U.S. agency sounds alarm over Iran’s treatment of Baha’is

ABN NEWS

U.S. agency sounds alarm over Iran’s treatment of Baha’is

Robert George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Katrina

Lantos Swett, a USCIRF commissioner, co-wrote a column for the Religion News Service on Friday

about the persecution of the group — a community numbering more than 300,000 members in

Iran, that country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority.

Iran’s government is intent on eradicating the group, they say. The group they represent, USCIRF,

describes itself as an “independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission.”

“While pursuit of that goal (eradication) remains, its intensity ebbs and flows in response to the

level of world attention and outrage. Unfortunately, there are signs from this past year that

persecution is on the upswing, calling for greater world outrage at Iran’s abuses of this peaceful

religious community.”

George and Swett said that since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, more than 200 Baha’i leaders

have been killed and more than 10,000 have been let go from government and university

positions. There have been arbitrary arrests over the years.

“Baha’is effectively are prohibited from attending colleges, chartering their own worship centers

or schools, serving in the military, and obtaining various kinds of jobs. Even Baha’i marriages are

not recognized.”

There are “ominous signs of a renewed government crackdown” in the past year, George and

Swett wrote. The Iranian government cranks out propaganda dehumanizing the group and creates

a climate of violence, they say.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious edict, or fatwa, in 2013 calling

for Iranians to avoid “dealings” with Baha’is and labeled the group “deviant and misleading,” news

reports said.

The writers note that other minorities — Christians, Sunnis, Jews and Zoroastrians — also face

discrimination in Shiite-dominated Iran.

“But what distinguishes mistreatment of the Baha’is is the stark evidence that eradication is the

goal. From laws that push Baha’is to the margins of society to government-sponsored propaganda

that degrades and dehumanizes, from mass detention and imprisonment to the closing of

businesses, from allowing societal violence against Baha’is to failure to prosecute perpetrators,

all signs suggest that Iran’s government seeks religious cleansing of this community,” they wrote.

George and Swett noted that Christian pastor Saeed Abedini was released from captivity in

January by Iran and it is time that Iran “do likewise to all religious prisoners, including the Baha’i

Seven and the imprisoned Baha’i educators, and other prisoners of conscience.”

The Baha’i religion, founded during the 19th century in Iran and now with millions of adherents

worldwide, is a monotheistic faith that focuses on the spiritual unity of humanity.

The clerics who hold sway in Iran regard the Baha’i faith as blasphemous because its founder,

Bahá’u’lláh, declared himself to be a prophet of God. Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed

was the last prophet of God.

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