The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the mass arrests of Baha’is in Iran. Iranian security forces have arrested at least 11 Baha’is in Isfahan and Khuzestan since November 27 when protests against the rationing of gasoline and raising its price threefold engulfed the country.
“It is appalling that Iran’s government continues to target the Baha’i community rather than meet the demands of its people,” USCIRF commissioner Gary Bauer said.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
Bauer called on the U.S. treasury to continue to sanction officials like Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, Chief of Staff of Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “who are complicit in the systematic persecution of religious communities”. On November 4 the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Mohammadi-Golpayegani for his fundamental role in the “systematic blocking of social and economic progress of the Baha’i community”.
According to Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) security forces have arrested 10 Baha’is in Baharestan, Isfahan Province and two in Omidieh in Khuzestan Province since November 16 when protests began. All of the detainees were transferred to unknown locations, their houses were searched, and their belongings were confiscated, the report by HRANA said.
Meanwhile, according to Campaign for Defending Political and Civil Prisoners (CDPCP) two other Baha’i citizens, a mother and daughter, were arrested in Zahedan and taken to an unknown location on November 19. The Campaign has also reported that another Baha’i citizen, Fariba Ashtari, whose husband is currently held in prison, was also arrested on December 9.
Baha’i citizens’ rights are systematically violated. They are often harassed, forced to leave their homes and businesses, and are deprived of religious freedom, university education and government positions. In most cases Baha’i citizens who are arrested face the ambiguous charge of “harming national security”.
Unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000. Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism but not Baha’ism which was established in Iran in 1863 by Baha’ullah. The Shiite clerical establishment considers Baha’ism a heretical Shiite sect and has always encouraged the persecution of Baha’is.