Translation by Iran Press Watch
Last month more than twenty businesses owned by Baha’i citizens were closed and sealed off by the Office of Public Places under the Supervision of the Police Force by the order of the prosecutor’s warrant, in the Province of Khuzestan.
Economic pressure on the Baha’i Community in Iran is not a new story. The financial repression of the Baha’is began in the first years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Initially, all Baha’i citizens were expelled from government positions. Those affected went to private sector and self-employment. Yet, In the private sector, Baha’is have always been faced with barriers such as cancellation of existing business permits, as well as agencies refusal to issuance new or renew permits. Business owners, buyers and sellers, are pressured by the Ministry of Information to stop trading with Baha’is, and Baha’is workers face layoffs from non-Baha’i business owners. Over the past four decades systemic economic pressure on Baha’is has been ongoing, but in recent years a marked increase has occurred in various cities of Iran, with Bahá’ís finding the businesses closed and sealed by the Office of Public Places Supervision. These closures occur often when a business has been closed for a day in observance of a Baha’i Holy Day.
The shutting down any business on the pretext of the religious beliefs of the owner is in clear violation of Articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. According to these principles, the dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned and investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief. Also, according to Article 77 of the Bill of Citizens’ Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was signed by Hassan Rouhani, the President, “the right of citizens who, freely and without discrimination and in accordance with the law, choose the profession they are inclined to and assume working in it. No one can deny this right to any citizen for reasons of ethnicity, religion, gender, or in political or social tendencies. ”
In this regard, the Special Assistant to the President on Civil Rights issues, Shahindokht Molaverdi, addressed a meeting on December 2, 2017, at a conference entitled “Review of the Realization of Citizens Rights.” And said: “On the sealing off of Commercial Places and Preventing the Activities of Bahá’ís, some inquiries from the president’s Chief Legal Officer have been made, and we are discussing this through the law to find a solution to the issue. I think we’ll come to a conclusion soon. ”
Despite Mr. Molaverdi’s statement, over the past year dozens of Bahá’í-owned businesses, in various provinces of the country including Mazandaran, East Azarbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Khuzestan, and Alborz, have been closed and sealed by authorities following the owner’s closure for religious observance. In the past month alone, 21 Baha’i-owned businesses in Khuzestan, Abadan, Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, and Omidieh, were sealed by agents of the Office of Public Places Supervision on the order of the judicial authority, on charges of closing the place of business on Saturday, November 10th, due to religious reasons.
A Baha’i citizen from Khorramshahr tells Iran Wire that Baha’is of the world every year shut down on this day, which is one of their holy days. On the other hand, each business owner, according to the County’s Business Guild laws is authorized to close business for 15 days a year without notifying an authority. I also in view of this law shut down on Saturday, November 10th which was a Bahá’i holy day. On Wednesday night, the Office of Public Places informed me that they would seal off my shop tomorrow. On Thursday, November 8th, several agents from the Office of Public Places under the title of intelligent Police came to my place of work, and with the assistant prosecutor’s warrant to seal off the Bahá’ís places of business, they threw us out and sealed off the shop, without sticking any notification.
This Baha’i citizen continued, “From ten Baha’is places of business in Khorramshahr, they sealed off five of them simultaneously on Thursday, November 15. The neighbors told us that on Saturday, certain people were photographing our shops. On Saturday, November 17, we went to the offices of Public Places where they said that our case was sent to the court and we should go to the justice department for follow-up. At the judiciary, we found that the closure of our businesses is being investigated under the supervision of Mr. Mehman Nawaz, the investigator of the second branch of the Khorramshahr Court of Justice. “The case was initially filed by a complaint by the Khorramshahr Office of the Public Places against Baha’is.” Office of Public Places submitted a letter to the case interrogator that they have warned the Baha’is previously that they should not shut down on the misguided Bahá’i holy days. Otherwise, their places of business would be sealed off, but they closed their shops ignoring this notice.”
After a few days, a letter from the Office of Intelligence was attached to the case. “The Office of Intelligence, as a private plaintiff, has accused us of having meetings with the enemies when we close on our religious holidays. The case prosecutor said that we are charged with cooperating with the enemies, and we should be interrogated at the Khorramshahr Office of Intelligence, and after interrogating and declaring verdict by the office mentioned, our case will be resumed again. Meanwhile, they told us, “to prepare a title deed as well, because it is necessary for putting the bail.” After a few seconds, he says: “the payback for follow-up on our sealed off shops, is to be accused of cooperating with enemies, to be summoned and interrogated.” These days, we, six Baha’i families (two families owned one shop), waiting for the Office of Intelligence who is the plaintiff to summon and interrogate us, perhaps this is the only solution to get rid of these difficult economic conditions that we suffer!”