Human Rights

Former UN commander in Rwanda sees pre-genocide conditions for Baha'is in Iran

One of the strongest statements about the situation facing Bahá’ís in Iran came recently from Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, who said that Iran’s current actions remind him of pre-genocide conditions he witnessed in Africa when he commanded a UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda.

“The similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal, similar and in fact applied with seemingly the same verve,” said General Dallaire during a Senate inquiry on 29 November 2011. General Dallaire was force commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994 and is now widely acknowledged as an expert on genocide.

“We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide. Any Iranian who identifies as Bahá’í is barred from higher education, from holding a position in the government, or from partaking in the political process,”

- General Romeo Dallaire

“We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide. Any Iranian who identifies as Bahá’í is barred from higher education, from holding a position in the government, or from partaking in the political process,” he said.

Other similarities to the Rwandan situation, said General Dallaire, included the imprisonment of Bahá’ís for no reason other than their belief.

“The prisons of Rwanda were filled with Tutsi people for almost the same reasons, except their crime was based on their ethnicity, rather than their religion,” he told Canada’s upper house.

Another parallel lies in the persecution of Bahá’í educators who try to teach young community members in the face of government efforts to ban them from university.

“A similar scenario played out in Rwanda where the Tutsi ethnic minority was not allowed access to higher education in their country. They had to leave the country in order to access higher education.”

When the facts and trends of the persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís are put together, he said, it amounts at a minimum to something he called “ideological genocide.”

“An essential element of ideological genocide is the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Bahá’í community as a separate religious entity. It is this intent to destroy the Bahá’í community as a separate religious entity that requires our urgent and deliberate attention.”

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