In Iran, Baha’is, who make up one of the country’s largest non-Muslim religious communities, have been a target of persecution by the government for decades, and the persecution continues.
Baha’i persons and property are routinely attacked with impunity; Baha’is are denied access to higher education unless they renounce their faith; they are barred from employment in the public sector; they may not inherit property; and they are disproportionately subject to arbitrary arrest.
Over 70 Baha’is currently languish in prison because of their religious beliefs. In 2010 the seven leaders of the community were convicted of spurious security-related crimes and sentenced to 20 years – the longest prison sentence given to any prisoner of conscience in Iran.
According to recent reports, on November 15, at least 15 Baha’is were arrested in Tehran, Esfahan, and Mashhad. Reportedly their families were not informed about their whereabouts or the charges they face. Recent reports also included scores of businesses belonging to Baha’is being shut down in several cities in Mazandaran province, and authorities closing all Baha’i businesses in the city of Rafsanjan.
In its most recent report on the state of religious freedom in Iran, the U.S. State Department noted that the Iranian government discriminates against and creates a threatening atmosphere for all non-Shia, “most notably the Baha’is.” U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed has detailed the abuses suffered by the Baha’i community, and urged the Iranian government to end its practice of religious intolerance.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “the freedom to profess and practice one’s faith…is a birthright of every human being:”
“Religious minorities -- including those who profess no faith – have the same rights as religious majorities, and that is a fundamental belief.”
“No nation can fulfill its potential if its people are denied the right to practice, to hold, to modify, to openly profess their innermost beliefs,” said Secretary Kerry. “We all have a responsibility to affirm our faith in the principles of religious freedom that the world community has endorsed so many times.”