Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Iran's Bahai religious minority says it faces raids and arrests

As reported by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, members of the Bahai religious minority group in Iran have recently been subjected to a heightened campaign of arrests, raids and propaganda ordered by the Iranian government. On May 19th, 54 Bahais were arrested in Iran while involved in a community service project in Shiraz teaching underprivileged children English, science, and math at local public schools--all who were arrested were in their teens and early 20s. This specific arrest has been the largest mass arrest of Bahais in Iran since the 1980s, leaving a cause of concern for many individuals in Iran and elsewhere. Bani Dugal is the representative of the Bahai Community at the United Nations and she has described the recent attacks as a way for the Iranian government to spread terror throughout the Bahai community and make other Iranians accept such terror. US Congress is currently debating whether or not to put forth a resolution which would call on President Bush to make the abuse of Bahais a vital factor in US foreign policy.

There is also a small population of persecuted Bahai followers in Egypt. Similarly to the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, the Egyptian Bahai have had a history of being forbidden to openly practice their faith and spiritual activities and often fear that they are the targets of governmental harrasments, arrests, and injustices.

June 1, 2006
Iran's Bahai relious minority says it faces raids and arrests
By Laurie Goodstein

"Members of the Bahai religious minority in Iran said this week that the government had recently intensified a campaign of arrests, raids and propaganda that was aimed at eradicating their religion in Iran, the country of its birth.

On May 19, Iranian security officials arrested 54 Bahais in the city of Shiraz who were involved in a community service project, many of them in their teens and early 20's, said diplomatic officials and Bahai officials outside of Iran.

They were not charged and all but three were released within six days, these officials said.
It was the largest mass arrest of Bahais since the 1980's, when thousands of them were imprisoned and more than 200 were executed by the new Islamic government.

The developments have alarmed human rights monitors at the United Nations, who say that since December, the government newspaper in Tehran has published more than 30 articles denigrating the Bahai faith — even accusing Bahais of sacrificing Muslim children on holy days. The arrests coincided with raids on six Bahai homes, in which notebooks, documents and computers were confiscated. More than 70 other Bahais have been arrested since January 2005 in smaller clusters, and some are still being held, the monitors said.

"We see a pattern emerging that is quite ominous," said Bani Dugal, who represents the Bahai International Community at the United Nations, where religious and some other groups have consultative status. "It's basically trying to create terror in the Bahai community, and also to win over the Iranian population to accept it."

Mohammad Mohammadi, press secretary for Iran's mission to the United Nations, said he had no information about arrests of Bahais and would not be able to respond until Monday because of an Iranian holiday this week.

The Bahais are the largest religious minority in Iran, with about 300,000 members there. There are five million worldwide. They believe that humanity is one race, that men and women are equal and that all religions and prophets are derived from the same source, God.
They have suffered successive waves of persecution in Iran since their faith was founded there in the mid-1800's by a Persian nobleman considered by the Bahais to be a messenger of God. That belief violates the Islamic teaching that God sent many prophets before Muhammad, but none afterward. The Bahai are discriminated against in some other Muslim countries, where they are far less numerous than in Iran.

Unlike Jews and Christians, who have seats in Iran's Parliament set aside for them as religious minorities, Bahais in Iran are considered "unprotected infidels," said Kit Bigelow, director for external affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States. Bahais are not permitted to attend college, work for the government or practice their faith openly."

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