Human Rights

Baha'i International Community dismayed at lack of human rights resolution on Iran as persecution worsens

GENEVA — The Bahá'í International Community has expressed its dismay and disappointment at the failure of the UN Commission on Human Rights even to consider a resolution on human rights in Iran this year.

“In view of the sharp increase of human rights violations against the Bahá'í community of Iran, it is nothing less than shocking that the Commission on Human Rights has for the third year in a row failed to renew international monitoring of the situation,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations.

Ms. Dugal made the comments in a press release on 14 April 2005, the last day for the Commission to vote on country resolutions.

“Over the past year, two important Bahá'í holy places have been destroyed, Bahá'í students have been denied access to higher education, and, most recently, Bahá'ís in Yazd and Tehran have been swept up in a new wave of assaults, harassment, and detentions,” said Ms. Dugal.

“All of this has come as part of a continuing pattern of religious persecution instigated and condoned by the Iranian government, which has in years past faced the clear condemnation of the international community for its actions.

“We are very disappointed at the failure of the Commission on Human Rights to live up to its mandate,” said Ms. Dugal. “Unfortunately, countries which in the past have initiated resolutions calling for the international monitoring of Iran backed away from the table again this year.”

In March, the Community strongly urged the Commission to put forward and pass a resolution on the situation in Iran, saying that “the gross, flagrant, repeated violations of human rights in Iran — including the abuses that target Bahá'ís in that country — warrant the re-establishment of a monitoring mechanism.”

“For three years, this Commission has not been capable of presenting a resolution on Iran, while the situation there has gradually but steadily deteriorated,” said Diane Ala'i, the community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, in a statement to the Commission on 23 March 2005.

“And now, over the past few months, we have had the impression of a shifting back in time, some 20 years or more, as we have witnessed a resumption of violent attacks on the Bahá'í community in Iran,” said Ms. Ala'i.

“The most serious outbreak occurred in Yazd, where several Bahá'ís were assaulted in their homes and beaten, a Bahá'í's shop was set on fire and burned, and others were harassed and threatened, following a series of arrests and short-term detentions. The Bahá'í cemetery in Yazd was wantonly destroyed, with cars driven over the graves, tombstones smashed and the remains of the interred left exposed.”

Ms. Ala'i also said that in March, in Tehran, Iranian intelligence agents entered the homes of several Bahá'ís and spent hours ransacking their houses before carting away their possessions and taking them into custody.

“Five Bahá'ís have been imprisoned just this past month,” said Ms. Ala'i. “Two were finally released on bail, but family and community members have not been able to locate those in detention. Two others, who had previously been briefly detained for nothing more than distributing copies of a courteous letter to President Khatami, have now received the maximum sentence for this so-called offence.

“Six more Bahá'í families recently had their homes and land confiscated, depriving them of their only means of livelihood.”

“Indeed, human rights violations in Iran have again become so grave that, in our view, they warrant a clear signal from the international community and a decision to reestablish international monitoring — now,” said Ms. Ala'i in March.

Between 1978 and 1998, the Iranian government executed more than 200 Bahá'ís. While Iran has halted the most egregious forms of direct violence towards Bahá'ís in the face of international pressure, the government has nevertheless continued a campaign of social and economic restrictions that aim at slowly suffocating an entire religious community.

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