The U.S. government's Commission on International Religious Freedom on February 24 called for the State Department and the United Nations to condemn Iran's persecution of members of the Baha'i faith. According to the commission, a revolutionary court in Mashdad has sentenced three Baha'is to death for unspecified anti-security acts three times. Iran's Supreme Court overturned the convictions in the first two rounds but has not overturned the third convictions for the three men.

According to the commission and news reports, two of the men were arrested in 1997 for holding monthly Baha'i "family life" meetings and have been imprisoned ever since. Another man arrested last year was also tried. The final 20-day window for appeals expired February 23.

The religion, which claims about 6.4 million adherents around the world, was founded in 1844 in present-day Iran. Baha'i teaches that the world's religions all lead to the path of truth, and believers stress peace and the unity of all faiths.

The Iranian government does not recognize the religion as a minority faith but considers it an Islamic heresy. The commission claims that believers are routinely persecuted and that nearly 200 Baha'is have been executed since the 1979 Islamic revolution. "The Baha'is on death row must be freed without delay and the systemic persecution of the Baha'i community must stop," said the commission's chairman, David Saperstein. "The Iranian government should understand that the world is watching."

Saperstein appeared with Senator Sam Brownback (R., Kan.), who is cosponsoring a congressional resolution condemning Iran for its persecution of religious minorities, which the government says constitute 10 percent of the country's population.

©Copyright 2000, Christian Century, 03/15/2000, Vol. 117 Issue 9, p300, 1/3p. Item Number: 2914296

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