Investigating the Legal Aspects of the Confiscation and Destruction of Baha’i Farmlands in the Village of Ahmadabad

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Conversation with Two Attorneys, Saeid Dehghan and Mostafa Ahmadian

In a conversation with Zamaneh, two attorneys, Saeid Dehghan and Mostafa Ahmadian, address the legal aspects of what the Baha’i community calls economic apartheid.

By: Zhinoos Forootan

Translation by Iran Press Watch

On Thursday, May 30, 2024, the Baha’i International Community published shocking images of the destruction of the farmlands of Baha’is in the village of Ahmadabad in Mazandaran. These videos and photos, which showed the raid by a significant number of government agents and the destruction of agricultural fields belonging to the Baha’is and their crops with an excavator, were quickly reflected in the media and became news headlines.

In a statement, the Baha’i International Community described this raid, which took place on May 28, 2024, as “destructive and cruel” and emphasized that the Baha’i residents of this region have been the owners of and have been farming these lands for many generations.

The statement also indicated that the raid on the agricultural lands of the Baha’is of Ahmadabad is a form of economic apartheid and a new effort with “religious motivation” to evict the Baha’is from their own land.

Previously, several government authorities had raided the village of Ahmadabad in December/January of 2023 and, in an illegal effort, had fenced off Ahmadabad’s farmlands.

Zamaneh had a conversation with two attorneys to clarify the legal aspects of this matter.

Conversation with Saeid Dehghan, a human rights lawyer

Saeid Dehghan, a human rights lawyer, says that the Baha’i community is appropriately emphasizing the description of the treatment of the Baha’is of Iran as a form of economic apartheid. In his opinion, the government’s oppression of Baha’i citizens has been all-encompassing for nearly five decades because, owing to their religious beliefs, the Baha’is are not allowed to get higher education, their lands are destroyed or confiscated, their stores are sealed, and even after they die, they are not allowed to be buried in their own cemeteries. This attorney considers the systematic discrimination against the Baha’is inhumane, illegal, and contradictory to Section 9 of Article 3 of the Constitution.

According to Section 9, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “The abolition of all forms of undesirable discrimination and the provision of equitable opportunities for all, in both the material and intellectual spheres” is one of the responsibilities of the government.

In reaction to the destruction of the agricultural lands of the Baha’is of Ahmadabad, Saeid Dehghan refers to the religious law which says, “The crop belongs to the farmer, even if he is a usurper,” which is reflected at the end of Article 33 of the Civil Code. He says:

“This inhuman act, which is carried out in the name of religion in the Islamic Republic, is even against the Islamic Republic’s own religious teachings and claims, which say that even if a person usurps other people’s land and cultivates it, the crop belongs to him, not to mention the fact that the Baha’i compatriots are the owners of the land and crops, and that they face such oppression from an authoritarian religious regime and have to endure more suffering when others remain silent.”

Continuing, I ask this attorney about the negative consequences of the economic apartheid policy against Baha’is, meaning a considerable portion of the country’s population. He replies: “It is necessary to examine the negative consequences of economic apartheid both at the macro level and human resources, and at the domestic and international political arenas.”

According to Saeid Dehghan, economic apartheid leads to the loss of human resources for the development of the country and the deprivation of the services of this group of citizens who are under systematic discrimination and oppression. Therefore, the main part of the negative consequences of this discrimination impacts society as a whole.

Addressing the domestic consequences of this discrimination, he continues to say, “Our Baha’i compatriots in Iran are directly facing economic apartheid in their lives. Dismissal from work, confiscation of property, sealing of business premises, and pressures of this kind act as an obstacle to the development of talents, especially in the young generation, and deprive them of having comfort in their lives. It seems that the general policy of the government is to force the Baha’is to leave Iran by putting pressure on them.”

In the international arena, his political opinion is that the consequences should be viewed from a historical perspective, and referring to the historical experience of South Africa, he says that the mere criminalization of economic apartheid will not eliminate discrimination. Therefore, it is necessary for us to act in such a way that deep-rooted inequalities and traditional views are eliminated so that the principle of equality can be established regardless of gender, race, and religion, so future generations can also benefit from it.

Conversation with Mostafa Ahmadian, lawyer and member of the Bar Association of Kermanshah Province

In a conversation with Zamaneh, lawyer Mostafa Ahmadian points out the “criminality and illegality” of confiscating and destroying the agricultural fields of the Baha’is in the village of Ahmadabad and says, “Such criminal behavior is not allowed in our laws. Based on human rights laws and international documents that the Islamic Republic of Iran has also accepted, Baha’is have the same rights as other citizens, and their lives, property, jobs, dignity, and honor are immune from any aggression and illegal behavior.”

He continues to say that, even if a judgment has been issued regarding the confiscation of property and agricultural products, or the acquisition, occupation, and destruction of these lands, it is necessary to inform the owners before taking any action or to consider the right to protest and appeal against those judgments. He also emphasizes that if a judgment has not been issued, the judicial system must be held accountable for its carelessness in dealing with such actions, because such behavior is both an example of abuse of rights and is subject to the crime of forcible entry (illegal possession of another’s property) or intentional destruction of farms. The Penal Code considers the latter of the two a fifth-degree crime, which has the penalty of two to five years imprisonment.

In Mostafa Ahmadian’s opinion, the Baha’is, like other Iranian citizens, not only have the right to earn a living, but they also have the right to benefit from a suitable and supportive legal and judicial system in such cases so they can act pertinently to claim grievances and get compensated for the damages.

Mostafa Ahmadian also believes that it is necessary for the Islamic Republic to join two important international conventions, namely the “Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief” and the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities.” He says:

“Even now, according to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been accepted by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the government is obligated to treat people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities in the country with respect and law, and the minorities cannot be excluded from benefiting from legal and territorial capacities. The Baha’is also collectively have the right to enjoy their own culture, act according to their religion, and enjoy the right to life and livelihood, and in fact, they should be treated based on the principle of non-discrimination and the principle of equality in benefiting from rights and freedoms.”

He continues to say that the foundations of responsibility and commitment of the Iranian government are available in this path.

Even though according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the equality of all citizens in basic rights is a certain fact, the Baha’is of Iran have faced many hardships since the beginning of the 1979 revolution, including numerous economic deprivations. In the 1980s, tens of thousands of Baha’i employees were fired from government institutions and their pensions were cut. Baha’i blue-collar workers were fired from factories and public and semi-public companies. A while later, when it was impossible for the Baha’is to be hired in the public sector, they directed their efforts to work in the private sector; however, their business activities became quite limited in that sector as well through the implementation of discriminatory methods. Creating difficult conditions to issue business licenses or the non-renewal of them, confiscation of property, sealing of business premises under the pretext of closing during Baha’i religious holidays, arbitrary arrests, and demanding high bails are other examples of significant economic losses that have been inflicted on Baha’is in Iran in the last 45 years.


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