Baha’is Protest ‘Economic Strangulation’ Of Iran Property Seizures

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The Baha’i International Community (BIC) has urged the United Nations and other international bodies to intervene with Iran’s government to ensure that Baha’is are not dispossessed of property. “Confiscation of properties remains a tactic used in the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is, over the past four decades, because of their beliefs,” said a statement Wednesday by the BIC, a non-governmental organization.

The statement said that properties in Semnan province belonging to six Baha’is would be transferred to the “parastatal ‘Execution of Iman Khomeini’s Order, which is controlled by the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei]”, after a court ruling that the properties were owned by Bahai’s institutions, which are not recognized under Iranian law.

BIC spokesman Padideh Sabeti told Iran International TV Friday that the authorities were following a strategy of “economic strangulation” of Bahai’s in Semnan and other places, citing Ivel in Mazandaran province.

 The BIC statement said a court notice had appeared earlier this month on the Iranian judiciary website announcing that the properties in Semnan, where many of the sect live, would be seized. The notice followed a raid on Baha’i houses and businesses across Iran in November 2020, during which deeds had been confiscated.

In February 2021 a court in Mazandaran province ruled that the confiscation of Baha’i houses and land in Ivel, a village the south of the provincial capital Sari, and their transfer to EIKO was lawful. More than 50 buildings belonging to Baha’is were subsequently demolished.

While Iran’s Baha’is formally dissolved all their institutions in 1983, Iranian courts order confiscation of Baha’i properties on the grounds that they belong to Baha’i institutions, which were banned following the 1979 Revolution.

“Article 49 of the Iranian Constitution…requires the government to prove the legitimacy of such seizures under Islamic law,” the BIC statement said. “Applying this to the Baha’is clearly demonstrates the religiously-motivated purpose behind the appropriation of the properties.”

While persecution of Baha’is goes back to the sect’s emergence in the 19th century, the Iranian constitution of 1979 recognizes only Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians − excluding converts from Islam – as permitted to congregate or form religious societies.

An estimated 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Based on information from NGOs, the United States State Department in its 2020 report on international religious freedom said that there were 38 Baha’i – 16 men and 22 women – in prison as of October 27, 2020.

In January 2020, NGOs and press reported that the application form for the state-issued national identity card would allow citizens to register only as one of the country’s recognized religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism – and omitted the option for “other religions,” which had previously been used by Baha’is. In April rights groups reported that authorities were forcing Baha’i to bury their dead at Khavaran cemetery, south-east Tehran, where hundreds of political prisoners executed in 1988 were interred in unmarked mass graves.


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