In Iran, arsonists threaten reprisals if Baha'is befriend Muslims

GENEVA — Following a wave of arson attacks against Bahá’í-owned businesses in Rafsanjan, Iran, many Bahá’ís there were sent a letter early this year warning them to stop forming friendships with Muslims.

The anonymous document demands that Bahá’ís sign an undertaking to “refrain from forming contacts or friendships with Muslims” and from “using or hiring Muslim trainees.” It also wanted Bahá’ís not to teach their Faith, including on the Internet.

Should the conditions be accepted by the recipients, the letter states, “we will guarantee not to wage any attack on your life and properties.”

The whole episode appears to be part of a new campaign to fracture relationships between Bahá’ís and Muslims in the city, said Diane Ala’i, the Bahá’í International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

“For more than two months now, innocent Bahá’ís have been having their businesses fire-bombed,” Ms. Ala’i said in January. “Some of them have suffered more than one arson attack on their properties.” At least a dozen Bahá’í shops have been attacked since October, she said.

“Now, in addition to their livelihoods, their very lives are being threatened unless they promise to isolate themselves from their friends and neighbors,” she said.

“What are the perpetrators of such attacks and threats hoping to achieve?” asked Ms. Ala’i. “All it demonstrates for the whole world to see is the religiously motivated hatred being fomented by certain elements in Iranian society.”

Ms. Ala’i noted that Bahá’ís have approached local authorities asking for an investigation. “But nothing has been done,” she said. “Unbelievably, they’ve even been accused by some of starting the fires themselves, under instruction from foreign governments.”

The attackers have targeted household furniture repair businesses, home appliance, and optical stores, in particular.