New crackdown highlights campaign to block progress of Iranian Baha'is

26 January 2012

NEW YORK — The Iranian government's systematic strategy to drive Baha'is to economic ruin shows no sign of abating.

According to reports received by the Baha'i International Community, a renewed campaign is under way in Kerman, the major city in south central Iran.

"We have learned that the Public Places Supervision Office is denying the renewal of licenses – and revoking some existing ones – for Baha'i-owned businesses in the city," said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"A wide range of professions are being targeted – from computer sales and repair shops to real estate brokers. Baha'is involved in the sale of iron alloys, steel, or gold are losing their licenses, as are Baha'i-owned businesses relating to food products, and health and cosmetic services, such as opticians," she said.

Baha'is in Kerman have also been told that they are not allowed to own a large number of shops on the same street.

"The authorities have even gone so far as to revoke the licenses of business partners of Baha'is, who are not themselves members of the Baha'i Faith," said Ms. Dugal.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many thousands of Baha'is have lost their jobs or sources of livelihood. In 1993, the UN disclosed an Iranian government memorandum – endorsed by the country's Supreme Leader – that explicitly outlines a plan to "block" the "development of the Iranian Baha'i community."

In addition to the barring of young Baha'is from higher education, said Ms. Dugal, it is clear that the authorities are continuing with a range of other actions to carry out this policy.

"We have received accounts of at least 60 incidents in the past five years, designed to curb the economic prospects of Baha'is," she reported.

Some recent examples include:

– From 2 to 12 January 2012, more than 70 percent of Baha'i-owned businesses in Sari and Ghaemshahr (Mazandaran province), and a number in Gorgan and Gonbad (Golestan province), were searched in order to find some excuse on which to threaten or arrest Baha'is. Authorities even searched the houses of Baha'is that are working from home, in some cases more than two years since they closed up their stores;

– In July 2011, the Baha'i owner of a shop in Abadan received a notice from the Union for Retailers and Manufacturers of Jewelry, Watches and Glasses asking him to return his work license and liquidate his assets within 24 hours;

– In June 2011, an optical shop was sealed on the pretext of transferring the license to a new location. The head of the Public Places Supervision Office indicated that the order to seal the shop was issued by the higher authorities. The shop had been previously closed by the authorities in December 2008, along with four other Baha'i shops in Nazarabad. But after a legal battle, the owner managed to reopen in a new location, only to have it sealed again.

– After a wave of arson attacks on a dozen Baha'i-owned businesses in Rafsanjan, Iran, in late 2010, some 20 homes and businesses were sent a warning letter demanding that Baha'is sign an undertaking to "refrain from forming contacts or friendships with Muslims" and from "using or hiring Muslim trainees."

– In early 2009, in the city of Semnan, the association of Trade Unions passed a by-law stating that no Baha'i should receive a business license. Soon after, a number of Baha'i-owned businesses and shops throughout the city were subsequently sealed or shut down.

– In an example of another kind of economic pressure, a Baha'i in Isfahan – shortly before being fired from his work – requested from the social security agency that he be allocated the amount that had been deducted from his wages for his pension. He received notice that his request was not being pursued as it was a "non-issue," given the fact that the reason for his losing his job was his membership in "the deviant Bahaist sect." The notice specified that he and another 14 individuals were fired based on the legal prohibition on their being hired in the first place, and thus their claims were of no account.

"International law firmly spells out the right of individuals to be free to work and earn a livelihood, without discrimination," said Ms. Dugal.

"Last month, the international community voted overwhelmingly at the UN to condemn Iran for its ongoing and recurring human rights violations. Surely it's time that Iran realizes that it can no longer get away with oppressing its citizens and thinking that no one will notice."

Baha'i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran

A Special Section includes detailed information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is.

Another Special Report offers articles about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing.

The International Reaction page is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.