The Fate of the Iranian Baha'is

The international human rights circles were alarmed by the abuse of human rights in Iran by early 1980. The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities was first to express its concerns over the highly disturbing allegations of human rights violations against the Baha`i community in Iran. The Baha`is of Iran were also the subject of the first UN resolution dealing with human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

To incapacitate the Baha'is as a viable religious community, the Islamic republic of Iran embarked upon a policy of systematic elimination of Baha’i’s religious leadership and administrative institutions, at both national and local levels. More than two hundred Baha'is, mostly in positions of leadership, have been killed since 1979. An additional fifteen Baha’is have disappeared and are presumed dead. Furthermore, the regime has proceeded to place rigid restrictions on the Baha’is public and social activities from elementary education to professional occupations, from marriage ceremonies to cemeteries. At the same time, it has been impossible for Baha'is to seek redress for the abuse and crimes committed against them through the courts, since they had already been declared ineligible for recourse to Iranian courts as  “unprotected infidels.”

Baha'is have been denied the right to distribute within their own community literature pertaining to their faith. No open classes have been allowed to be held for educating children in Baha’i spiritual and moral values. Although the regime has permitted the enrollment of students from Baha’i families in the elementary and secondary schools, it has continued to deny them access to centers of higher education.

The freedom of vigilante groups, surreptitiously encouraged or sponsored by the government, to harass and attack Bahai’s demonstrates that both the state and society at large share the responsibility for the abuse and breach of human rights of religious minorities in Iran. Although secular Iranians have provided employment opportunities in various professions for a number of Baha’is, Iran’s liberal Muslim intellectuals or even its secular political groups have yet to publicly attempt to decry the abuse of Iran’s non-Muslim communities, particularly the Baha'is.

Reza Afshari
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