Iran’s “Onslaught” of Baha’i Community Has Increased in Intensity: Amnesty International

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View of the Bahai Gardens terraces in Haifa IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES
View of the Bahai Gardens terraces in Haifa

Since July 31, Iranian authorities have arrested several Baha’is on the charge of spying for Israel.

 Iran has stepped up its persecution of the Baha’i community has “increased in intensity,” human rights watchdog Amnesty International reported on Thursday.

The report notes that there has been a flurry of raids, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, and land grabs against the minority group, accusing Iranian intelligence agents of confiscating dozens of Baha’i properties and arresting at least 30 members of the community since July 31. “The authorities have subjected many more to interrogations and/or forced them to wear electronic ankle bracelets,” it added.

Iranian authorities have justified their actions by accusing Baha’i of espionage, propagating their teachings, and infiltrating the educational system, especially kindergartens. However, Amnesty said the arrests were motivated solely by their faith.

“The despicable onslaught against the Baha’i religious minority is yet another manifestation of the Iranian authorities’ decades long persecution of this peaceful community,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said. “Baha’is in Iran cannot feel safe in their homes or while exercising their faith because they are at risk of persecution,” she asserted.

Morayef called on Iranian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release” all Baha’i individuals detained recently 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.”

Since July 31, Iranian authorities have arrested several Baha’i on the charge of spying for Israel. “Iranian authorities have used the fact that the Baha’i religion’s headquarters is in the city of Haifa in Israel to denounce the faith and falsely accuse its community of espionage,” Amnesty said.

According to the Baha’i International Community, the recent arrests bring the total number of Baha’is arrested in Iran on account of their faith to 68. Amid the crackdown, Amnesty issued an urgent call for action on August 23 and asked the international community to pressure Tehran to stop its persecution of the group.

Furthermore, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a statement earlier this month condemning Iran’s “systematic persecution and harassment” of the Baha’i. It is estimated that over 1,000 Baha’i Iranians are at imminent risk of imprisonment. “We call on the Iranian authorities to de-criminalise blasphemy and take meaningful steps to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of opinion and expression without discrimination,” the statement said.

The Baha’i religion was founded in Iran in the mid-19th century. The Baha’i see their prophet, Baháʼu’lláh, as a messenger of God, a view that the theocracy in Iran opposes since Muslims consider Muhammad as the final prophet. They are Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority group and according to the Baha’i International Community, the Iranian government routinely discriminates against the Baha’i.

It notes that since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, there have been numerous acts of violence against the community. In 2013, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called on all Iranians to avoid dealing with Baha’is.



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