A Collection of Official Documents related to the Human Rights Violation of the Bahá’ís
The Persecution of Bahá’ís is not a new phenomenon. Bahá’ís have been persecuted throughout the history of their faith in Iran. As Eliz Sanasarian notes in her book, Religious Minorities in Iran: “The clergy and religious segments have always held a deep hostility against the Bahá’ís. They were the true “infidels,” in the strict application of the term, to be dealt with harshly and to be destroyed.”
In the mid-nineteenth Century, at least four thousand early Bahá’í followers, who are known as Bábís, were killed by those who considered the Bahá’í faith a deviation from Islam.
In May 1955, at the incitement of the clergy, religious and state elements destroyed and occupied, the National Bahá’í Centre (Hazirat ol Qods), one of the Bahá’í holy places in Tehran, and conducted daily anti- Bahá’í propaganda through Iranian national radio cultivating a culture of violence against the Bahá’ís. Furthermore, a section of the house of the Báb (one of the holiest sites of the Bahá’ís worldwide) was destroyed; Bahá’ís in villages around Shiraz were attacked; eight hundred Bahá’í followers were forced to change their faith in writing, and sign and submit their oath to local Islamic officials.
During this time, Bahá’í public and private property were attacked and destroyed, especially in Rasht, Abadeh, Isfahan, Hesar, Urmia, Shiraz, Karaj, and Mahfrouzak. Many offices, residential premises and religious centre were looted and set on fire. However, these are just a few examples of the persecution Bahá’ís faced during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Many of these and other acts were instigated by Shiite clerics, often in conjunction with government complicity or support. In some cases, in an extensive propagandist action against the Bahá’ís the clergy negotiated with secular official authorities to secure the state’s approval for its actions.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Shiite clerics who had tried to suppress the Bahá’ís, even through the secular Pahlavi state, came into power. Therefore, the situation of the Bahá’ís became significantly worse. From this point, the harassment and persecution of Bahá’ís were perpetrated on a larger and more systematic scale backed by the full support of the Islamic state.
In an interview with Professor James Cockroft published in Seven Days magazine on February 23, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini made clear his view about Bahá’ís:
“Cockroft: Will there be either religious or political freedom for the Bahá’ís under an Islamic government?
Khomeini: They are a political faction; they are harmful. They will not be accepted.
Cockroft: How about their freedom of religion – religious practice?
Clerics who are in power in Iran’s Shiite religious state, believe that the Bahá’í faith is not a religion or belief system, but a “cult” or a “political doctrine,” and use this argument to justify the denial of the fundamental rights of the Bahá’ís.
On the other hand, it has been officially claimed that the rights of Bahá’ís would be restored as soon as they convert to Islam. This in and of itself shows that the Bahá’ís are targeted solely because of their religious beliefs, not because of their political activities.
The repression of and violations of fundamental rights of the Bahá’ís have been more severe during certain periods of the Islamic Republic era. As an example, during the years immediately following the 1979 revolution the execution of Bahá’ís accused of ‘crimes’, such as “Corruption on earth”, “Cooperation with foreign governments”, and “Spying for Israel” was prevalent.
According to a report published by the Bahá’í International Community entitled “The Bahá’í Question: Cultural Cleansing in Iran,” between 1979 and 1992, at least 187 members of the Bahá’ís community were murdered or executed. Furthermore, the persecution of the Bahá’ís has continued throughout the past three decades, and worsened since the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, especially after his second term in office beginning in 2009.
In recent years, a large number of Bahá’ís, including seven leading members of the Bahá’í community, known as Yaran, have been imprisoned and sentenced to long terms in prison. Bahá’í prisoners have been victims of extrajudicial arrests, unlawful proceedings, torture and denial of fair trials. In addition, the rights of Bahá’ís to access higher education, to work, or engage in productive employment, remain restricted on a large scale.
Certain state-owned or partly state-owned media have supported all these steps against the Bahá’í community. They have not only legitimized the human rights violations committed by the Islamic Republic authorities, but have further promoted anti-Bahá’í polemics at the grassroots level around Iran.
Lack of Due Process of Law (Violation of Legal Rights)
When Bahá’ís are prosecuted by the state, they are usually charged with “Spreading propaganda against the system”, “Espionage”, or “Acting against national security”. Judicial proceedings are plagued by inadequate documentation, unfair proceedings and lack of due process of law.
Testimonies of Bahá’í prisoners and their relatives demonstrate that they are victims of persecution, torture and unfair treatment by security and judicial institutions, simply because of their religious beliefs. Undeniable evidence also points to illegal and extra-judicial measures taken by intelligence forces during the arrest, investigation, interrogation and proceedings of Bahá’í cases.
