UN warns against moves to monitor Iran Bahais

London, England - A UN human rights expert said Monday that alleged moves by Iranian authorities to secretly monitor members of the Bahai religious community in Iran were unacceptable, AFP reported.

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion Asma Jahangir warned that it was a sign of a more general deterioration for the situation of religious minorities in Iran.

Jahangir said in a statement that she was "highly concerned" after seeing a copy of a letter sent in October 2005 by a top Iranian military commander to other government agencies in Iran, including the revolutionary guard and police, AFP added.

The letter instructed them to monitor the activities of Bahai and "in a highly confidential manner collect any and all information" about them.

Jahangir said she feared the monitoring could be "used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahai faith, in violation of international standards".

"The special rapporteur is apprehensive about the initiative to monitor the activities of individuals merely because they adhere to a religion that differs from the state religion," the statement added.

"She considers that such monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities."

The monotheist Bahai faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century, but its practice is now barred in the Shiite Muslim nation, AFP stated.

The United Nations estimates the number of Bahais in Iran at between 300,000 and 350,000.