Iran confiscates Baha'is' properties, says UN

2 July 2006

GENEVA — Baha'is in Iran face discriminatory housing policies, including "the abusive use of property confiscation," said a United Nations report released at a news conference last week.

At least 640 Baha'i properties have been seized since 1980, according to Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, who wrote the report and presented it to the news media on 29 June 2006.

"The properties listed included houses and agricultural land, but also Baha'i sacred places such as cemeteries and shrines," said Mr. Kothari. "The affected owners have allegedly not been given an opportunity to participate or receive prior information related to ongoing confiscation procedures."

He said, for example, many of the confiscations were made by Iranian Revolutionary Courts, and that some of the verdicts he examined declared that "the confiscation of the property of 'the evil sect of the Baha'i' [were] legally and religiously justifiable."

In rural areas, he said, such confiscations were often accompanied by threats and physical violence before and during related forced evictions.

Mr. Kothari said he was "concerned at the clear evidence of discriminatory conduct with respect to Baha'i property, including housing."

At the news conference, Mr. Kothari said he continues to receive reports about Baha'is who have had their land confiscated.

"In the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of Baha'i leaders or prominent people who have been arrested without any charge and then released with very high bail," Mr. Kothari said, according to the Voice of America. "And, the only way in which they can post this bail is to put their property as a guarantee. This seems to be another method of expropriation."

The annual report, which was written as part of a six-year mandate to consider housing policies around the world in relation to the right to an adequate standard of living, focused this year on issues of discrimination in housing, and drew extensively on visits by Mr. Kothari in 2005 to Iran and Cambodia.

The report was set to be released in March, during the Commission on Human Rights, but in the changeover to the new Human Rights Council, its official release by Kothari to the public was delayed until last week.

Diane Alai, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said the report served to confirm that property confiscations have been used as part of Iran's systematic persecution of Baha'is in Iran.

"Unfortunately, what Mr. Kothari has been able to document has been an on-going problem for Iranian Baha'is," said Ms. Alai. "Property confiscation, along with a ban on access to higher education, discrimination in the workplace, and the outright ban on organized religious activity by Baha'is, reflect the Iranian government's wholesale campaign to slowly strangle the Baha'i community in Iran while seeking to evade international condemnation."

Click here for the Special Rapporteur's report.

To learn more about the situation of the Baha'is in Iran click here