United Nations

UN General Assembly again expresses concern over human rights in Iran

UNITED NATIONS — For the 19th time since 1985, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution expressing concern over the human rights situation in Iran — and specifically mentioning violations against Iranian Bahá’ís.

The resolution passed on 19 December 2006 by a vote of 72 to 50, with 55 abstentions.

Put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 43 countries, the resolution calls on Iran to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religious, ethnic or linguistic grounds, and other human rights violations against persons belonging to minorities, including Arabs, Azeris, Bahá’ís, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Sunni Muslims.”

The resolution takes note of the worsening situation facing Iran’s 300,000-member Bahá’í community, noting “reports of plans by the state to identify and monitor Bahá’ís,” “an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention,” and “the denial of freedom of religion or of publicly carrying out communal affairs.”

The resolution also expresses concern over the “destruction of sites of religious importance” to Bahá’ís and “the suspension of social, educational and community-related activities and the denial of access to higher education, employment, pensions, adequate housing and other benefits” for Bahá’ís.

“We are extremely grateful to the international community for this significant show of support for the Bahá’ís of Iran,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the UN, after the resolution was initially adopted by the UN’s Third Committee in November.

“The level of persecution and discrimination facing the Bahá’í community of Iran has steadily worsened over the past year. The Government has stepped up its covert monitoring of Bahá’ís, and at present more than 129 Bahá’ís are awaiting trial on false charges.

“The General Assembly and its Third Committee deserve special praise for stepping into the gap created by the slow start of the new UN Human Rights Council, which has not yet made fully operational its mission of upholding the international human rights regime,” said Ms. Dugal.

In November, the Bahá’í International Community learned that Iran’s Ministry of Interior had ordered officials to step up the surveillance of Iranian Bahá’ís, focusing in particular on their community activities.

In a letter dated 19 August 2006, the Ministry requested provincial officials to complete a detailed questionnaire about the circumstances and activities of local Bahá’ís, including their “financial status,” “social interactions,” and “association with foreign assemblies,” among other things.

The letter was addressed to provincial deputies of the Department of Politics and Security in Offices of the Governors’ General throughout Iran, and it asked them to order “relevant offices to cautiously and sensitively monitor and supervise” all Bahá’í social activities.

“This letter further confirms that Iran’s government has targeted the Bahá’ís for covert surveillance,” said Ms. Dugal. “It also reveals for the first time the type of information the government strives to collect on both individuals and the Bahá’í community as a whole — information that in most societies would be considered private and highly sensitive.”