|Throughout the past century, the
Bahá'ís of Iran have been persecuted. With the triumph of the Islamic revolution in
1979, this persecution has been systematized. More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed
or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of
jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. All national Bahá'í
administrative structures have been banned by the Government, and holy places, shrines and
cemeteries have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed.
The 350,000-member Bahá'í community comprises the largest religious
minority in that country, and Bahá'ís have been oppressed solely because of religious
hatred. Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere have long viewed the Bahá'í Faith
as a threat to Islam and have branded the Bahá'ís as heretics. The progressive stands of
the Faith on women's rights, independent investigation of truth, and education have
particularly rankled Muslim clerics.
In June 1983, for example, the Iranian authorities arrested
ten Bahá'í women and girls. The charge against them: teaching children's classes on the
Bahá'í Faith--the equivalent of Sunday school in the West.
The women were subjected to intense physical and mental abuse
in an effort to coerce them to recant their Faith--an option that is always pressed on
Bahá'í prisoners. Yet, like most Bahá'ís who were arrested in Iran, they refused to
deny their beliefs. As a result, they were executed.
International protest against the persecution has been
widespread. Thousands of newspaper articles about the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran
have appeared around the world. Prominent international organizations, including the
European Parliament and several national legislatures, have passed resolutions condemning
or expressing concern about the Bahá'ís of Iran. Most important, the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly have pressed the Iranian regime to
observe international human rights covenants with yearly resolutions--resolutions that
have paid specific attention to the Bahá'í situation.
In response to this international outcry, the most violent
aspects of this persecution had abated by the early 1990s--although at least one Bahá'í,
a 50-year old Teheran businessman, was killed by the Government in 1992. However, the
Bahá'ís of Iran remain without any fundamental guarantee of their right to practice
their religion freely, and international efforts to win their emancipation continue.