Questions and Answers about the Recent Speech by President Khatami of Iran to the American People
Q: What is the Bahá'í Community's reaction to the recent statements made by Iranian President Khatami in his recent interview with CNN?
A: The statements are encouraging and lead the Bahá'í community to hope that the Iranian government will now move to emancipate our co-religionists in Iran-- the largest religious minority in that country -- from the severe persecution which has long oppressed them.
Q: Have the Bahá'ís been treated better under the administration of President Khatami?
A: So far, we see no evidence of a new policy toward Iran's Bahá'í minority. The Bahá'ís in that country continue to be denied jobs, education and access to many forms of state services, solely because of their religious affiliation. They are considered to be outside the rule of law and are granted neither civil rights nor protection under the constitution. Their homes and property are subject to random expropriation. They continue to be imprisoned and mistreated in an effort to compel them to recant their Faith and convert to Islam.
Q: Are Bahá'ís hopeful that the situation will begin to change under the new administration?
A: A growing percentage of the Iranian public is beginning to press for social changes of various kinds. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the secret plan adopted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council for the extermination of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran-- which was exposed by the Special Representative of the United Nations Human Rights Commission -- has been abrogated or withdrawn.
Q: What do you think about President Khatami's kind words addressed to the people of the United States?
A: Naturally, we find these expressions of goodwill encouraging; we hope that they will gradually lead to a lessening of international tension and to greater understanding between the people of Iran and other countries.
Q: Do Bahá'ís think that formal relations between Iran and the West should now be reassessed?
A: As a matter of principle, Bahá'ís do not interfere in politics by proposing the adoption of this or that policy. We feel confident that, if the Iranian authorities act quickly to give practical effect to President Khatami's commitment to the rule of law, we will see a steady improvement in Iran's international relations.
Q: What specific actions do you believe should be taken by the Iranian Government to correct the situation of the Bahá'ís in their country?
A: The clearest expression of what the Iranian authorities should do can be found in the United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/RES/52/142) of 12 December 1997, calling for the emancipation of the Bahá'í Community of Iran.
Letter to President Khatami