Text of secret Iran letter ordering "monitoring" of Baha'is made public

24 August 2006

NEW YORK — The text of a secret letter from Iranian military headquarters instructing commanders of various state intelligence services, police units, and the Revolutionary Guard to "identify" and "monitor" Baha'is has now been obtained and made available to the public.

The letter, dated 29 October 2005 and signed by the Chairman of Command Headquarters of the Iranian Armed Forces, first came to public attention in March when its existence was announced by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir.

Ms. Jahangir, who said the letter's contents made her "highly concerned," did not release the text of the letter. However, on 24 July, Amnesty International announced they had obtained it and were making it available.

The full text of the letter in English, as well as a facsimile of the original letter in Persian, can be viewed at these links:

Text of 29 October 2005 letter in English

Facsimile of 29 October 2005 letter in Persian

In March, in a statement announcing her discovery of the letter, Ms. Jahangir said, "[S]uch monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities." She further expressed concern that "the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Baha'i Faith."

Human rights experts have noted that the list of recipients -- which also includes the paramilitary Basij Resistance Forces -- gives an especially ominous tone to the letter, since it indicates the continuation of a policy established by the government of Iran that systematically seeks to destroy the Baha'i community as a viable entity. For more on Iran's long standing policy against Baha'is, go to http://question.bahai.org/002.php

After learning of the letter, a number of governments and human rights groups expressed alarm at the threat it implied, over and above the continuing pattern of arbitrary arrests, attacks in the official news media, and other forms of harassment and persecution faced by Iranian Baha'is. International and national news media reported widely on the increased danger to the Baha'is.

A spokesman for the President of the United States, in a White House briefing on 28 March 2006, stated that the United States government shares the concerns of Ms. Jahangir.

"We call on the regime in Iran to respect the religious freedom of all its minorities, and to ensure that these minorities are free to practice their religious beliefs without discrimination or fear," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary. "And we will continue to monitor the situation of the Baha'is -- the Baha'is in Iran -- very closely, and to speak out when their rights are denied."

In Europe, the Council of Europe expressed "deep concern" over the human rights situation in Iran in a 15 May resolution, noting restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, and specifically mentioning the situation of the Baha'is in Iran.

In France, Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in an April interview that "[w]e are deeply worried about the harassment of the Baha'i and Sufi minorities who are highly discriminated against."

The Spanish House of Representatives passed a strongly worded resolution decrying the persecution of Iran's Baha'is, expressing its concern about the order of Ayatollah Khamenei "to identify and monitor the Baha'is, as stated by the Special Rapporteur."

The House of Representatives of the Philippines likewise adopted a resolution "appealing to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to safeguard and protect the fundamental human rights of the Baha'is and other religious minorities in said country" in view of the apprehensions that had been expressed by the United Nations' Special Rapporteur.

In India, member of Parliament Karan Singh wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, calling attention to the Special Rapporteur's statement and urging him to "take up this matter" with Iranian authorities.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in a statement on 5 April 2006, said it "fears that the identification and monitoring of the Baha'is combined with the current hatred propaganda in the media could lead to increased discrimination in their regards and calls upon the Iranian authorities to abide by their international human rights commitments."

News organizations have also reported on the letter and its alarming nature. Agence France Presse and Reuters both carried news of Ms. Jahangir's statement when it was released. Other news organizations -- The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Toronto Star, The Indian Express, and The Times of India, among others -- followed up with other stories in the spring of 2006 on the threat facing Iranian Baha'is.

The implementation of the government's orders is evident at the local level. The Baha'i International Community, for example, recently obtained a copy of a 2 May 2006 letter to the Iranian Union of Battery Manufacturers asking it to provide to the Trades, Production and Technical Services Society of Kermanshah a list of members of "the Baha'i sect."

The full text of the 2 May 2006 letter in English, as well as a facsimile of the original letter in Persian, can be viewed at these links:

Text of 2 May 2006 letter in English

Facsimile of 2 May 2006 letter in Persian