Iran launches a major attack on the Bahai religious minority

An Iranian opposition supporter protesting in Austria - LISA LEUTNER /REUTERS

An Iranian opposition supporter protesting in Austria – LISA LEUTNER /REUTERS

Iran’s Bahai religious minority is facing its worst attack in decades after Tehran carried out a flurry of home demolitions and arrests of key leaders.

Several hundred Iranian agents traveled this week to vulnerable Roushankouh in Mazandaran province, where they confiscated 20 hectares of land and bulldozed at least six homes.

Iran also arrested several Baha’i community leaders it claims are spying for Israel, an accusation the regime has often leveled against the minority group with little evidence.

Meanwhile, community leaders say Iran has shut down dozens of Baha’i businesses across the country in recent days, while Iran has provided no evidence that any of those caught up in the attack broke any laws.

The Baha’i religion, founded in 19th-century Iran, is no stranger to persecution and has often been used as a scapegoat when the country faces internal turmoil or international pressure.

Although they are the largest religious minority in Iran, the regime considers their faith heretical. The religion’s headquarters are in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, a fact that the regime uses to condemn the faith.

The terraced gardens and Bahai World Center in classical style in the port city of Haifa - JACK GUEZ /AFP

The terraced gardens and Bahai World Center in classical style in the port city of Haifa – JACK GUEZ /AFP

The latest round of arrests on espionage charges may be linked to embarrassment in Tehran over a series of high-profile Israeli operations this year that exposed key aspects of the regime’s nuclear program and led to the dismissal of its intelligence chief.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, the Baha’i International Community’s [BIC] The top UN representative said there were concerns that Iran could embark on its biggest round of persecution since the Islamic revolution.

“Baha” is quite familiar with persecution and attacks from [Iranian] government, but the loud nature of the current spate of attacks is almost unprecedented,” Bani Dugal said.

“It goes back to the early years of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and a little later when they viciously attacked society … it’s hard to say why there has been this upsurge [in persecution] but it is assuming very alarming proportions.”

During the persecutions of the 1980s, members of the Baha’i faith were attacked by mobs, tortured and executed, while survivors were left homeless after arson attacks on their communities.

Dugal said the BIC will soon write to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, urging him to raise the issue with international leaders.

“Every day there has been fresh news about the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, which shows that the Iranian authorities have a step-by-step plan that they are implementing to uproot the peaceful Baha’i community from Iran,” Padideh added to. Sabeti, a London-based BIC spokeswoman.

“First blatant lies and hate speech, then raids and arrests, and today land seizures, occupations and destruction of homes. We appeal to human rights defenders to support the Baha’is and ask the Iranian government to stop these cruel and unjust attacks,” she added .

The exact reason for the latest wave of arrests and demolitions is unclear, but it may be linked to a wider crackdown launched after the appointment of Iran’s replacement intelligence chief that has seen film directors, several foreigners and prominent reformist politicians arrested.

Founded in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i movement is one of the world’s younger religions and has its religious headquarters in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

Its adherents believe that the founders of the major world religions are all manifestations of the same God pointing to the same fundamental truth.

There are around five to eight million Bahai worshipers worldwide, with its largest communities based in India, the United States and Kenya, as well as Iran, which has around 300,000 members.

The Telegraph approached Iranian authorities in London for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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