A committee of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has again called on the Iranian government to end its discrimination of minorities in Iran, including the Baha’i community, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. Similar resolutions have been tabled and approved since the early 1980s—making the situation in Iran one of the UN’s most enduring and troubling human rights concerns.
Baha’is in Iran face harassment and intimidation, arbitrary detention in violation of due process, incitement to hatred through official and semi-official media channels, denial of business licenses and livelihoods, denial of access to higher education and confiscations of property.
The resolution, A/C.3/76/L.28, heard during the Third Committee’s 76th session and introduced by Canada and 47 co-sponsors from all regions, passed by 79 votes in favor, with 30 against and 71 abstentions.
Several countries expressed their concern for Baha’is and other recognized and unrecognized religious minorities during the vote. The delegate from Brazil added that Brazil wished to “take this opportunity to once again extend our support to the Baha’i community to exercise their faith freely and peacefully in Iran.”
New laws in Iran’s Penal Code, articles 499 bis and 500 bis, which further criminalize religious practice for Baha’is, and which also affect Sufis, atheists and any communities that hold beliefs not recognized by Iran’s constitution, beyond Shia Islam, were also addressed by the motion.
Article 500 bis in particular poses the threat of up to five years in prison to any Baha’i for sharing their beliefs with others—an inalienable right under the principles of freedom of religion and belief.
Persecution of Baha’is in Iran—a constant since the 1979 Islamic Revolution—has worsened in recent months. Lands belonging to Baha’is in Semnan, Roshankouh and Ivel have been confiscated; hate propaganda articles have increased; new evidence has emerged of the religious prejudice motivating Iran’s policy of banning Baha’is from higher education; and official documents have come to light that detail measures ordered by security services to suppress the Baha’i community.