[TRANSCRIPT OF ORIGINAL NEWS ARTICLE IN ENGLISH]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]
25 February 2021
An Open Letter to Iranian Authorities on Recent Farm Seizures
Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi and acting Minister of Agriculture Abbas Keshavarz,
We are a group of persons involved professionally in the global food and agriculture system and international development. We are concerned about the plight of smallholder farmers throughout the world who often face injustice from arbitrary authority. Consequently, we are alarmed to learn of a new stage in the ongoing persecution of Iran’s Baha’i minority involving the confiscation of farmlands in the village of Ivel.
We understand that, in late 2020, two Iranian courts issued orders that declared ownership of lands by 27 Baha’is in Ivel to be illegal. The judges responsible for the decisions against the Baha’is of Ivel are Mr. Mohammad Sadegh Savadkouhi and Mr. Hassan Babai. The court documents indicate that the confiscation of their land is due to the owners’ religious beliefs.
These decisions followed decades of persecution against the Baha’is of Ivel, who are hard-working, low-income agricultural workers with no other assets and means of earning a livelihood aside from their homes and farmlands.
These recent land seizures take place within the context of escalating raids on Baha’i- owned homes and businesses in Iran. On 22 November 2020, over a hundred government agents raided the shops and homes of dozens of Baha’is in seven cities and demanded that they hand over their property deeds.
We understand that Baha’i families have farmed land in Ivel for over 150 years and that these families have been constructive members of the local community, by, for instance, starting a school for children of all faiths and by carrying out measures to improve the hygiene and health of all community members. Despite their contributions to the community, they have faced a series of persecutions throughout the years, characterized by mass expulsion and displacement, and the demolition, bulldozing and confiscation of their homes.
Despite these persecutions, the Baha’i farmers were at least able to continue working their land. Now, the recent court decision means their farmland will be seized. Clearly, these and other confiscations of Baha^ properties in Iran are part of an organized persecution based solely on religion.
We write as fellow agriculturists to bring attention to this instance of persecution and urge the Iranian authorities to overturn their decision with regard to the farmers of Ivel.
Professor and Director, Community Engagement Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta
Founding CEO, Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ethiopia
President of the Seed Systems Group
Managing Director, Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation
Professor, Cropping Systems and Natural Systems Agriculture, University of Manitoba
Founder, Foodshot Global
Author, Rockefeller Food System Visionary
Professor, Agricultural Engineering, University of Puerto Rico
President, Smallholder Farmers Alliance
President, Impact Farming Foundation
CEO Gro Intelligence
Consultant, World Food Programme
CEO of the Acumen Fund
Principal and Senior Lecturer, College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences, and
Veterinary Medicine, University of Rwanda.
Lead Innovation Scientist, CIP, Consultative Group for International
PhD Crop Breeding
Gary A. Reusche
Senior Operations Officer (Retired), World Bank Group
Rene Sahba Shahmohamadloo
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph
Ricardo J. Salvador
Director and Senior Scientist, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
Roy A. Steiner
Senior Vice President, Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation
Oumar Barou Togola
Founder/CEO Savanna Logistics, Mali
Professional Agrologist, Canada
PhD Soil Science
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