[Newsmax.com, Tuesday, 24 May 2011 02:46 PM, By Ken Timmerman] Syria and Iran responded almost immediately to President Barack Obama’s latest attempt to reach out to the “Muslim world” by launching a security crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities.
On Friday, the day after Obama’s speech, the Syrian Security Forces raided the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) in Qamishly, after peaceful protests by Kurds and Christians in the northeastern Syrian town that sits along the border with Turkey.
During an initial raid on the ADO headquarters, the authorities arrested 13 top leaders of the organization, which represents the Christian Assyrian and Chaldean minority in Syria. In a second raid, they confiscated computers and hard files and cordoned off the building from the neighborhood.
Also over the weekend, the Iranian authorities launched coordinated attacks on the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) and the homes of professors, according to Iran Press Watch, a media outlet of the Baha’i community. [Editor: Iran Press Watch is an independent research entity, see note below.]
Intelligence ministry operatives in Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, and Shiraz arrested more than 30 BIHE faculty members during Saturday’s raids.
The Iranian intelligence ministry claimed they had rounded up a network of 30 CIA “spies,” who were operating “under the command of prominent intelligence officers of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,” an allegation hotly contested by representatives of the Bahia community.
The Iranian regime frequently accuses the Baha’is of espionage because the world headquarters of the Baha’i religion is located in Haifa, Israel.
BIHE was established in 1987 as a community initiative to meet the educational needs of young Baha’is, since the Iran’s Islamic regime has barred Baha’is by law from all institutions of higher learning.
“The Iranian authorities — not content with debarring Baha’is from university solely on account of their religious beliefs — are now cruelly seeking to shut down the community’s efforts to provide its youth with higher education through alternative means,” said Diane Ala’i, a representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “The government’s actions are utterly unjustifiable.
“We are calling upon governments and educational organizations throughout the world to register with the government of Iran their strong disapproval of its systematic, ongoing efforts to deny to young Baha’is their fundamental human right to access higher education, Ms. Ala’i added.”
A representative of the ADO in Sweden told Newsmax on Tuesday that the movement’s leaders remain in prison in Syria and will probably be charged with membership in an “illegal political party,” which carries a sentence of five years in prison.
The U.S. Congress has passed numerous resolutions calling on the Iranian regime to respect the rights of Baha’is, who are widely regarded as the most persecuted religious minority in Iran.
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Read more on Newsmax.com: Obama Speech Sparks Iran, Syria Crackdowns
 Iran Press Watch (IPW) is not a media outlet of the Baha’i Community. IPW is an independent research entity documenting the struggle of the Iranian Baha’i Community to gain legitimate civil rights. This site is not affiliated with any Baha’i institutions. Editor.