Developments in the Denial of Religious Freedoms in Iran

Last week some of you may have heard about the arrest by the Iranian government of the informal leadership council of the Baha\’is of Iran. Today the Iranian government made an announcement where they claimed the arrests were not made because the individuals were Baha\’is, but \”for security reasons and not for their faith\”. The Baha\’i International Community responded, pointing out reasons why the idea that Baha\’is are a security risk to the state is preposterous.

\”The group of Bahá\’ís arrested last week, like the thousands of Bahá\’ís who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwise oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs. The best proof of this is the fact that, time and again, Bahá\’ís have been offered their freedom if they recant their Bahá\’í beliefs and convert to Islam \\u2013 an option few have taken.

\”Far from being a threat to state security, the Bahá\’í community of Iran has great love for their country and they are deeply committed to its development. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that the vast majority of Bahá\’ís have remained in Iran despite intense persecution, the fact that students denied access to education in Iran and forced to study abroad have returned to assist in the development of their country, and the recent effort by Bahá\’ís in Shiraz to provide schooling for underprivileged children \\u2013 an effort the government responded to by arresting some 54 Bahá\’í participants in May 2006,\” said Ms. Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha\’i International Community to the United Nations.

Last weeks arrests are the latest action in a campaign by the government there to suppress the Baha\’i Faith. Tactics taken include bulldozing cemeteries, denying government positions and access to higher education to Baha\’is, even directing elementary school teachers to ridicule Baha\’i students in class. Little kids!

The amazing thing is that not only does these actions, intended to remove the Baha\’i Faith from Iran, cause foreign news agencies to write articles explaining Baha\’i beliefs for an international audience and international governments to put pressure on Iran in ways that make news there, but there\’s some news out of Iran that all this is causing an increase in interest in the Baha\’i Faith among moderate and progressive Iranian Muslims.

Meanwhile the Baha\’is in the Charlottesville area continue to have public devotional gatherings, study circles, children\’s classes and otherwise carry on our lives, with extra prayers for the friends in Iran who continue to be under attack from a government that can\’t accept them.

Please share your comments below.

In Charlottesville, Virginia

Jeff Lavezzo