More Religious Persecution In Iran

The Iranian government continues its persecution of Iran's Baha'i community -- the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran. Iranian state media recently reported the arrest of an unspecified number of Baha'is in cities across Iran, including Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Mashhad.

Iranian state media claim the Baha'is belong to "an international corruption network" involved in "promoting and propagandizing the Baha'i cult through sex appeal and homosexuality."

Meanwhile, the seven unofficial leaders of the community languish in Iranian prisons, serving an outlandish 20 year sentence for the purported crime of espionage, handed down after a summary trial. Nine Baha'i educators remain behind bars, after authorities last spring arrested 18 faculty members of a Baha'i institute, formed to educate young Baha'is who are barred from attending university in Iran unless they renounce their faith.

Earlier this month, Iranian authorities reportedly refused to allow a Baha'i family to bury a relative according to Baha'i tradition; instead, they insisted on performing a Muslim burial. That would be a new level of affront and disrespect, and it follows repeated desecration of Baha'i cemeteries over the years.

Baha'is are not the only religious group subjected to persecution in Iran. Christians, Gonabadi dervishes, – even dissident Shiite clerics who believe that the political and religious realms should be kept separate – suffer from egregious violations of their human rights.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland recently voiced concern over the persecution of religious minorities in Iran: "While Iran's leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing," said Ms. Nuland. "We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them."