The Daily Telegraph
Iran intensifies crackdown on Baha’i religious minority
IRAN has intensified a crackdown on its biggest non-muslim religious minority, the Baha’is, by arresting a dozen believers who Tehran says have links to Israel, but the community insists were simply discussing education.
Baha’is have over the past month sounded the alarm over increased persecution in Iran, which has ranged from arrests and raids on businesses to the destruction of homes with bulldozers.
Iran brands Baha’is heretics and often accuses them of being spies linked to Israel, basing this claim on the fact that the centre of the faith is located in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
But the community dismisses such suggestions, saying the remaining Baha’is in Iran are committed to working for the good of the country and that Haifa emerged as a centre of the faith well before the state of Israel was established in 1948.
The Baha’i faith is a relatively modern monotheistic religion with spiritual roots dating back to the early 19th century in Iran, promoting the unity of all people and equality.
Iribnews, the state television website, said the intelligence in Mazandaran province “identified and arrested 12 members of the Baha’i Zionist organisation in different cities of the province”.
“Two of the leaders of this spy organisation were trained in Bayt-al-adl,” the Baha’is’ Universal House of Justice in Haifa, it said about those arrested in the northern province.
The Baha’i International Community (BIC), which pushes for the rights of Baha’is worldwide, said 13 Baha’is had been arrested on August 31 in Qaemshahr in Mazandaran province.
“Most of the arrests occurred at a private home where the youth were studying and discussing together the role of education in social progress,” it said in a statement.
The BIC said there have now been 245 incidents of persecution over the past 32 days against the Baha’is in Iran, including arrests, imprisonment, the destruction of homes and raids on private businesses.