Open Letter
Against the Discrimination
of the Bahá'ís in Iran

We, the undersigned,

protest emphatically against the most recent wave of systematic persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran. We appeal to those responsible in Iran to revoke the  existing death sentences, some of which were pronounced upon Bahá'ís only recently, and to stop the attacks on the educational establishments of the   Bahá'í Community. We are outraged at the exclusion of the Bahá'ís from the right to education and condemn the destruction of the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education. This is a violation of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (Art.26) as well as of the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Art.13). We call upon the governments of all nations to do everything in order to prevent the death sentences from being executed, to improve the fate of the Bahá'ís and to end the discrimination against them permanently.

According to the observations and reports of the UN Commission on Human Rights and of human-rights organizations like Amnesty International and the Society for Threatened Peoples about 300,000 members of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran, the largest religious minority in this country, suffer systematic discrimination and persecution by the Iranian Government and the Islamic clergy solely on account of their religious faith. Since 1978/79 more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed. Thousands have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, their homes plundered, their holy places and cemeteries desecrated. The elected institutions of the Bahá'íCommunity have been officially forbidden.

More recently it was hoped that the situation of the Bahá'is would improve. Since 1992 there had been at least no more executions. But now events have come to a dramatic head. In July 1998 Ruhollah Rohani was executed in the prison of Mashad simply because he was a Bahá'í. In September the death sentence on another two Bahá'í prisoners was confirmed. The sentences were made public only by word of mouth; there are no written decisions or  court records of the cases.  For quite some time there have been four Bahá'ís under sentence of death in the prison of Teheran. There is reason to fear that these death sentences in Teheran and Mashad will be carried out. The condemned have been offered freedom on condition that they abjure the Bahá'í Faith.

At the beginning of October 1998 officials of the Iranian Republic arrested 36 lecturers of a private Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education in 14 cities.  Equipment and educational aids like computers, laboratory tools, literature etc. located in over 500 private homes throughout the country, were confiscated during this raid. This private university was an internal institute that had been established by the Bahá'ís in 1987, after the Iranian state had debarred the Bahá'ís from all access to higher education. The young Bahá'í pupils were not allowed to complete high school and were not admitted to the universities of the country, simply because they were Bahá'ís. Therefore the Bahá'ís founded their own university for their youth, offering studies in chemistry, biology, dental medicine, pharmacy, civil engineering, computer science, psychology, law and literary studies. Now even this private institution has been destroyed.

The recent wave of persecution is part of a long-term-plan of the Iranian government, as was laid down in February, 1991 in a secret document of the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council. This document, which was signed by Ayatollah Khamenei and which the UN Commission on Human Rights published after verifying its authenticity, instructs all Iranian authorities, "to block the progress and development of the Bahá'ís", "to destroy (their) cultural roots in foreign countries", "to remove them from the universities" and "to refuse positions of influence to them, for instance, in the area of education".

Islam is the state religion in Iran. Article 13 of the Iranian constitution lists only Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as "religious minorities to be protected". Thus the Bahá'ís are excluded from a number of civil rights and have become victims of arbitrary action and persecution. The Bahá'ís are a peaceable community. In accordance with the teachings of their Faith they are loyal citizens and refrain from violence of any kind.

The persecution of the Bahá'ís must be ended. The Bahá'ís must be granted their civil rights, including the right to practise their religion freely. A state must be judged by the way it deals with its minorities. It is deeds, not words that count.

 


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