More than 50 Bahá’ís get prison terms for talking about their faith

Tehran, Iran – Iran yesterday sentenced three Baha'i to four years in jail for security offences after being convicted of propaganda against the political system and proselytism in the southern city of Shiraz under the pretext of helping the poor. Another 51 were given a year in prison with suspended sentences handed condition they attend courses by state propaganda officials, judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said.

The Bahá’í religion was founded in 1863 by a Persian aristocrat who came to be known as the Bahá'u'lláh and who saw himself as a new prophet along the lines of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. This was in direct violation of the Islamic claim that Muhammad was the last of the prophets.

Bahá’ís are the largest religious minority in Iran with some 300,000 members, but under the Iranian constitution only Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism are recognised.

The Bahá’í faith is considered heretical by Iranian authorities and has been banned since the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

More than 200 Bahá’ís have been executed or murdered since then; hundreds have ended up in jail, tens of thousands have been thrown out of their jobs, denied pensions or prevented from going into business.

All Bahá’í institutions have been closed—all their sacred places, cemeteries and properties have been seized by the government or destroyed (see in the photo the destruction of their shrine in Shiraz).

Many Bahá’ís have been sent to prison simply for teaching their children about their faith. Their youth have been denied the right to go to university unless they identify themselves as Muslims.

On 18 December 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution expressing very “serious concern” for the systematic violations of human rights in Iran, which include the use of torture, flogging, amputation, stoning, public executions and repression of minorities, especially Bahá’ís.

The resolution calls on the Iranian government “to eliminate, in law and practice, all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations.”