Situation of Baha’is in Iran

The position statement of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Session on the situation of human rights in Iran.

As Australians, we enjoy the freedom to choose whether to practice a religion or not.

Baha’is in Iran face a very different reality. For over 40 years and to this day, the entire Baha’i community in Iran has been subject to continuous, multidimensional and state-sponsored persecution, affecting every one of its members across generations and within every phase of life and even in death.

Through various means, new and old, the authorities exclude Baha’is from the public sphere and prevent them from expressing their beliefs; impoverish them economically; undermine their intellectual advancement; erase traces of their history and culture; as well as spread disinformation about them and incite the public so as to create an environment of hatred against them. Their aim is to destroy the Baha’i community as a viable entity in Iran.

Over the past decade there has been a major upsurge in human rights violations. These include:

  • Imprisonments: Since 2005 more than 800 Iranian Baha’is have been arrested or detained due to their faith.
  • Leaders imprisoned for ten years: After a sham trial in 2008, seven Baha’i leaders were sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, called for their release, as did her predecessor, the Hon Senator Bob Carr. All seven have now been released after completing their ten-year sentences.
  • Educators jailed Baha’i educators have been sentenced to five year jail terms for involvement in a Baha’i educational program for their young people, who are barred from universities due to their religion.
  • Systematic violence and harassment: Since 2005 there have been hundreds of incidents of torture, physical assault, disappearances, unexplained suspicious deaths, arson against homes and businesses, vandalism, cemetery desecration and the abuse of schoolchildren.
  • Economic pressure: Economic pressure on Iran’s Baha’i community is acute. Since 2007, more than 780 incidents of economic persecution have been documented including shop closings, dismissals, the revocation of business licenses, property confiscations, and other efforts to block Baha’is from earning a livelihood. In late 2020, Iranian courts found that all properties belonging to Baha’is in the village of Ivel, who had farmed their land for generations, be confiscated.
  • Incitement to hatred: A continuous campaign to incite hatred against Baha’is is carried out in Iran.

The Australia Baha’i Community works to protect the human rights of Baha’is in Iran. We do this by making representations to the Australian Government and by liaising with human rights and other non-government organisations. We also inform the media about violations of the human rights of the Baha’is in Iran, and we facilitate media contact with Australian relatives of Baha’i prisoners, Baha’is who have first hand experience of the persecution, and official media spokespeople.

The Australian Government has consistently supported UN resolutions condemning the persecution, most recently in December 2020. Australia raises the issue regularly at the UN Human Rights Council. A bipartisan motion condemning the persecution was addressed in the House of Representatives on 6 September 2019, following similar motions dating back as far as 1981. Individual MPs have spoken out in the Federal and State parliaments.

The Baha’is of Iran, who form their country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, pose no threat to the government. As loyal citizens they seek to contribute to the progress of their country and of humanity, just as Baha’is do in Australia. Baha’is are not aligned with any government, ideology or opposition movement. The principles of the Baha’i Faith require them to avoid partisan political involvement, subversive activity and all forms of violence, and to obey the laws of the land.

For more information please contact us.