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Increasing violence against Iranian Bahá’ís documented in new report

GENEVA — In a report released last week, the Baha’i International Community documents hundreds of incidents of torture, physical assault, arson, vandalism, cemetery desecration and the abuse of schoolchildren directed against the Iranian Baha’i community since 2005 – all carried out with utter impunity.

“The entire situation puts the Baha’is in an impossible position because they must ask for justice and protection from the same authorities who are systematically inciting hatred against them and from a judicial system that treats virtually every Baha’i who is arrested as an enemy of the state,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva.”This report shows that attacks on Baha’is are engineered by government agents and actively encouraged by the authorities and the Muslim clergy in Iran – and that attackers are well aware that they will go unpunished,” added Ms. Ala’i.

Titled “Violence with Impunity: Acts of aggression against Iran’s Baha’i community,” the 45-page report provides case studies and statistics that document a rising tide of violence against Baha’is – and the complete absence of prosecution for attackers.

Focusing on the seven year period from 2005-2012, the report says there have been at least 52 cases where Baha’is have been tortured or held in solitary confinement while in detention. It likewise documents another 52 incidents where Baha’is have been physically assaulted – sometimes at the hands of officials and sometimes at the hands of plainclothes or unidentified attackers.

The report also describes some 49 acts of arson against Baha’i homes and shops, and at least 42 incidents of cemetery desecration. There have also been at least 30 cases of vandalism directed against Baha’i properties, more than 200 instances of threats made against Baha’is, and some 300 incidents of abuse directed against Baha’i schoolchildren.

“Many of the attacks documented in the report – such as the cases of torture or assault during arrests and imprisonment – are undertaken directly by government agents,” said Ms. Ala’i. “Other attacks, such as arson, cemetery desecration, and vandalism, often come in the middle of the night, by unidentified individuals.

“But in all cases, these violators need to be brought to justice, as is required by the international laws to which Iran is a party. The government’s unwillingness to prosecute for these crimes, then, is yet another element in their overall campaign of religious persecution against the Baha’i minority,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Download the full report from the Bahá’í International Community.

Parliamentary Seminar on access to education for Bahá’ís in Iran

A panel of human rights experts addressed a seminar held on 18 December at the House of Commons, exploring the issue of access to education in Iran.

The Iranian government’s policy of excluding those it deems “ideologically unsound” from higher education is eroding progress made in women’s access to secondary education, creating significant obstacles for minorities, and undermining academic freedom.

Those were among the concerns expressed at a seminar, held at the UK parliament, by Ahmed Shaheed – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran speaking in Parliament

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran speaking in Parliament

Stressing the importance of global scrutiny of Iran on its human rights record, Dr. Shaheed noted that the “international community has an indispensable role to play in continuing to support the voices of Iranian citizens that continue to demand that the right to education become a reality for all.”

The seminar, held on 18 December, was organised by the UK parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is Group and chaired by Nic Dakin, member of parliament for Scunthorpe.

Seminar on access to education in Iran at the House of Commons

Seminar on access to education in Iran at the House of Commons

Among other contributors to the discussion was Scott Sheeran, Director of the Human Rights in Iran unit at the University of Essex Human Rights Center. He explored the complex connections that link the right to education to other rights, such as the rights of minorities, non-discrimination and equality before the law, and freedoms of expression, religion and belief.

Daniel Wheatley of the UK Baha’i community shared details of the lengths to which Iran’s government has gone to exclude Baha’is from access to higher education, while Tahirih Danesh – an independent researcher on women’s rights – paid tribute to imprisoned human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh.


Ministers and MPs join Bahá’ís to mark centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to the UK

Government Ministers and Members of Parliament welcomed more than 80 Bahá’ís on 28 November to a unique event to pay tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 100 years after His visit to Britain.

It was the first time the British government had hosted a special reception specifically for the Bahá’í community.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921) was the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh and His appointed successor as head of the Bahá’í Faith. From 1910-1913, following His release from a lifetime of exile and imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made a historic series of journeys to present Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to audiences outside of the Middle East. His two visits to the British Isles took place in September 1911, and from December 1912 to January 1913.

Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP with Dr Kishan Manocha, Baha'i Community of the UK

Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP with Dr Kishan Manocha, Baha’i Community of the UK

The reception was held by the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government. Welcoming the guests, Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP expressed appreciation for the contribution Bahá’ís make to UK society. He praised the “little bits of kindness” he had observed among the Bahá’ís and added, “We wouldn’t tick along quite so well without Bahá’ís in our community.”

Don Foster MP, Minister for Integration, told the gathering that, of all the significant people to come from his home constituency of Bath, he was proud to include Ethel Rosenberg, a founding member of the British Bahá’í community.

Don Foster MP, Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, addressing the reception

Don Foster MP, Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, addressing the reception

“You continue to distinguish yourselves in the professions, the arts and particularly in the vital areas of education and conflict resolution,” Mr. Foster told the Bahá’ís. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “important truth” that “we should pursue peace together and differences of race and division between religions must cease is as true today as it was then,” he said.

Kishan Manocha, speaking on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom, thanked Mr. Pickles for hosting the event, describing it as a “tremendous honour and pleasure.”

Guests at the Department for Communities and Local Government

Guests at the Department for Communities and Local Government reception

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