UN calls on Iran to stop persecution of Baha'is

17 December 2005

— For the 18th time since 1985, the United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution expressing "serious concern" over the human rights situation in Iran, also making specific mention of the ongoing persecution of the Baha'i community there.

The resolution, which had been put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 46 countries including Australia, the European Union, and the United States, passed by a vote of 75 to 50 on 16 December 2005.

Among other things, it called on Iran to "eliminate, in law or in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religious, ethnic or linguistic grounds, and other human rights violations against minorities, including Arabs, Kurds, Baluchi, Christians, Jews, Sunni Muslims and the Baha'i...."

The resolution quite specifically takes note of the upsurge in persecution against Iran's 300,000-member Baha'i community, noting the "escalation and increased frequency of discrimination and other human rights violations against the Baha'i, including cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, the denial of freedom of religion or of publicly carrying out communal affairs, the disregard of property rights, the destruction of sites of religious importance, the suspension of social, educational and community-related activities and the denial of access to higher education, employment, pensions, adequate housing and other benefits...."

The resolution also encourages various agencies of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to continue to work to improve the human rights situation in Iran, and at the same time it calls on the government of Iran to cooperate with these agencies.

Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, said the worldwide Baha'i community is thankful for the support of the international community in expressing its concern about human rights in Iran.

"It has been a year when human rights violations against Baha'i and other groups in Iran have strikingly worsened, and the scrutiny and support of the international community remains virtually the only tool for the protection of innocent people in Iran," said Ms. Dugal.

"For Baha'is, who are persecuted solely for their religious beliefs, it has been a very difficult year in Iran," said Ms. Dugal.

"At least 59 Baha'is have been subject to various forms of arbitrary arrests, detention and imprisonment, and Baha'i young people have once again been denied the chance to attend college and university."

Ms. Dugal said that although the majority of those Baha'is who have been arrested were released, nine remained in prison as of late October.

As well, said Ms. Dugal, "Baha'is face a wide and growing range of severely oppressive measures, including continued restrictions on religious assembly, the confiscation and destruction of holy sites, the denial of admission to Baha'i students into university, and various economic restrictions."

"Not only do the revolving door arrests and imprisonments seek to intimidate the Baha'i community, but the stringent economic and educational restrictions are part of Iran's stated policy clearly aimed at eliminating Iran's Baha'i community as a viable entity in society," said Ms. Dugal.

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