The continuing persecution of Bahá’ís and other minorities in Iran has been highlighted in Amnesty International’s State of the World’s Human Rights 2009 report.
The report, launched in London by Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan, reviews human rights abuses and developments throughout the world.
“In Iran, the authorities continued to harass and persecute Bahá’ís and members of other religious minorities, detaining Sunni clerics and sentencing one Sufi religious leader to five years in prison and flogging for “spreading lies”,” says the report.
“Adherents of the Bahá’í faith continued to be denied access to higher education and some sites considered sacred by them were destroyed… School administrators were required to report to local security offices the presence in their schools of members of “subversive sects” such as the Bahá’í, Ali-Ellahi and Ahl-e Haq. In March and May, seven Bahá’í community leaders were arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials. In August they were charged with vaguely worded national security offences. All were prisoners of conscience.”
The report also notes how the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi – who offered to take the case of the seven detained Bahá’í leaders – has faced increasing harassment, threats and intimidation by Iranian authorities. “On 29 December officials claiming to be tax inspectors raided her offices and removed clients’ confidential files,” the report says, adding that in December, Dr Ebadi’s Centre for Human Rights Defenders was “forcibly closed by security officials shortly before the centre was to hold an event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Iran’s record of human rights abuses also includes “tight restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly…They cracked down on civil society activists, including women’s rights and other human rights defenders and minority rights advocates. Activists were arrested, detained and prosecuted, often in unfair trials, banned from travelling abroad, and had their meetings disrupted. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were common and committed with impunity. Sentences of flogging and amputation were reported. At least 346 people were known to have been executed, but the actual number was probably higher. Two men were executed by stoning. Those executed included eight juvenile offenders.”
Amnesty’s report, however, does note the rise in individuals throughout the Middle East who are now standing up to champion human rights “in the face of such varied, and often seemingly insurmountable problems.”
“All across the region, many individuals – men, women and even children – worked to realize their and others’ rights… In Iran, women – and men – promoted a One Million Signatures petition to demand an end to legal discrimination against women, despite repeated harassment, arrests and assaults by state officials acting in breach of the law, while others campaigned for an end to executions of juvenile offenders.”
“In these countries and others, human rights defenders were in the vanguard of promoting change…Slowly but surely, there were signs in 2008 that a new generation is emerging, more aware of their rights and of what should be open to them, and with a growing resolve to achieve them,” the report added.
Launching the report, Dr Khan called for “a new global deal on human rights – not paper promises but commitment and concrete action from governments to defuse the human rights time bomb. World leaders must invest in human rights as purposefully as they are investing in the economy.”