(BWNS) GENEVA — Homes belonging to some 50 Baha’i families in a remote village in northern Iran have been demolished as part of a long-running campaign to expel them from the region.
The action occurred in Ivel, Mazandaran, when inhabitants – incited by elements inimical to the Baha’i community – blocked normal access to the village, while allowing trucks and at least four front-end loaders to begin leveling the houses.
Amateur video, shot on mobile telephones and posted by Iranian human rights activists on the Internet, showed what appeared to be several buildings reduced to rubble as well as fiercely burning fires.
The demolitions are the latest development in an ongoing, officially-sanctioned program in the area which has targeted every activity of the Baha’is.
“They’re being forbidden to associate with Muslims, or even offer service to their friends and neighbours,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.
“Even the smallest acts of good will – such as taking flowers to someone who’s sick in hospital or donating gifts to an orphanage – these are being seen as actions against the regime.”
Most of the Baha’i homes in Ivel have been unoccupied since their residents fled after previous incidents of violence or as a result of official displacement. In 2007, for example, six of their houses were torched.
“Baha’is have lived in this area for more than 100 years and it once had a large community,” said Ms. Ala’i. “But in 1983, a few years after the Iranian revolution, at least 30 families from this and neighboring villages were put on buses and expelled.
“Since then, they have tried to seek legal redress to no avail, while returning in the summer to harvest their crops,” she said.
The day after the demolitions took place, a Baha’i man who visited the site with his family to harvest his produce was beaten and insulted by other residents. In the past, those who are trying to drive the Baha’is out have set upon them when they tried to enter the neighborhood to rebuild or renovate their properties.
Persistent government attacks on Baha’is in all the mass media – along with inaction by local officials to protect them – have continued to incite hatred against the Baha’is in the region and throughout Iran, said Ms. Alai.
“This latest action shows the degree to which the authorities have completely failed to live up to their responsibilities to protect the Baha’is and their religious freedom,” she said.
Members of the Baha’i community have made repeated complaints both before and after the latest incident to local government officials, including to the provincial governor in Sari. In every case, knowledge of the demolitions or the motive behind them was denied.
While reports about the latest action began appearing on various Persian-language websites last Friday, the Baha’i International Community was only able to confirm details of the incident today. Latest reports indicate that 90 percent of the Baha’i homes have now been demolished.