United Nations

UN again expresses concern over human rights in Iran

UNITED NATIONS -- For the 16th time in 19 years, the United Nations General Assembly expressed concern over continuing human rights violations in Iran, also making specific mention of the "continuing discrimination" faced by Bahá'ís and other religious minorities there.

By a vote of 68 to 54, with 51 abstentions, the General Assembly approved on 22 December 2003 a resolution calling on Iran to abide by its obligations under international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Human Rights.

The resolution specifically expressed "serious concern" over "continuing discrimination against persons belonging to minorities, including against the Bahá'ís, Christians, Jews and Sunnis, including cases of arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of free worship or publicly carrying out communal affairs and disregard of property rights..."

Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations, expressed gratitude to those nations that cosponsored and voted in favor of the resolution, which also calls on Iran to "eliminate all forms of discrimination based on religious grounds."

"We laud those countries that recognize the importance of continued pressure on Iran and that have taken a principled stand," said Ms. Dugal. "International support remains the key to protecting the long oppressed Bahá'í community of Iran."

Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, the 300,000-member Bahá'í community of Iran has faced ongoing and systematic persecution. In the early 1980s, more than 200 Bahá'ís were killed, hundreds were imprisoned, and thousands were deprived of jobs and education, solely because of their religious belief.

Although killings and imprisonments have abated in recent years -- in large part thanks to international pressure -- Iran's Bahá'ís remain victims of systematic oppression. Bahá'ís continue to be deprived of employment, property, education, and the right to freedom of assembly and worship.

Two years ago, for the first time in 19 years, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights failed to pass a resolution expressing concern about human rights in Iran, an event that ended UN-sponsored monitoring of the Iran's human rights situation.

"Since the end of international monitoring, the situation of the Bahá'í community has not improved -- as was hoped by those countries that urged a 'dialogue' with Iran on human rights," said Ms. Dugal. "Indeed, if anything, the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran has deteriorated, with an increase in short term arrests and detentions, the confiscation of more properties, and continued harassment of Bahá'í teachers and students.

"For Iran's beleaguered Bahá'ís," she said, "a resolution from the United Nations is a sign of hope and a source of comfort, confirmation that the international community indeed stands behind its words on human rights."