United Nations General Assembly again expresses concern over continuing discrimination against Iran's Baha'is

19 December 2001

UNITED NATIONS — For the 16th time in 17 years, the United Nations General Assembly has expressed "concern" over human rights violations in Iran, specifically noting the "still-existing discrimination" against the Baha'i community of Iran.

By a vote of 72 to 49, with 46 abstentions, the Assembly passed a resolution on 19 December 2001 that calls on the Islamic Republic of Iran to "eliminate all forms of discrimination based on religious grounds" and, more specifically, asks the Iranian Government to fully implement previous United Nations recommendations that the Baha'is be granted complete freedom to practice their religion.

The resolution followed a report issued in August by the UN Human Rights Commission's special representative on Iran, Professor Maurice Copithorne, that indicated that the 300,000-member Iranian Baha'i community continues to experience discrimination in the areas of education, employment, travel, housing and the practice of religious activities.

More specifically, Prof. Copithorne said that Baha'i property continues to be subject to confiscation. He indicated that a number of Baha'i families were forced to leave their homes and farmlands in the first months of 2001 in Kata, Buyr-Ahmand. In 2000, he said, information was received that four buildings were confiscated in Tehran, three in Shiraz and one in Isfahan.

"It is also reported that the issuance of business licenses to Baha'is has been delayed and that some stores and business owned by Baha'is have been closed," said Prof. Copithorne.

Prof. Copithorne also said that Baha'is continue to be denied access to higher education in legally recognized public institutions. "Recently three classrooms used by the Baha'is for their own educational purposes were seized," he said.

"Baha'is are still, in effect, prevented from participation in religious gatherings or educational activities," wrote Prof. Copithorne.

In its resolution, the Assembly decided to continue monitoring Iran next year, "paying particular attention to further developments, including the situation of the Baha'is and other minority groups."

Since the Islamic Revolutionary regime took power in Iran in 1979, Baha'is have been harassed and persecuted solely on account of their religious beliefs. More than 200 Baha'is have been killed, hundreds have been imprisoned, and thousands have been deprived of jobs, education or property. In 1983, all Baha'i institutions were banned, and they remain officially closed.

Although the number of executions and imprisonments has lessened in recent years, Baha'is in Iran remain without any official recognition or legal protection that might protect them from discrimination, said Bani Dugal, a Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations.

"We see these on-going actions -- the imprisonment of Baha'is, the confiscation of property, the deprivation of education, the restrictions on travel and worship, and the banning of Baha'i institutions -- as evidence of the continuing campaign of the government of Iran to strangle the Baha'i community of that country," said Ms. Dugal.

"The nature of the persecution is clearly based on religious belief," she continued. "Baha'is have repeatedly been offered relief from persecution if they were prepared to recant their Faith.

"So Baha'is continue to be viewed as 'unprotected infidels,' by the Government, without any form of legal protection, even though Iran is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees freedom of religious belief.

"The Baha'is seek no special privileges," Ms. Dugal said. "They desire only their rights under the International Bill of Human Rights, of which Iran is a signatory, including the right to life, the right to profess and practice their religion, the right to liberty and security of person, and the right to education and work."