The Baha’i International Community (BIC) has denounced an “escalation and intensification” of the Iranian government’s “policy of systematic persecution” against the religious community.
Baha’is, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran, have been persecuted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and are today “suppressed in all areas of life,” BIC says in a statement on December 4.
It said the authorities are using a range of “new and ever harsher methods” to persecute the Baha’is, including “home raids and searches, arrests, trials, prison terms, land and property confiscations, hate speech, the denial of education, and the denial of burial rights and of basic citizenship rights.”
The aim of these new tactics is “to sow fear and confusion, to disenfranchise and further impoverish Baha’is, to prolong the harassment of individuals, and to instill feelings of uncertainty and thus rob all Baha'is of peace and security in their daily lives.”
There are currently at least 70 individuals either in detention or serving prison sentences, the largest number in the past six years, BIC says.
About 1,200 others are either involved in ongoing court proceedings or have been sentenced and are awaiting the summons to serve their prison terms.
Sentencing by the courts has become increasingly harsh, with tens of Baha’is sentenced to a combined total of hundreds of years in prison in recent weeks.
Since the beginning of October, 40 Baha’is have been arrested and the homes of close to 100 families have been “invaded and searched,” according to BIC.
The home invasions and searches resulted in the “complete ransacking of homes,” the statement says, adding that in some cases, agents removed ceramic floor tiles, broke furniture and destroyed musical instruments.
“In other cases, homes have been subjected to intrusive surveillance through the installation of surveillance cameras trained on the doors of the homes of Baha’i families, to monitor their activities and visitors,” the statement says.
The authorities threatened several of the households that experienced raids with serious additional repercussions should they disclose details of their experience to outside parties, it says. Agents have also deleted smartphone videos, CCTV videos, and other records, in an effort to eliminate any evidence of their actions.
BIC says more than two-thirds of those arrested and detained in this recent upsurge in attacks on the Baha’is have been women. Many of them are in their 20s and 30s and have been forcibly separated from their young children. Many of the raids occurred when young children were present, “intensifying fear and panic within the families.”
Many of those arrested have been detained without trial for extended periods; one individual has been in detention for more than 247 days.
Detained Baha’is are routinely interrogated and face threats and psychological pressure and abuse, leading in some cases to physical harm, BIC says.
“Long and unjust” prison terms are being handed down by the courts for Baha’is on trumped-up charges such as “membership of the deviant Baha’i sect” or “social activities with the intention of propagating the heretical Baha'i sect.” Several members of the minority have been sentenced to long prison terms for their humanitarian assistance.