A destroyed Baha’i house of worship in the city of Babol, northern Iran. Photo: Bahai.org
TORONTO, Canada – A group of human rights activists, journalists and student leaders in Iran has signed an open letter to the Iranian judiciary, asking for an investigation into violence against the country’s small and persecuted Baha’i religious community.
In the letter to judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, the authors have asked Iran to respect that part of the constitution which guarantees just and humane treatment of non-Muslims. The letter is signed by well-known activists and lawyers, like Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was recently released from prison.
Noting a worsening of oppression against Iran’s Baha’is, the letter asks Larijani to investigate the recent attacks on followers of the Baha’i religion, which originated in Iran and where the largest population of Baha’is live. Some Iranian clerics accuse Baha’is of apostasy, which is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.
Over the last few months, Iranian Baha’is have experienced greater oppression. Last month, a group of masked burglars, in an apparent hate crime, stabbed three Baha’is at their home in Birjand.
In addition, 14 Baha’i homes in Abadeh were raided by government agents in the Fall of last year, according to reports by the Baha’i international community. Their books, CDs and computers were confiscated and the families were told to leave the city. They were warned that otherwise “their children would be stabbed on the streets,” according to reported incidents.
Last August, Ataollah Rezvani, a well-known member of the Baha’i community, was shot in the city of Bandar Abbas. He had been receiving threatening phone calls and was pressured by intelligence officials to leave the city.
Also, 136 Baha’is are reportedly in Iranian prisons, including seven Baha’i leaders charged with “disturbing national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” International human rights organizations have condemned the imprisonment.
More than 500 Baha’is last month wrote a letter to Iranian clerical authorities, reporting the recent spike in violence against their community and asking that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
The United Nations and Amnesty International have repeatedly reported on the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is, who are denied higher education, employment, civil rights and liberties. They have been subject to unwarranted arrests, torture, execution and confiscation of property.