[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM Persian]

 

[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]

 

[Adopted from website:] RFI

[Date:] 15 January 2009

 

Iran/Human Rights

Escalating Pressure on Religious Minorities

By: Naser Etemadi

In a coordinated move by Iranian government law enforcement and security forces, tens of members of the Baha’i community in Iran in the provinces of Tehran and Mazandaran were arrested and some of their properties were seized and confiscated. Among those who were arrested are the former secretary of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), Mrs. Jinous Sobhani, Shahrokh Taef, Azizollah Samandari, Payam Aghsani, Didar Raoufi, and others. Based on other reports, tens of Sunni activists, including two clerics, have also been arrested in Kurdistan. These Sunnis were all members in charge of the Bukan Quranic School and were charged on 3 Dey [23 December], after appearing in Mahabad Revolutionary Court, with propaganda against the Islamic regime of Iran, and were sentenced to 91 days of imprisonment under ta‘zir[1] law. Abdol-Fattah Soltani, a defence attorney and member of DHRC in Tehran, has provided the following comments on the above developments and persecutions against Iran’s religious minorities:

Abdol-Fattah Soltani: Unfortunately, I have to say that under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government the harsh treatment of dissidents, either Sunnis or adherents of unofficial religions, especially the followers of the Baha’i Faith, has significantly intensified. During the recent months, the rising trend in harassment of dissidents has assumed considerable dimensions, so much so that they are harassed under various pretenses. Amongst the most basic rights of human beings, based on the Constitution, the International Declaration of Human Rights, and relevant international covenants, is that people have the right to freely express their religious beliefs and practice all of their religious obligations as they believe. As far as I am aware, most of the people who are Sunni or belong to the Baha’i community and are arrested by the Islamic government of Iran are charged with activity against national security, with the reasoning that the mere fact of teaching their religion equates to propaganda against the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I dare say that to my knowledge, a lot of these individuals, if not all, believe deeply in the Baha’i Faith but do not engage in teaching their religion. And even if they did so, hypothetically, nowhere in the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran is it mentioned that teaching a religion is a violation that must be dealt with, or that teaching a religion equates to propaganda against the Islamic regime of Iran. I believe that the closure of DHRC, the raid on Mrs. Shirin Ebadi’s residence, and exerting pressure on the religious minorities are all elements of a single trend and are closely intertwined. These measures are taken by an extremist faction within the government of Iran which controls important levers of power. It is painful and regrettable that we still do not have a mosque for Sunnis in Tehran. We hope that this extremist faction will come to its senses, abandon such actions, and not tarnish its own reputation and that of the Iranian nation, more than it has.

 

[1] [Ta‘zír (discretionary punishment):  Punishment with maximum and minimum limits determined by law and judge, respectively]