was asked what regarding the attitude of non-Baha’i business owners towards Baha’is, related, “Happily our fellow citizens are on our side and constantly ask us when our place of business will be unsealed. They are unhappy with our unfair and prejudicial treatment and have often shared their thoughts with us on this issue.”

Asked about the difficulties the Urmia Baha’is face, this Baha’i citizen responded,

Sealing of businesses is a small part of the problems the Baha’is in the whole country face, but specifically in Urmia, I should say, Baha’is in every city and province have been dealing with harassment and persecution, and Urmia has not been immune to these injustices. Baha’is in this city, have been subject to deprivation of education, employment restrictions, and repeated summons (by the judiciary). For example, many have been directly told they better leave Iran to avoid further problems. In this city, and wherever Baha’is leave, they have their own problems, no matter young or old. For instance, Baha’i students have faced difficulties as well.”

Since the 1979 Revolution in Iran, the issue of Baha’i oppression by the Iranian Regime has been the subject of many discussions regarding human rights of the Iranian citizens. The first human rights resolutions of the Office of the United Nation’s High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the criticism of the international organizations, were issued against Iran in regards to the harassment and persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. The government of Iran has not shown a positive reaction to all this and has in fact continued to disregard the citizenship rights of the Baha’is and has in recent years continually intensified its pressure on them. Based on an estimate published by the Baha’i community in 1984, more than 10,000 Baha’is have lost their jobs in government and semi-government agencies, even private companies, and the government has also taken steps to cease payment of pensions to Baha’is.

Since the advent of the Baha’i Faith, 172 years ago, and before that, during the Babí era, the successive Iranian governments adopted the anti-Babí and anti-Baha’i approach.

Following the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian Regime engaged in confiscation of the factories, private companies, bank accounts, as well as homes of the Baha’is. Using the accusation of the Baha’is contributing to the state of Israel as an excuse, the Regime noticeably increased pressure on them and justified their arrests. In the documentary “Revolutionary Justice”, in the early days of the Revolution, a group of the leaders of the Baha’i community of Iran (known as the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran), are shown as they appear in court. Among the charges declared against them is transferring funds to the state of Israel. In the early days of the Revolution, widespread arrests resulted to the execution and assassination of at least 200 Baha’is in Iran; many were sentenced to long-term imprisonment. Alongside this approach, the confiscation of their properties was a major part of the decrees issued by the Revolutionary Judiciary of the time.

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