The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has called on the Iranian government to end its discrimination of minorities in Iran, including of the Baha’i community, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. The vote confirms a Third Committee resolution passed in November.
The resolution, endorsed by the General Assembly’s 76th session and introduced by Canada and 47 co-sponsors from all regions, passed by 78 votes in favor, with 31 against and 69 abstentions.
“The international community has, yet again, used its highest forum to call on the Islamic Republic to abide by its human rights commitments and to respect the rights of the Baha’is,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “We are grateful for this constant support—and we hope the Iranian government will heed this call.”
Resolutions on Iran’s human rights situation have been tabled and approved since the early 1980s—making it one of the UN’s most enduring and troubling human rights concerns. The Baha’is face harassment and intimidation, arbitrary detention in violation of due process, incitement to hatred in the media and from the pulpit, denial of business licenses and livelihoods, denial of access to higher education and confiscations of property.
The most recent incident, in the village of Kata, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, saw thirteen irrigated farmlands belonging to Baha’is listed for public auction without their permission. The auction came during a serious water shortage in Iran, which saw protests and crackdowns in November, in Isfahan, and it appears that the water crisis is a motivating factor in the seizure and sale of these valuable irrigated lands. The auctions listings were published despite Baha’is owning these properties for generations.
Numerous other instances of persecution of Baha’is in Iran—a constant since the 1979 Islamic Revolution—have also been reported over recent months. Lands belonging to Baha’is in Semnan, Roshankouh and Ivel have been confiscated; hate propaganda articles have increased; new evidence has emerged of the religious prejudice motivating Iran’s policy of banning Baha’is from higher education; and official documents have come to light that detail measures ordered by security services to suppress the Baha’i community.
New laws in Iran’s Penal Code, articles 499 bis and 500 bis, which further criminalize religious practice for Baha’is, and which also affect Sufis, atheists and any communities that hold beliefs not recognized by Iran’s constitution, beyond Shia Islam, were also addressed by the motion. Article 500 bis, in particular, stipulates up to five years in prison to any Baha’i for sharing their beliefs with others.
“Baha’is do not proselytize, but the freedom to share one’s beliefs with others, when asked, is an inalienable right under the principles of freedom of religion and belief and an inseparable part of Baha’i life,” Ms. Dugal said. “Iran must act on this latest United Nations resolution by respecting the rights of the Baha’is—including their right to follow their faith and to share it with others.”