[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]


[Adapted from website:] Aasoo

[Date:] 12 Mehr 1395 [3 October 2016]


Citizenship Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Abdolkarim Lahiji

In Bahman 1369 [January/February 1991], the leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, ratified a decree by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution in which the general policy of the Islamic Republic towards the Baha’is was specified; for instance, it stated, “The regime should treat them in such a way as to block their path of progress and development.” This trend has continued for years and there are multiple examples and documents that indicate [the system’s continuous] efforts for preventing the economic activities of the Iranian Baha’i community.

One of the newest methods that authorities implement to prevent the Baha’is from gaining livelihood is to avoid the issuance or the renewal of business permits for Baha’is or to deny the delivery of their necessary commodities and goods, in order to interrupt their work. For example, they have been denied the right to close their businesses during the Baha’i religious holidays. Although, according to the guild law, each business owner who has a business permit can close his business for up to 15 days. The Ministry of Intelligence does not consider the Baha’is to be subject to this law and seals the Baha’i’s place of business on the charge of “arbitrary performance of religious rites.”

The Managing Council [sic] of the Baha’i International Community, in a letter to one of the Iranian Baha’is, has suggested several solutions for this problem. But when, according to [the suggestions in] this letter, several Baha’is who own businesses contacted the authorities to say that they were prepared to close their business one day before and after the Baha’i holiday or keep their business open on their religious holiday, but not engage in any economic activity, the intelligence authorities did not accept their suggestion and requested them to sign an agreement declaring that, “ …I declare that my shop has been sealed by legal authorities due to violation of national and trade rules and regulations. I undertake not to propagate the Baha’i Faith, which is in favour of anti-regime groups and action against national security, in any way. And I will only close my business during the national holidays....”

Some time ago, a high-ranking representative of the Baha’i International Community wrote a letter addressed to the president of Iran and asked him to end the economic injustice against the Baha’is of Iran. Referring to this letter and the injustices against the Baha’is of Iran, Dr. Abdolkarim Lahiji, the advocate who is one of the Founders of the Iranian Society for the Defense of Freedom and Human Rights and the current president of the International Federation of Human Rights Institutions, citing sources of civil rights in Iran, raised a number of questions about Iranian Baha’is.

Introduction – Ms. Bani Dugal a high ranking representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, in a letter dated 16 Shahrivar [7 September] addressed to the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, [presented] a summary of the persecutions and the severe economic oppression against the Baha’i community in Iran, including the dismissal of thousands of Baha’i employees and workers from government organizations, factories, state-owned and parastatal institutions and pressure put on the private companies to dismiss the Baha’i employees, confiscation of the property and assets of Baha’is, dismissal of the Baha’i students from the universities, arrest and detention of the Baha’is, etc., reminded him that the Iranian people have not forgotten his promises concerning the “equality of civil rights and opportunities for all people” and stated that Baha’is, as the biggest non-Muslin religious minority, demand the elimination of all these persecutions and injustices.

In this writing, I will briefly cite the sources of the civil rights in Iran and will present some questions to the president of Iran as the “Head of the Executive Branch” (Articles 60 and 113 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic).

Civil rights – In the legal and political dictionary, the citizen is a person who enjoys civil and political rights in the territory of a state. These civil rights are detailed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and to which more than 170 states have acceded. The Law on the Accession of the Government of Iran to this Covenant, was approved by the National Consultative Assembly in 1354 [1975] in implementation of Article 24 of the Constitution. In the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, international treaties must also be approved by the legislature (Article 77). In addition, according to Article 9 of the Iranian Civil Code, “…the stipulated treaty, concluded in accordance with the Constitution between the Government of Iran and other states, [is] in force like any other law.”

Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that each state that is a party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Also, each state party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.

Therefore, the Committee for Human Rights, composed of international experts, which oversees the implementation of this Covenant, has repeatedly reminded the Islamic Republic of Iran that the provisions of its laws, and above all the Constitution, especially in the field of fundamental rights and freedoms, must comply with the provisions of the Covenant.

In addition to acknowledging the supremacy of international treaties over domestic law in public international law documenting the Vienna International Covenant on the Law of Treaties (1969), we saw that the drafters of the Iranian Civil Code, 40 years before the ratification of the Vienna Convention, considered the ratification of the International Covenant by the Legislative Assembly sufficient and considered it as “the rule of law” and binding.

Thus, the criterion and document of the civil rights of the Iranian people is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, both in the executive branch and in the judiciary, are obliged to observe, ensure and guarantee these rights for all Iranians, regardless of their gender, religion, language, political beliefs and other characteristics.

Executive Responsibility – Although the structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran resembles more an oligarchy than a republic, in terms of legal-political responsibilities, “after the Supreme Leader, the President is the highest official in the country and is in charge of and responsible for enforcing the Constitution and the executive branch, except in matters directly related to the Supreme Leader.”

In addition, although, according to the Article 110 of the Constitution, the basic executive levers are considered to be within the authority of the supreme leader, the president is accountable to the nation, the supreme leader, and the Islamic Consultative Assembly “for performing duties under the Constitution or ordinary laws.” (Article 122)

Therefore, beyond the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and within the framework of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which is the “executive responsibility” of the president, we ask the following questions:

1- Baha’is are the largest non-Muslim religious minority group in Iran and according to Article 14 of the Constitution, “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights.” Are freedom and personal security, freedom of conscience and belief, right to property, right to work, right to education and training considered as part of the human rights of non-Muslims in Iran, or not?

2- According to Article 22 of the Constitution, “The dignity, life, property, rights, residence and occupation of the individual are inviolable.” Why is the principle that applies to Muslims and non-Muslims not applied to Baha’is?

3-It is also explicitly stated in Article 30 of the Constitution that “The government must provide all citizens with free education up to secondary school, and must expand free higher education to the extent required by the country for attaining self-sufficiency.” Are Baha’i children and youth part of the “nation” of Iran or not?

In this article, I do not intend to recall in detail the oppression and discrimination against the Baha’is of Iran in recent years, but since the letter from the Baha’i senior representative to the president referred to “severe economic oppression”, I will suffice with these questions.

However, in Ms. Bani Dugal’s letter, this oppressive policy based on religious discrimination is referred to as “economic apartheid”, which has legal consequences for the officials of the Islamic Republic vis-à-vis the international community.

Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998, defines apartheid as one of the crimes against humanity.

The future will show whether the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran listen to these petitions, warnings and alarming or not?

Abdolkarim Lahiji

20 Shahrivar 1395 [10 September 2016]