"Having displaced over 400 #Bahai families from village of Kata & torched 100s of homes in the 80s, #Iran is now auctioning their irrigated farmlands during water shortages, taking away livelihoods & running counter to every norm of human decency," said Simin Fahandej, Representative of the Baha'i International Community (BIC) to the United Nations in Geneva, on Twitter.
Thirteen irrigated farmland plots belonging to Baha’is in the village of Kata in Iran’s southwest have been targeted by local authorities seeking to expropriate Baha’i-owned assets in Iran.
The organization Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order – an agency controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which holds and sells assets seized from proscribed groups and individuals and has done so since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – advertised the 13 properties on an auction website in mid-October. Each property had been listed for sale at a price just 15 percent of market value.
The action comes in the midst of a long-running national water crisis in Iran – which saw protests and represseive crackdowns in November, in Isfahan – and it appears that this is a motivating factor in the seizure and sale of these valuable irrigated lands at this time. The auctions listings have been published despite Baha’is having held the deeds to these properties for generations.
Complaints by the local Baha’is – and attempts to repurchase their own lands – have been rebuffed. The Baha’is were told that the auction was closed to them and to any Muslims that had dealings with Baha’is.
“State confiscation of property and the denial of livelihoods are both violations of Iran’s human rights commitments under United Nations conventions,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the BIC to the UN in New York. “The incomes earned from these farms have sustained these families for over 100 years. This plunder, which is being called an auction, must be cancelled without delay.”
More than 400 Baha’i families were displaced from Kata after the Islamic Revolution. Several hundred homes were torched and the Kata Baha’is were forced to live in a refugee camp after the loss of their homes. Official documents from 2002, 2008 and 2016 also confirm more recent attempts by the authorities to confiscate farmlands in and around Kata.
The last year has also seen repeated seizures of Baha’i properties by Iranian authorities across the country. In February, a global outcry trended on social media against the destruction and confiscation of dozens of Baha’i properties in Ivel, Mazandaran Province; in August, after raids on Baha’i homes, during which security agents confiscated property deeds, six plots in Semnan Province were taken; and in November, farmlands were seized surrounding Mazandaran's Roshankooh village.