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Iran Steps Up Persecution Against its Largest Religious Minority

A Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, IL. REUTERS
A Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, IL. REUTERS

On Tuesday in Mazandaran Province about 200 Iranian agents arrested more than 100 followers of the Baha’i faith. In addition to the arrests the Bahá’í World News Service reported that many of their homes were destroyed, and the arrestees had land confiscated. When followers of the Baha’i faith are arrested in Iran a common reason given is that the individuals were “spying for Israel”.

Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, urged the international community to act immediately.

“Given the Iranian government policy documents persecuting Baha’is, the international community must act immediately before it is too late,” she said.

Dr. Ariane Sabet, deputy secretary general of the Baha’i International Community, told The Media Line “for the past 44 years, there have been accusations about the Baha’is spying for Israel or other foreign powers. There has never been any proof of that,”.

Dr. Sabet went on to say, “there is a pattern of systematic persecution, there’s a plan for persecution that has been both formalized in government documents of the Iranian government and also been felt by the Baha’i community”.

Sabet believes there might be other reasons for the escalating persecution.

The Iranian government is apparently scapegoating the religious minority to distract attention from the deteriorating situation in the country, she said.

Another possible reason, she added, could emerge from the fact that the Baha’is are perceived as genuinely interested in the well-being of the country and present an attractive alternative to the Islamist values promoted by the regime.

“It could be that maybe the regime is thinking that this way of life and the development of values such as unity, justice, and trustworthiness which the Baha’i tried to model in the country, may be attractive to Iranian citizens at this point,” she said.

The Baha’i faith has roots in Islam and was founded in Persia during the 19th century. Its founder, Mírzá Ḥusayn-ʻAlí Núrí, known as Baháʼu’lláh, was imprisoned and then banished from Persia to the Ottoman Empire in 1853. Baháʼu’lláh died in exile while living in Acre in 1892. Iranian law views the Bahai’i religion as heretical as their followers recognize Baháʼu’lláh as a post-Muhammad messenger. The Baha’i community of Iran has 300,000 members and it is the second largest in the world behind India.

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