Violations against minority religious communities in Iran

UN Human Rights Council – 22th session, March 2013
Geneva

The Baha'i International Community welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, which focused this year on violations against religious minorities.

Mr. Bielefeld expressed concern about States that do not respect the rights of individuals who are not adherents of “theologically accepted religions”.  Indeed, human rights cannot be “privileges reserved to the members of certain predefined groups”.

Three of the examples cited by the Special Rapporteur concern Iran.  His report states that Baha'is are denied access to higher education in this country, and that the seven former leaders of the community were detained and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment -- the longest sentence for any prisoner of conscience in Iran. We would add that the number of Baha'is in prison has doubled in the past two years, remaining over 100 throughout 2012. At the same time, Baha'is have cruelly been denied the right to work in an effort to destroy all their means of livelihood. In addition, the government has persisted in inciting hatred against them and their beliefs in the media and elsewhere and continues to give total impunity to those who violently attack Baha'i homes, shops and cemeteries.

The persecution of Baha'is is particularly intense, but the Iranian government also violates the rights of members of other minority religious groups.  On a previous occasion, the Baha'i International Community has stood up against persecutions of Christians.  But as Mr. Bielefeldt’s report states, violations also target members of minority communities within officially recognized religions.  In Iran, this applies to Muslim minority groups such as Sunnis, Sufis, and some Shia religious leaders such as Ayatollah Boroujerdi (and his followers).

We therefore hope that the Council will call upon Iran to fulfil its obligations under international law. Iran must, once and for all, allow its citizens to freely exercise their right to hold beliefs that differ from those held by the few in power.