Pictures of Baha'i religious leaders arrested in Iran are seen during a protest at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2011..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahmad Salek, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary cultural commission, on Tuesday accused his country’s Baha’i community of spying for Israel and the United States.
“I declare very explicitly that Baha’ism is an espionage organization which gathers intelligence for the CIA and Mossad, and there are abundant documents to prove this,” the Fars news agency quoted Salek saying.
Fars, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, reported in the same article comments Iran’s then-prosecutor-general Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi made in 2009: “We [as the state] offer a variety of services to the Baha’i sect in Iran and respect them as human beings, but not as insiders, spies, or a political grouplet supported by Britain and Israel to cause disturbance in Iran.”
The Baha’i community faces intense persecution from the regime. Last October, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, issued a report that included a section on the persecution.
He wrote, ”The special rapporteur continues to observe what appears to be an escalating pattern of systematic human rights violations targeting members of the Baha’i community, who face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, national security charges for active involvement in religious affairs, restrictions on religious practice, denial of higher education, obstacles to state employment and abuses within schools.”
Last August, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an edict – or fatwa – calling on all Iranians to ostracize the Baha’is.
After Khamenei issued the fatwa, Ataollah Rezvani, a popular Baha’i leader, was murdered. It is unclear who killed Rezvani.
Salek’s comments triggered reactions in cyber space. The Financial Times Middle East and North Africa correspondent tweeted on Tuesday, “Outrageous: #Iran lawmaker claims entire Baha’i faith is an espionage outfit for the CIA & Mossad.“ Earlier this month, the Baha’i World New Service reported a stabbing attack on a Baha’i family in Birjand in eastern Iran. According to the report, the three victims – husband, wife and daughter – survived the attack.
“The attacker – who was masked – entered the home of Ghodratollah Moodi and his wife, Touba Sabzehjou,” the news service wrote.
Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said, “There can be no doubt that this crime was religiously motivated. Mr. Moodi was well-known as a leader in the Baha’i community in Birjand.
“Our immediate concern is for the recovery of the Moodi family. But we are also concerned that authorities in Iran begin immediately to investigate this crime and bring the perpetrator to justice.
“The sad fact is that there have been more than 50 physical assaults on Iranian Baha’is since 2005 – and none of the attackers has been prosecuted or otherwise brought to justice. And at least nine Baha’is have been murdered under suspicious circumstances in the same period,” Ala’i said.