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The Bahá'í Faith

Persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran

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Persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran:

According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. State Department:

"The Constitution of Iran states that Islam is the official state religion, and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'afari (Twelver) Shi'ism. The Constitution provides that 'other Islamic denominations are to be accorded full respect,' while the country's pre-Islamic religious groups--Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews--are recognized as 'protected' religious minorities. However, Article 4 of the Constitution states that all laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. In practice, the Government severely restricted freedom of religion." 1

Of particular concern are the 300,000 to 350,000 Bahá'ís in Iran. They are experiencing oppressive government persecution for their religious beliefs. Bahai's are looked on as Islamic heretics by many fundamentalist Muslims, including the theocratic government in Iran. This is largely because their founder, Baha'u'llah, claimed in the 19th century to be the latest prophet of God. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, had declared himself to be the final prophet centuries earlier. 2

Not being a either protected religious minority or a faith group within Islam, they are a particular target for assassination and judicial murder.

Some events:

bullet Prior to 1979: Under the regime of the Shaw of Iran, Bahai's lived in relative peace and harmony within Iran. With the toppling of the Shaw and the establishment of an Islamic theocracy, persecutions began. 2
bullet 1996-FEB: Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, the UNs Special Rapporteur for Religious Intolerance, reported that 201 Baha'is had been assassinated and 115 others reported missing and presumed dead since the theocracy was founded. 3
bullet 1996-APR: The United Nations Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about the state of religious freedom in that country for members of the Bahá'í and other minority faiths.
bullet 1996-MAY-14: Reuters news service quoted the most senior judge in Iran, Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi. He told a group of Shi'ite theologians in Qom that "religious minorities in Iran enjoy freedom...However, ..Baha'iism is not a religion but an espionage establishment. Iran will by no means sacrifice...Islamic rules in order to appease the international bodies." 4

1996-MAY-15: The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States stated:

"Since the Islamic regime took power, more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed on account of their religion, and thousands have been imprisoned. Bahá'ís have systematically been denied access to education, jobs and pensions, and both personal and Bahá'í community properties have been confiscated."

bullet 1999: The U.S. State Department issues an annual report under the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act. It listed Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) because of its "particularly egregious violations of religious freedom." They have repeated this classification annually since that time. 1
bullet 2005-DEC-16: The Government of Canada submitted a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly expressing "serious concern" over the human rights situation in Iran, and criticizing the continuing persecution of the Baha'i community in the country. It was co-sponsored by 46 countries, including Australia, the European Union, and the U.S. It passed by a vote of 75 to 50. This was the UN's 18th resolution concerning Iranian human rights. 5
bullet 2009-FEB-06: Forty two Iranian professionals issued a public apology for their theocratic government's long history of abusing members of the Baha'i faith. All live out of the country. 6,7

Their open letter concludes:

We are ashamed that during the last thirty years, the killing of Baha’is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over two-hundred Baha’is have been slain on this account;

We are ashamed that a group of intellectuals have justified coercion against the Baha’i community of Iran;

We are ashamed of our silence that after many decades of service to Iran, Baha’i retired persons have been deprived of their right to a pension;

We are ashamed of our silence that on the account of their fidelity to their religion and truthfulness in stating this conviction, thousands of Baha’i youth have been barred from education in universities and other institutions of higher learning in Iran;

We are ashamed that because of their parents’ religious beliefs, Baha’i children are subjected to denigration in schools and in public.

We are ashamed of our silence over this painful reality that in our nation, Baha’is are systematically oppressed and maligned, a number of them are incarcerated because of their religious convictions, their homes and places of business are attacked and destroyed, and periodically their burial places are desecrated;

We are ashamed of our silence when confronted with the long, dark and atrocious record that our laws and legal system have marginalized and deprived Baha’is of their rights, and the injustice and harassment of both official and unofficial organs of the government towards this group of our countrymen;

We are ashamed for all these transgressions and injustices, and we are ashamed for our silence over these deeds.

We, the undersigned, asked you, the Baha’is, to forgive us for the wrongs committed against the Baha’i community of Iran.

We will no longer be silent when injustice is visited upon you.

We stand by you in achieving all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights.

Let us join hands in replacing hatred and ignorance with love and tolerance.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Islam and the Baha'i Faith" is a Web site by an individual member of the Baha'i Faith. It promotes "a better understanding of the relationship between the Baha'i Faith and Islam, and to dispel some of the misconceptions which may have led to feelings of mistrust and suspicion." See:
  2. "Iran: International Religious Freedom Report 2008," U.S. State Department, 2008-SEP-19. at:
  3. "FDI denounces persecution of Baha'is," Foundation for Democracy in Iran, 1996-MAY-23, at:
  4. "Tehran," 1996-MAY-14, at:
  5. "United Nations again expresses concern over human rights in Iran; a Baha'i prisoner dies of unknown causes," Baha'i International Community, 2005-DEC, at:
  6. "We are ashamed,", 2009-FEB-03, at:
  7. "Iranian professionals post public apology to Baha'is," CNN, 2009-FEB-08, at:

Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Bahá'í > here

Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2009-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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