Bahais are routinely persecuted in Iran Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2
Analysis: The plight of the Bahais in Iran
According to a Bahai human rights activist,
“What the Iranian regime has been doing with Bahai's is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”As the international community comes closer to reaching the deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, major regional security and human rights issues have been ignored in the negotiations.
These include but are not limited to
- Iran’s ballistic missile program;
- their support for Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen,
- the Shia militias in Iraq, the Assad regime, and Gaza-based terror organizations;
- the atrocities their proxies committed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, and Kurdistan;
- their cooperation with ISIS in Balochistan;
- their policy advocating the destruction of Israel; and
- the lack of human rights within the Islamic Republic of Iran itself.
However, out of all of the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime against their own people, the group that has gotten the least amount of publicity since Rouhani came to power is the persecuted Baha'i faith, whom according to the Islamist regime in Iran don’t even have the right to exist as a faith community.
According to the Baha'i International Community, since 2005, more than 700 Baha'is have been arrested, at least 49 incidents of arson targeting the Baha'is have been reported, and 42 incidents of vandalism within Baha'i cemeteries occurred.
As we speak, 117 Baha'is are sitting in Iranian prisons merely because of their religious beliefs. The list of Baha'i political prisoners includes educators who merely sought to provide Baha'i youth with the opportunity to achieve higher levels of education, an act which is against Iranian law. Since 2007, the Baha'i International Community documented 580 instances of economic persecution against the Baha'is. In April and May 2015, the Iranian authorities closed down over 35 Baha'i shops in Rafsanjan, Kerman, Sari, and Hamadan in order to pressure the Baha'is not to celebrate their religious holidays. A UN official stated that the Iranian governments’ persecution of the Baha'is extends to “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education and security.” The International Baha'i Community stressed: “The oppression of Iranian Baha'is extends from the cradle to the grave.”
According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, “As nuclear talks resume again and get closer to a prolonged deadline, systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed. Human rights abuses accelerated in Iran under Hassan Rouhani’s so called ‘moderate’ presidency and the situation of Bahais' has even worsened since Rouhani took office where he has never showed efforts to improve the human rights abuses against the Baha'is and to free the imprisoned Baha'i leaders. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has even issued a fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized Islamic authority) calling on Iranians to avoid any interactions with members of the Baha’i faith, whom he slandered as a ‘deviant and misleading sect (cult).’”
Assadollahi noted that the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran has been going on for a while, as 200 Baha'is were executed during the first 10 years after the Islamic Revolution while hundreds more were tortured and imprisoned, and tens of thousands of others lost access to jobs, education, and other basic rights on account of their religious beliefs: “The persecution of Baha’is in Iran started from the beginning of Islamic Republic in 1979. Iran's constitution only recognizes the religious legitimacy of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, but not the converts from Islam and Iranians from the Baha’i faith. The Bahai's crime is that they are from a faith that has not been recognized by the Islamist regime of Iran's constitution and that the Baha'is will not change their religion despite the pressure by the Islamist regime.”
“The Islamist regime of Iran's systematic persecution of the Baha’is resulted in widespread religiously motivated hate crimes against them,” Assadollahi stressed. “Iranians from the Baha’i faith are regularly arrested, imprisoned and even executed for practicing their faith. Baha’i's small business are regularly closed down and seized by Iranian regime officials with one objective: ‘to destroy the community’s economic life.’ Baha’i students are not allowed to register and attend university in Iran, and crimes against the Iranian Baha’is are never punished by the Iranian authorities.”
A Baha'i human rights activist that prefers to remain neutral for their own protection told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview: “The plight of the Baha'is has worsened under the Islamist regime. Most of regime leaders now are products of the Hojatieh School of anti-Baha'i doctrine including Mohammad Javed Zarif and many others. The denial of education was started in the past but has become systematic under Hassan Rouhani. Most recently, the closure of Baha'i businesses and shops have intensified. Under Rouhani, preachers have called for expelling of Bahai's from various cities and are like vultures waiting to attack. Rouhani, Zarif and the entire current regime have not spoken a word about the Baha'i's condition and situation. Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has further encouraged attacks on Baha'is by supporters of his regime.”
While the world speaks about the destruction of archeological treasures, churches, and Jonah’s Tomb by ISIS, not many talk about the destruction of Baha'i holy places by the Iranian regime: “Local leaders, fed with lifelong hatred and unfounded biased prejudices, have attacked Baha'i shrines and holy places, destroying them with impunity. When the Baha'is have no rights, what court can they go to? What recourse do they have in a country that gives them no values? So when you have no value for the life of someone and their property, and you are told their life and property are worthless, you do what your ignorant instructions are: destroy the homes and properties of the infidels. What the Iranian regime has been doing with Baha'is is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
According to the Baha'i human rights activist, Iran draws cartoons mocking Baha'is but protests against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons doing the same for Islam. They burn Baha'i books, but are outraged if a Quran is burned in the West. They accuse the Baha'is of being Israeli spies because their spiritual center was moved to Israel due to the persecution the Baha'i faced in Iran and the holiness of the place in their faith, but the Baha'i human rights activist noted that the holiest sites for the Shia Muslims are in Iraq and Saudi Arabia rather than in Iran. The Baha'i activist noted that Iranian citizens want Muslims living in the West to have equal rights and Iranian newspapers highlight discrimination against Muslims living in the West, but the Iranian regime refuses to grant the Baha'is or any of the other minorities living in Iran including the Sunni Muslims equal rights.
The Baha'i human rights activist was very critical of the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran, stressing that it would give the Iranian regime the ability to further persecute the Baha'is: “Many within the Iranian regime feel that the sanctions are instigated and supported by the Baha'is. The Baha'is and the Israelis are lumped into one pot when it comes to the hardships faced by the Iranian regime. The regime does not accept their own incompetent management of the country and has cast blame on outside forces such as the Baha'is and Israelis as the scapegoat instead of blaming themselves for the mismanagement of everything in Iran, from the economy to the environment.”
“The removal of sanctions will give the fanatics an excuse to further bring hardships upon the Baha'is as they would feel they have been given free pass to do as they please,” the Baha'i human rights activist stressed. “They would assume the world is not watching them anymore and are eager to do business with Iran. The lowest on the totem pole in terms of rights and concerns are the helpless Baha'is.”
“The world must let the Iranian regime know that the Baha'is are not forgotten and a magnifying glass is on them when it comes to the affairs and wellbeing of the Baha'is,” the Baha'i human rights activist emphasized. “The regime feels and is quite confident that once the sanctions are removed, people will be busy with trade and the economy. Therefore, the Baha'is situation will have no significance or importance for them. Many Iranians seem to be focusing on living and their surrounding family as opposed to their other fellow Iranians. If the focus is off the human rights violations harming the Baha'is, the regime will have a free reign and the immunity to do as they wish.”