Iran said to arrest 14 more Baha’i as part of recent crackdown

Group says the members of the religious minority were detained while ‘studying and discussing together the role of education in social progress’

The Bahai shrine in the religion's Haifa-based world center. (Shmuel Bar-Am)
The Bahai shrine in the religion's Haifa-based world center. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Iranian forces reportedly arrested 14 Baha’is this week as part of a recent crackdown on the religious minority.

According to the Baha’i International Community, which represents members of the faith, those detained — 13 of whom are youths — were “studying and discussing together the role of education in social progress” at a home in the northern city of Qaem Shahr.

No information has been provided on the suspicions against them.

The Baha’i International Community said the arrests were part of an Iranian campaign of repression against adherents of the religion over the past month, which has included arrests, beatings, home demolitions and denial of access to higher education, among other measures.

“How ironic that these youth were arrested while studying and discussing the role of education, when they themselves had all been denied access to higher education by the Iranian authorities,” Simin Fahandej, the group’s representative to UN institutions in Geneva, said in a statement Thursday. “The Iranian government’s cruelty breaks every measure.”

“Iran must realize that its continued persecution of the Baha’is only damages its own credibility domestically and internationally, while demonstrating to the world the innocence of the Baha’is in Iran,” she added.

The most recent report of arrests comes a week after a human rights watchdog released a report saying Iran has ramped up its “ruthless” persecution of Baha’is, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Islamic Republic.

The Amnesty International Report said there has been a surge in the intensity of the “decades-long persecution of this peaceful community… with a recent flurry of raids, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions and land grabs” carried out against the group.

A home the Baha’i International Community says was destroyed by Iranian authorities seen in footage released on August 3, 2022. (Screenshot)

Iran has claimed that several of those arrested from the religious minority were supplying information to Israel, but Amnesty said the accusation was false. The Baha’i global center is located in the city of Haifa.

The Baha’i religion was founded in Iran in the mid-1800s. Its prophet, Baháʼu’lláh, was exiled from Iran and went to Baghdad, then to Turkey. Ottoman authorities imprisoned him in Acre, in modern-day Israel, which was then under Ottoman control.

He was later released from prison, but remained confined to the area, and died there in 1892. His burial place in Acre is now a shrine for Baha’i members and the Baha’i international governing body, the Universal House of Justice, is based in nearby Haifa.

The community’s majestic gardens there, which also contain a shrine, are a centerpiece of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Baha’is around the world pray toward Israel.

Iran recognizes minority non-Muslim religions, but does not recognize Baha’ism. UN investigators have turned up documents indicating Iran persecutes the group as a matter of official policy. A 1991 document addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader on the “Baha’i question” said the community should be denied education, employment and positions of influence.

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