Iranian authorities have launched a renewed attack on Iran’s Baha’i community, targeting Baha’i-run shops and small businesses. In a bid to prevent the religious minority from observing holidays, authorities ordered the closure of dozens of shops owned by Baha’is in Rafsanjan, Kerman, Sari and Hamedan.
The small businesses, which were closed down in April, May and June, included repair shops, automobile parts outlets and clothing stores. Authorities ordered the closures after shop owners failed to open their premises to the public on Baha’i religious holidays, and warned some shopkeepers that if they did not sign a document stating that they would observe official national holidays only, their trading permits would not be renewed and shops would face permanent closure.
The Baha’i International Community representative at the UN in Geneva, Diane Ala’i, said the recent measures were illegal. “Stopping Baha’i shopkeepers from observing their religious holidays is against Iranian law, as well as against human rights.”
“These small businesses are often the only way left for Baha’i families to earn their living. They are deprived of the right to work at governmental institutions. Companies are under pressure to expel Baha’i employees.”
Authorities have employed similar tactics before. In October 2014, they ordered the closure of 80 shops in the same cities, as well as in Jiroft in Kerman province, citing the same reason. It was only after an extensive appeal on behalf of the Baha’i community in Iran and around the world that the measures were reversed.
Under the heading “The Situation for Religion or Faith,” the European Parliament’s 2015 Annual Report on freedom of religion outlines international campaigns that work to protect the rights of Baha’is, including supporting their right to operate businesses in Iran.
Baha’i representative Diane Ala’i said that the government’s recent campaign was designed to economically destabilize the Baha’i community. “The recent events push the economic pressure on the Iranian Baha’is to a new level. Baha’is simply want to enjoy the freedom to worship and to observe their religious rites.”
“Such measures clearly show that the pressure on Baha’is is continuing, in order to destroy all aspects of their lives and make the community invisible. These are clear examples of religious suppression.”
The latest closures coincided with the 104th session of the International Labor Conference, which took place in Geneva from June 1-13. Politicians, activists, employers and employee representatives from around the world gathered to discuss approaches for tackling discrimination in the workplace.
“As workers’ representatives join together to tackle the question of discrimination, it is clear that Iran is explicitly failing to implement international standards of human rights in the workplace,” said Ala’i.
According to the Baha’i International Community, during the 103rd session of the International Labor Conference in 2014, the International Labor Organization urged Iran to halt discrimination against the Baha’is. In a statement, it said it was increasingly concerned by Iran’s “organized discrimination against religious and tribal minorities, particularly the Baha’is,” and called for Iran “to take immediate measures to remove such discriminations.”
Baha’is are officially forbidden from taking on government employment or official roles. In 2007, in a letter to police commanders across Iran, the supervising office of public buildings announced that Baha’is were forbidden from assuming “high income positions” or from being employed in certain sectors, including the media, jewelry-making, photography, computer and internet-related occupations, and food industries.
Read the original article in Persian
To read more stories like this, sign up to our weekly email.