Homes searches without warrants, detention in security centres, interrogation by intelligence officers under the supervision of security forces rather than judicial institutions, and lack of access to legal representation during hearings are part of a significant and widespread violation of the human rights of Bahá’ís by the judicial system in Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policies seriously violate the civil and legal rights of Bahá’ís mandated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a signatory, as well as article 23 of Iran’s constitution law on prohibiting the inquisition.
Violation of the Right to Education
On 25 February 1991, Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi Golpayegani, secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, released a confidential letter summarizing the findings and recommendations of the Council’s negotiations with the government on its policy toward “Bahá’ís” to inform the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei.
This letter says:
“- Preferably, [Bahá'í pupils] should be enrolled in schools that have a strong and imposing religious ideology.
- [Bahá'í students] must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Bahá’í.
This letter essentially sets the standards of the continued and systematic policy to prevent Bahá’ís from their fundamental right to education and specifically higher education in Iran.
In 2006, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology issued a confidential letter to all universities and higher educational centres, under the subject of “banning Bahá’ís from university education” specifically based on the above mentioned decision of Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.
After graduating from high school, many young Bahá’ís eager to attend university participate in the university entrance exam, but due to the policy of preventing Bahá’ís from having access to higher education, they are unable to go further and many are unable to attend altogether. In Iran, a university entrance exam is not the sole criterion for student selection. All applicants must pass the “selection process”, which is held by the Sanjesh Organisation.
The applicants may be deprived from higher education on political, ideological and religious grounds, and this is exactly what is happening to young Bahá’ís who attempt to continue their higher education. The Ministry of Science designates the files of many Bahá’í students as “incomplete”.
The Sanjesh Organisation’s website, under the organisation activity states:
“…Conducting terms and conditions of “students’ acceptance” according to plans and educational policies,” …”
Evidence points to the fact that IRI authorities deprive Bahá’ís of their right to education– as enshrined in Iran’s constitution as well as the ICCPR (to which the Islamic Republic is a party)– solely on the basis of their belief and faith.
The Bahá’í International Community, in a joint statement with 16 other non-governmental organisations, published an urgent call upon the government of Iran to address the state of higher education in the country. This statement notes that:
“…More than 600 students, and some university lecturers, have been arrested since 2009 for peacefully expressing their opinions. Hundreds have been deprived of education for their political beliefs, while student gatherings, publications, and organisations have been shut down.”
But this was not the end. Even when the Bahá’í community in Iran tried to establish an institution of higher education to respond to the academic needs of young Bahá’ís, the state banned their initiative. In September 1998, 36 members of the institution’s academic staff were arrested and about 500 homes were searched. However, the institute continued its work with over 900 students, 150 academic staff and offered 32 university-level programs; classes were held on private premises.
Once again, in May 2011, Iranian authorities raided homes of Bahá’ís associated with BIHE. A number of Bahá’í educators were arrested and are currently serving four or five year prison terms.
Violation of Freedom of Occupation
Based on article 28 of Iran’s constitutional law:
“Everyone has the right to choose any occupation he wishes, if it does not have any contradiction to Islam and the public interest and does not infringe on rights of others. The Government has the duty with due consideration of the need of society for different kind of occupations to provide every citizen with opportunity to work and to create equal opportunities…”
The right enshrined in the above article is not conditional on citizens’ religious beliefs. In addition, Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly recognizes this right without any condition:
“(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment….”
Despite the above legal requirements, Bahá’ís have been deprived of their basic and fundamental right to engage in work and to pursue a freely chosen occupation. However, Islamic Republic officials have shut down their workshops and offices and revoked or suspended their licenses.
The Bahá’í International Community released a statement during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, concerning the economic repression of Bahá’ís in Iran and the recent escalation of pressure on Bahá’í businesses and business owners:
“…The government is so determined to suffocate the Bahá’í community economically that officials do not bat an eye when these measures also cause hardship for the majority Shi’i Muslim population. Licenses are revoked for Muslim business partners of Bahá’ís, as well, and in Semnan, one of the factories closed in May had 51 employees: 15 Bahá’ís and 36 non-Bahá’ís …”
However, in October 2005, the head of the Armed Forces General Command Headquarters sent a confidential letter to many of the country’s military and security agencies, including the Ministry of Intelligence, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Basij militia forces. Referring to Khamenei’s order, he stated:
“…. According to the instructions of the Exalted Rank of the Supreme Leader… the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces has been given the mission to acquire a comprehensive and complete report of all the activities of these sects (including political, economic, social and cultural) for the purpose of identifying all the individuals of these misguided sects. Therefore, we request that you convey to relevant authorities to, in a highly confidential manner, collect any and all information about the abovementioned activities of these individuals and report it to this Command Headquarters…”
Further, the Ministry of Interior sent a letter to the Political-Security Deputies of Offices of the Governors-General on August 2006, stating:
“…We have received reports that some of the elements of the perverse sect of Bahá’ís are attempting to teach and spread the ideology of Bahá’ísm, under the cover of social and economic activities. In view of the fact that this sect is illegal and that it is exploited by international and Zionist organisations against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we therefore ask you to order the relevant offices to cautiously and carefully monitor and manage their [the Bahá’ís] social activities. In addition, complete the requested information on the enclosed form and forward it to this office for its use by 6th September 2006.”
