Australian Baha’is are speaking out against a new wave of official attacks in Iran that has seen the closure of businesses run by their friends and family.
The Baha’is are appealing for justice after Iranian government agents sealed shops whose owners, according to Baha’i religious practice, had temporarily closed them in observance of holy days in April and May.
The authorities have threatened to shut the shops permanently if Baha’is do not sign a pledge that they would limit closures to national holidays, a requirement which is against the laws of Iran itself and violates international human rights norms.
Baha’is view the closures and threats as part of an ongoing systematic persecution that includes jailing of Baha’is, bans on attending university, desecration of cemeteries, hate campaigns in state-controlled media, phone threats and assaults.
Breaching human rights
Dubbo businessman Nasser Sedghi, who is originally from Iran, said this latest economic attack is blatant religious persecution.
“This illegal act brings shame to Iran in the international community” Mr Sedghi said.
“My father-in-law’s business is one of many that have been sealed.” he said.
“Baha’is have very few options to earn an income because they are banned from the public service, and have been sacked from the private sector as a result of pressure from the authorities.
“I own a computer business in Dubbo. If I were in Iran, I would be banned from doing that, or even from selling jewellery, photographic equipment or food, just because I am a Baha’i. It is so unjust.”
Aghdas Hakimian, of Melbourne, recalls the attacks by anonymous individuals some years ago on her father’s fabric shop after he had closed it for a holy day. “They defecated on the shop locks and drew anti-Baha’i graffiti on the shop door,” Mrs Hakimian said.
On a Baha’i holy day last month, Mrs Hakimian’s sister-in-law closed her small shop where she sold hosiery. The authorities have since sealed it, leaving the family with no way to earn money.
Another Australian Baha’i, Adelaide dentist Roshanak Amrein, who grew up in Iran, said at least eight of her friends in her home town of Rafsanjan have had their shops sealed up by government agents. “Many Baha’i shops have also previously been the target of arsonists after official media hate campaigns,” Dr Amrein said.
“Iranian authorities should realise the eyes of the world are on these heartless and illegal tactics which aim to economically strangle the Baha’i community in Iran”.
Australian Baha’i Community spokesperson Natalie Mobini said Mr Sedghi, Mrs Hakimian and Dr Amrein are just three of many Baha’is in Australia who have become alarmed at these latest attacks on family and friends.
“We are grateful to the Australian Federal Parliament and the current and former Australian foreign ministers for calling for an end to the persecution of Baha’is in Iran,” Dr Mobini said.
“Unfortunately the Iranian authorities continue to flout the repeated calls of the international community to stop their attacks on the Baha’is, a law-abiding and non-political community and the biggest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran.”