Iran’s persecution of Baha’is branded ‘crime against humanity’ | News

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New report says minority group faces a ‘spectrum of abuses’, including arbitrary arrest and property confiscation.

Iran’s persecution of its Baha’i minority has been branded “a crime against humanity”.

Human Rights Watch alleged in a report released on Monday that Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority has faced a “spectrum of abuses” since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The New York-based NGO suggested that the case fits the remit of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

HRW said among the persecution endured by the Baha’is are arbitrary arrest, property confiscation, restrictions on school and job opportunities, and the right to a dignified burial.

“The cumulative impact of authorities’ decades-long systematic repression is an intentional and severe deprivation of Baha’is’ fundamental rights and amounts to the crime against humanity of persecution,” the report says.

HRW argues that this falls within the scope of the ICC, whose statute defines persecution as the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law on national, religious or ethnic grounds.

The findings in the report relied on a number of varied sources, including government policies, court documents, and interviews with Baha’is in and out of Iran.

According to HRW, while the intensity of violations against Baha’is “has varied over time”, the persecution of the community has remained constant, “impacting virtually every aspect of Baha’is’ private and public lives”.

“In recent years, as Iranian authorities have brutally repressed widespread protests demanding fundamental political, economic, and social change in the country, the authorities have also targeted Baha’is,” the report notes.

“Authorities have raided Baha’i homes, arrested dozens of Baha’i citizens and community leaders, and confiscated property owned by Baha’is.”

Iran holds “extreme animus against adherents of the Bahai faith” and repression of the minority is enshrined in Iranian law and is official government policy, the report asserts.

“Iranian authorities deprive Baha’is of their fundamental rights in every aspect of their lives, not due to their actions, but simply for belonging to a faith group,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

“It is critically important to increase international pressure on Iran to end this crime against humanity.”

This is believed to be the first time a leading international organisation has labelled Iran’s treatment of the Baha’is as a crime against humanity. Unlike other minorities, Baha’is do not have their faith recognised by Iran’s constitution and have no reserved seats in parliament.

How many members of the community remain in Iran is not known, but activists believe there could still be several hundred thousand.

HRW said as a religious minority unrecognised in Iran’s constitution Baha’is are prohibited from freely holding prayers, even in private.

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