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Iranian teachers ordered to identify Baha’i students in effort to convert them

Leaked document instructs authorities to ‘conduct strict patrols’ on education of children in religious sect that says its followers are persecuted as heretics

Students and their teacher attend class after the opening ceremony of the Hashtroudi school in Tehran, Iran, September 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Illustrative: Students and their teacher attend class after the opening ceremony of the Hashtroudi school in Tehran, Iran, September 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian officials have told teachers to identify children from the minority Baha’i religion to convert them to Islam as part of an ongoing crackdown on the group.

A leaked document from September ordered authorities in the northern Iranian city of Sari to “conduct strict patrols” to monitor the Baha’i and identify students to “bring them to Islam,” said the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The document was issued by the Commission on Ethnicities, Sects and Religions in Sari, which operates under the aegis of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, a body chaired by Iran’s president.

It contains a directive that adopts a “detailed plan” to ensure that members of the Baha’i community is “rigorously controlled,” including their “public and private meetings” as well as “their other activities,” the Associated Press reported.

A Bahaʼi cemetery in the Iranian city of Yazd after desecration by Iranian government, January 1, 2007. (Public Domain/Wikipedia)

“These measures reflect the Iranian government’s intensifying persecution against followers of the Baha’i faith,” said LDDHI president and FIDH honorary president Karim Lahidji.

“In contravention of Iran’s international legal obligations, the authorities consider them heretics, ban their religion, and view the practice of the Baha’i faith as a subversive act,” he charged.

Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, said in response to the report: “We can say with a high degree of certainty that, while the latest document is linked to a local body, it stems from national government entities at the highest levels and suggests that similar meetings and directives about the Baha’is may be occurring across Iran.”

The Baha’i faith, with millions of followers worldwide, emerged in Persia in the second half of the 19th century. Its world center is in Haifa.

Terraces of the Bahai Faith, overlooking Haifa and the coast (photo credit: Oren Fixler / Flash90)
Terraces of the Bahai Gardens in Haifa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (Oren Fixler/Flash90)

Baha’ism, which calls itself “the world’s newest monotheistic religion,” holds gender equality and the eradication of poverty among its tenets.

In modern Iran, where their numbers are estimated at 300,000, members of the faith say they are persecuted as heretics by the Shiite clerical regime.

Bahaullah, a Persian nobleman and a disciple of the Bab, in 1844 proclaimed himself to be the bearer of a divine message and the one who would usher in a new age that would bring unity to all the peoples of the earth.

Baha’is consider the Bahaullah to be a prophet from God, defying the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was the final prophet.

In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on Iran to end human rights violations against minority religions including the Baha’is, citing “harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention,” among other breaches.

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