Sunday, March 15, 2009

Iran's persecution of Bahá'ís is devastating

From The Telegraph (UK), 13 Mar 2009, by Nazila Ghanea*:

Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal, writes Nazila Ghanea.

...an academic, a blogger, a Nobel prize winner, a postgraduate researcher, a cyber feminist, a journalist and a woman who let her head covering slip ... have all been imprisoned, flogged and fined in Iran.

...But now a new embargo on freedom of expression has formally been announced. Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal. This was communicated in a letter to the Minister of Intelligence, Ghulam-Husayn Ejeyee, who needs no encouragement to violate rights. Human Rights Watch named him one of Iran's 'Ministers of Murder' four years ago.

...“the administration of the wayward Baha’i sect at all levels is illegal and forbidden … their danger to national security is documented and well-established.”

A few days later, the Prosecutor General made the rather fantastic claim that Bahá’ís in Iran are provided with all facilities afforded other Iranian citizens, and are respected as human beings, “but not as insiders, spies, or a political grouplet supported by Britain and Israel to cause disturbance in Iran”. Much kindness had always been shown Bahá’í citizens of Iran, he asserted, but there was “opposition to the relations of many of them with the enemies of the Iranian nation and particularly with Israel.”

The spurious nature of such assertions are obvious to anyone with the most basic knowledge of the Bahá’í faith, the persecution it has faced in Iran on religious grounds for more than a century, and the historical events which led to its Prophet being banished in 1868 to a remote corner of the Ottoman empire, which now happens to sit within the borders of modern-day Israel.

...What we are being told, therefore, is that the Iranian belief system is unitary and very vulnerable to the free expression of some bloggers, some morally loose women and some journalists - but all Bahá'ís, all 300,000 of them that make up Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority...

*Dr Nazila Ghanea is a Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal of Religion and Human Rights.
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