Europeans voice concern about the economic oppression of Iranian Baha'is

17 November 2015

BRUSSELS — Prominent Europeans, including members of parliament, are calling on Iran to end its economic repression of Baha'is.

Among the most prominent of such expressions was one that came from the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, urging the "Iranian authorities to end the continuous and systematic economic oppression of the members of the Baha'i Faith in Iran".

"Baha'is are blocked from obtaining higher education, are banned from all forms of employment in the public sector and are not issued work permits for a wide range of businesses," said Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the Intergroup.

"These policies reflect a clear effort by the government to strangle the economic life of the Baha'i community, and they are unacceptable under both international law and common human decency," said Mr. de Jong.

Other prominent Europeans expressing concern over Iran's economic repression of Baha'is include Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Klaus Buchner of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Iran.

"They are deprived of access to education and to certain professions and now their private businesses are even being shut down," said MEP Buchner, who was quoted in a new video on the subject, released this week.

At the national level, a number of parliamentarians are also speaking out.

In Germany, Member of Parliament Omid Nouripour said the exclusion of Baha'is from "all areas of the life of society" is "robbing thousands of its own citizens in a discriminatory manner of their basic rights".

"Whosoever speaks about the restoring of trade, but prevents tens of thousands of individuals of the possibility of free enterprise, discredits himself," said Mr. Nouripour.

In the United Kingdom, MP Baroness Berridge, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, said Iran's moves to close Baha'i-owned shops "are another element of the Iranian authorities' multi-faceted efforts to extirpate a viable Baha'i community".

MP Alistair Carmichael, an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Baha'i Faith said: "As Iran opens up to greater trade and exchange with the international community, Iranian Baha'is should be able to contribute towards the prosperity of their nation and earn a living for their families as much as any other citizen."

In the Netherlands, MP Harry van Bommel called the economic oppression of Baha'is "very worrisome", adding: "Shop closings or the refusal of renewing a business license is not just a violation of economic rights, it seems like another effort by the Iranian authorities to impoverish and eradicate the Baha'i community as a viable entity in Iran."

    • Dennis de Jong, Member of the European Parliament, co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance (Photo… »

    In Spain, a government expert on religious affairs has expressed his concern.

    "Iran is missing an opportunity to take advantage of the energy, constructive force and potentiality that the Baha'i minority has by vetoing them to work, whether in the public or private sector," said Ricardo Garcia, the former deputy director general for Religious Affairs in the Ministry of Justice, who now serves on the Ministry's national advisory commission for religious affairs.

    The new video released by the BIC also features comments from a range of civil society leaders, including Bernadette Segol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

    "The trade union movement wants the ILO core labour standards to be applied everywhere in the world and want human rights to be included in any deal or any trade agreements," said Ms. Segol.

    Ioana David—president of the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises for the 2014-2015 academic year—said "As students we feel disgraced that Baha'i students are denied the right to study in university."

    "It is hard for us to understand how on purpose you would deny the rights to think and to work for your own country," said Ms. David.

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