Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Baha’is have been systematically persecuted as amatter of government policy. During the first decade of this persecution, more than 200 Baha’is were killed or executed, hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – all solely because of their religious belief. Government-led attacks on the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority have re-intensified in the last decade.
Since 2005, more than 820 Baha’is have been arrested, and the number of Baha’is in prison has risen from fewer than five to more than 80. The list of prisoners includes all seven members of a former leadership group serving the Baha’i community of Iran. In 2010, the seven were wrongly sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest term currently facing any prisoner of conscience in Iran. Recent reports indicate that their sentences have been belatedly reduced from 20 years to 10 years, in line with changes to the Iranian Penal Code introduced in May 2013. The constant threat of raids, arrests, and detention or imprisonment is among the main features of Iran’s persecution of Baha’is today.
Other types of persecution include economic and educational discrimination, strict limits on the right to assemble and worship, and the dissemination of anti-Baha’i propaganda in the government-led news media. Attacks on Baha’is or Baha’i-owned properties go unprosecuted and unpunished, creating a sense of impunity for attackers.
Since 2005, for example, there have been at least 52 incidents of arson against Baha’i properties, crimes for which no one has been arrested. During the same period, 42 incidents of vandalism at Baha’i cemeteries have been recorded. As noted by a top UN human rights official, the government-led persecution spans “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education, and security.” (link is external) Put another way: the oppression of Iranian Baha’is extends from cradle to grave.
The situation facing Baha’is has not changed since the coming to power of President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013, despite his promises to end religious discrimination. Since his inauguration, at least 108 Baha’is have been arrested, 22 Baha’is have been expelled from university, and more than 200 Baha’i-owned businesses have been shut down or been threatened. More than 7,000 pieces of anti-Baha’i propaganda have been disseminated in the Iranian media during his administration
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