UN report reveals Iranian violence against Bahais

Research discloses extreme state-sponsored discrimination against minority community, says Bahais "systematically deprived."

The Shrine of the Bab, Baha'i 311 (photo credit: The World Baha’i Center)
The Shrine of the Bab, Baha'i 311
(photo credit: The World Baha’i Center)
BERLIN - Two new studies have disclosed state-sponsored violence directed at the Bahai religious minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, announced the findings of his report last week in Geneva. According to his report titled “On the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Shaheed found “that 110 Bahais are currently detained in Iran for exercising their faith, including two women, Mrs. Zohreh Nikayin (Tebyanian) and Mrs. Taraneh Torabi (Ehsani), who are reportedly nursing infants in prison. It was further estimated that 133 Bahais are currently awaiting summonses to serve their sentences, and that another 268 Bahais are reportedly awaiting trial.”
The UN report noted “members of the Bahai community are reported to continue to be systematically deprived of a range of social and economic rights, including access to higher education. Informed sources have reported that authorities from three different universities expelled five Bahai students in November 2012.”
In a second March report issued by the Bahai International Community titled “Violence with Impunity: Acts of aggression against Iran’s Bahai community,” persecution between 2005 and 2012 was analyzed. According to the study, “this persecution has intensified in recent years. Since 2005, more than 660 Bahais have been arrested, and, by the end of 2012, at least 115 Bahais were languishing in prison The increase in arrests has been accompanied by a rising tide of violence against Bahais, marked by incidents that include arson attacks, anti-Bahai graffiti, hate speech, the desecration of Bahai cemeteries, and assaults on schoolchildren.”
A leading international expert on the Bahai community in Iran, Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, told The Jerusalem Post that the in-depth BIC study is “excellent.” Wahdat-Hagh, a senior fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels, examined the 45-page BIC report for a series of articles in a German newspaper. Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in 1979, successive Islamic administrations have cracked down on the Bahai, Iran’s largest non-Muslim faith, a peaceful religious community founded by Bahá'u'lláh in Iran in 1863.
The Bahai religion accepts and recognizes the right and universality of all religions. There are an estimated 350,OOO Bahai in Iran.
The BIC depicts a systematic form of repression against Bahais in all walks of life in Iran.
The report states, “In 2007, a 16-year-old Bahai high-school student in a suburb of Tehran found herself subject to repeated harassment by a group of religious fanatics who had apparently been monitoring her movements. During November and December 2007, these anonymous individuals threatened to kill her, made harassing phone calls, and then one day forced her into a car and assaulted her, breaking her glasses, before she managed to escape.”
The report continued, “In October-November 2010, more than a dozen Bahai-owned properties were the target of arson attacks in the city of Rafsanjan.”
The role of Iran’s regime in state-sanctioned violence and judicial indifference was noted in the BIC report. “Yet many if not most of these attacks bear the imprint of direct involvement by government agents, or, at least, official sanction or encouragement. And even if some are the work of ordinary citizens acting simply out of religious intolerance, there can be little doubt that their passions were inflamed by official anti-Bahai propaganda, and that they feel free to act because they have no fear of prosecution or punishment,” wrote the authors.
The BIC study urged the international community to ramp up the pressure on Iran’s regime. “History has shown that the only real protection for Iranian Bahais comes from continued international outcry and action. The last three decades have proved that Iranian authorities are indeed cognizant of international opinion and that pressure to meet their obligations under international human rights law can have an effect.”