Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Publication: The Bahá'ís
URL: http://www.bahai.org/dir/worldwide/persecution

Suffering for their commitment to an international vision, Bahá'ís demonstrate the courage of their convictions.
Throughout the history of the Faith, the Bahá'ís of Iran have been persecuted. In the mid-1800s, some 20,000 followers were killed by the authorities or by mobs, who viewed the infant movement has heretical to Islam.

In the twentieth century, periodic outbreaks of violence were directed against Bahá'ís in Iran, and the government often used Bahá'ís as a scapegoat. In 1933, for example, Bahá'í literature was banned, Bahá'í marriages were not recognized, and Bahá'ís in public service were demoted or fired. In 1955, the government oversaw the demolition of the Bahá'í national center in Tehran with pickaxes.

Bahá'ís understand this pattern of persecution as a manifestation of the misunderstanding and fear that often occur when a new religion emerges from the matrix of a well-established orthodoxy. The pattern has been repeated through the ages; indeed, virtually all of the world's great religions have faced intense persecution in their early history.

In 1979, with the establishment of an Islamic Republic, the persecutions took a new direction, becoming an official government policy and being pursued in a systematic way. Since that year, more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. All national Bahá'í administrative structures were banned by the government, and holy places, shrines, and cemeteries were confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed.

The 350,000-member Bahá'í community comprises the largest religious minority in that country, and Bahá'ís have been oppressed solely because of religious hatred. Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere have long viewed the Bahá'í Faith as a threat to Islam, branding Bahá'ís as heretics and apostates. The progressive position of the Faith on women's rights, independent investigation of truth, and education has particularly rankled Muslim clerics.

In June 1983, for example, the Iranian authorities arrested ten Bahá'í women and girls. The charge against them: teaching children's classes on the Bahá'í Faith - the equivalent of Sunday school in the West.

The women were subjected to intense physical and mental abuse in an effort to coerce them to recant their Faith - an option that is always pressed on Bahá'í prisoners. Yet, like most Bahá'ís who were arrested in Iran, they refused to deny their beliefs. As a result, they were executed.

International protest against the persecution of the Bahá'ís of Iran has been widespread. Thousands of newspaper articles about the persecution have appeared around the world. Prominent international organizations, including the European Parliament and several national legislatures, have passed resolutions condemning or expressing concern about the Bahá'ís of Iran. More important, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly have passed numerous resolutions expressing concern over Iran's human rights record. Virtually all of these resolutions have specifically mentioned the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran.

By the late 1980s, in the face of intense international pressure, the Iranian government had reduced the rate of execution and released many Bahá'ís held in prison. In the early 1990s, however, clear evidence emerged that the government had not given up on its goal of destroying the Bahá'í community. A secret government memorandum came to light in 1993 aimed at establishing a coordinated policy regarding "the Bahá'í question." Drafted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council and signed by Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the document states unequivocally that the "progress and development" of the Bahá'í community "shall be blocked."

One example of this subtle campaign to block the development of the Bahá'í community can be seen in an effort to prevent Bahá'ís from educating their youth. Blocked by the government from enrolling in public universities, the Bahá'í community of Iran established in 1987 its own decentralized Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). At one point, the Institute had more than 150 faculty members and offered some 200 distinct courses, all in an "open university" concept that provided a college education for more than 900 Bahá'í youth throughout the country.

In a series of raids in the fall of 1998, government agents arrested some 32 BIHE faculty members, raided some 500 private homes, and confiscated books, papers, computer equipment and furniture, all in an effort to shut down the institute.

A pattern of arbitrary arrests, imprisonments, property confiscation, and denial of access to education and other rights has continued into the new millennium, with no indication by the government that it will end its effort to eradicate the Bahá'í community as a viable element of Iranian society.


Situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran
Throughout the past century, the Bahá'ís of Iran have been persecuted. With the triumph of the Islamic revolution in 1979, this persecution has been systematized. More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities.

Iran's Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of the Bahá'í Community The emergence in early 1993 of a heretofore secret Iranian Government memorandum aimed at establishing policy on "the Bahá'í question" has convincingly demonstrated that Iran's policies toward the Bahá'ís are in fact centrally orchestrated, as the worldwide Bahá'í community has claimed for many years.

Bahá'í Question Web site
The Iranian government's long term strategy to destroy the Bahá'í community without bringing undue international attention was cruelly outlined in a secret 1991 memorandum that aimed at establishing policy regarding "the Bahá'í question."

Denial of Education Website
Since 1979, the government of Iran has systematically sought to deprive its largest religious minority of the right to a full education. Specifically, the Islamic Republic of Iran has for more than 25 years blocked the 300,000-member Bahá'í community from higher education, refusing young Bahá'ís entry into university and college. The government has also sought to close down Bahá'í efforts to establish their own institutions of higher learning.

The Case of the Bahá'í Minority in Iran
The experience of the Bahá'ís of Iran is a classic case of the violation of human rights, produced by religious intolerance. Prior to the Islamic revolution a deep-seated prejudice against the Bahá'ís and their religion characterized not only Iran's Islamic clergy and the illiterate masses, but also many among the country's educated elite and middle class. The prejudice was widespread and communicated itself to many Western observers.

Annual Summaries 1993 - 2003
Annual summaries of the persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran.

The Bahá'í Institute Of Higher Education: A Creative And Peaceful
Response To Religious Persecution In Iran Since 1980, as part of a government-directed attempt to destroy the intellectual and cultural life of the 300,000-member Bahá'í community, young people who declare their Bahá'í identity have been systematically excluded from colleges and universities in Iran.

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