The Iranian government must be “held accountable” for its 40-year campaign of hate speech against the Baha’i community in Iran, the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, according to a new statement by the Baha’i International Community (BIC) in Geneva. The BIC, which represents the Baha’is at the United Nations, added that official “propaganda” against the Baha’is had reached new levels of “sophistication and scale” in recent months.
“History is replete with the victims of grievous crimes incited by hate speech,” said Diane Ala’i, the BIC’s representative to the UN in Geneva. “We are concerned that the increasing spread of disinformation targeting the Baha’is may signal a severe increase in the persecution meted out against them.”
Examples of anti-Baha’i propaganda tracked by the BIC have uncovered a “growing” network of “hundreds of websites, Instagram accounts, Telegram channels and Clubhouse rooms” with titles such as “Baha’is are unclean and enemies of your religion”, “Associating with Baha’is is banned”, “Purchasing any goods from a Baha’i store is forbidden,” as well as “The modern ‘Human Rights’ is a big lie”.
Earlier examples of hate speech included videos, books, newspaper articles and pamphlets, as well as public seminars and exhibitions and even street graffiti. Clerics have also issued numerous fatwas – religious decrees – against Baha’is.
Baha’is have been systematically persecuted by the Iranian authorities since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. More than 200 Baha’is were executed and today they are denied public sector jobs, their access to higher education is blocked or severely disrupted, and their cemeteries are desecrated.
Leaked government documents have exposed official plans to confiscate Baha’i property and to convert Baha’i children to Islam. The BIC, several human rights bodies and governments have all drawn attention to fresh crackdowns on the Baha’is in recently months.
“Iran has consistently ignored its international obligations, and it is time that it is held to account for inciting hatred and committing countless human rights violations against the Baha’is with impunity,” said Bani Dugal, the BIC’s principal representative to the United Nations. “Hate crimes always begin with words. Let us not allow history to repeat itself.”