Iranian police forces, which are in charge of overseeing public places under the supervision of the Office of Public Security and Intelligence Police, released an official letter entitled, “Review of the eligibility of individuals belonging to small groups and the perverse Bahá’í sect.” The letter states that a goal is to:
“….identify Bahá’í individuals working in craft businesses and collect statistics broken down by (their distribution and type of occupation)…”
It also introduces many restrictions on the rights of members of the Bahá’í community to engage in work and business freely and unconditionally. These measures indicate that the Bahá’í right to work freely and engage freely in economic activity has been extensively and systematically denied.
Anti-Bahá’í Propaganda in the Media
The Bahá’í International Community published a special report in October 2011, called “Inciting Hatred, Iran’s Media Campaign to Demonize Bahá’ís”, based on monitoring the Iranian press and its broadcast media over a period of 16 months from December 17, 2009 to May 16, 2011. The report includes many official and/or semi-official news agencies and hard-liner online platforms supported by Intelligence and military agencies as well as supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The report says:
“…One insidious element of this persecution however—which until now has been less well documented— has been the government’s extensive use of the mass media and other means to systematically denigrate and vilify Bahá’ís. Repeated time and again throughout history, the pattern of demonizing and dehumanizing a segment of society is always a matter of grave concern. Through such propaganda, the victims’ humanity is denied. Blame for the economic and social problems of the country—and often the wider world—rests firmly with the “other,” who may be reviled as an animal, a vermin, a pest, a disease or as practicing witchcraft… Bahá’ís are obsessively portrayed in official propaganda as the source of every conceivable evil. They are accused of being agents for various imperialist or colonialist factions; they face continuous but utterly unfounded allegations of immorality; they are branded as social pariahs to be shunned. The propaganda is shocking in its volume and vehemence, its scope and sophistication, cynically calculated to stir up antagonism against a peaceful religious community whose members are striving to contribute to the well-being of their society.”
State-run media attack the Bahá’ís and publish false information about their history and teachings, accusing them of moral corruption, conducting espionage for foreign governments– such as Israel and the U.S.– without evidence. They further use insulting language against the Bahá’ís, calling them a ‘sect’ or a ‘sinister/evil cult’. This is not only contrary to the principles and mission of professional and unbiased media, but instead it promotes anti-Bahá’í attitudes and culture and incites religious fanaticism.
This media campaign is run by state-owned or semi-state owned entities, backed by military/security agencies that try to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation against Bahá’ís by seeking to destroy the Bahá’í faith and demonize and dehumanize its followers.
Article 20 of the ICCPR explicitly declares:
“…Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to the above Covenant.
Violators of the Human Rights of Bahá’ís
In consideration of the serious and systematic violation of the human rights of Bahá’ís in the judicial, educational, professional, and media sectors, Justice for Iran decided to research and identify state actors responsible for perpetrating these violations, with a focus on the time period following the 2009 election for presidency in Iran.
The first goal of this report is to cite the testimony of Bahá’ís who are the victims of human rights violations. The information that has been shared with JFI has greatly contributed to the preparation of this report. JFI has also drawn on previous reports, research, as well as valid and authentic legal documents published by the IRI authorities.
In this report, Justice for Iran identifies fifteen official and semi-official state authorities directly involved in the severe and extensive violations of human rights of the Bahá’í community.
The profiles of these perpetrators are included below, as well as accounts of their unambiguous involvement in violating human rights of the Bahá’ís in the judicial, educational, professional, and media sectors in Iran.
The violators of the judicial rights of Bahá’ís include:
The violators of the educational rights of Bahá’ís include:
The violators of the professional rights of Bahá’ís include:
The violators of the human rights of Bahá’ís in the media context include:
JFI believes that all of the aforementioned individuals are involved in serious and systematic violations of the rights of Bahá’ís, as codified both in domestic and international laws; and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions.
First, JFI requests that the European Union (EU) and countries supporting human rights use political and diplomatic means to apply pressure on the IRI to end the persecution of Bahá’ís and include the names of these fifteen human rights violators in human rights sanctions, including instituting travel bans against them and freezing their assets.
 Page 114 in http://www.great-iran.com/PDFs/History/Different-files/Religious-Minorities-in-Iran.pdf
 Ibid (see chapter 13)
 Ibid (page 86)
 Obviously, violators of the human rights of Bahá’ís are not limited to this list. Completing and extending this list remains a goal of JFI.
10 Mar 2013