Iran has been accused of planting fake pamphlets promoting the Baha’i faith in nurseries in an attempt to falsely imprison its believers on charges of sedition.
As Tehran widens its crackdown on the persecuted minority group, Baha’i community leaders say they uncovered the “shocking and outrageous” ploy after a series of raids by Iranian forces on schools.After planting the textbooks, which did not belong to members of the Baha’i faith, the agents allegedly coerced school staff into claiming on camera that they had been placed there by Baha’is.
It is illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran to seek to encourage Muslims to convert to another religion.
Founded in Iran in the mid-1800s, the Baha’i faith is increasingly being targeted by Tehran over what it claims are heretical beliefs which pose a threat to national security. Bahaism preaches the essential worth of all religions, focusing on a prophet – Bab, born in 1819 – who was executed by Iranian authorities.
It came as a new report by Amnesty International warned that Iran has begun forcing some Baha’is to wear electronic ankle bracelets and in recent weeks has confiscated dozens of Baha’i properties.”On 31 July, the same day as intelligence agents were invading Baha’i homes and arresting pre-school teachers, agents also entered a kindergarten in a major city in Iran and distributed Baha’i books and pamphlets to its teachers, none of whom were Baha’is,” said the Baha’i International Community in a statement.”The agents then instructed and forced the kindergarten staff to say, on camera, that Baha’is had brought these materials and distributed them to the teachers,” it continued. Iran has targeted the minority group for decades but last month launched a new and intensified crackdown which has alarmed Western leaders and human rights groups. According to Amnesty International, agents from the Iranian ministry of intelligence have arrested 30 members of the faith and subjected others to interrogations.
Baha’is accused of spying
Iran has also accused the Baha’is, which operate headquarters in the Israeli city of Haifa, of acting as spies for the Jewish state. The regime is yet to provide any credible evidence for the charge.The latest round of persecution could potentially be linked to embarrassment in Iran over a series of intelligence breaches by Israeli spies, including details of its nuclear programme.”The despicable onslaught against the Baha’i religious minority is yet another manifestation of the Iranian authorities’ decades long persecution of this peaceful community. Baha’is in Iran cannot feel safe in their homes or while exercising their faith because they are at risk of persecution,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East regional director.“The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all the Baha’i individuals who were recently detained as well as anyone in prison from before solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of religion,” she added. “All convictions and sentences imposed on this basis must be immediately quashed.”
The Telegraph approached Iranian authorities for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
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