U.S. State Department

Daily Press Briefing #119

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1998, 1:12 P.M.




[Question asked by reporter toward the end of briefing]

QUESTION: Have you heard anything about an Iranian crackdown on the Baha'is and closing down of this informal university?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I have. We, of course, denounced the anti-Baha'i persecution in Iran upon the first reports that we received, I believe it was October 1st. We understand that more than 500 homes and office buildings owned or rented by Iranian Baha'is and associated with the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education were raided with at least 36 Baha'i faculty members arrested and materials confiscated.

Apparently all but four of these people have been released. However, the four faculty members who have not been released join 13 other Baha'is now in prison in Iran, six of whom are currently on death row.

We've read that the materials confiscated in the recent raid were neither religious nor political; instead, they were textbooks on subjects such as dentistry and accounting. Some laboratory equipment was also confiscated.

The persons arrested, again, are members of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education, a university founded in 1987 in response to the virtual banning of Baha'i from public universities in Iran. We have publicly called on the government of Iran to protect the lives of all Baha'is. We continue to urge the government of Iran to eliminate restrictions on the practice of religion, and to recognize and uphold the fundamental human right to freedom of conscience and belief.

In July, the United States strongly condemned the Iranian Government's execution of Ruhollah Rowhani, who was a Baha'i charged with converting a Muslim to the Baha'i faith. We also understand two additional Baha'is are in imminent danger of execution; we spoke to that earlier in the month.

The United States urges the government of Iran to exercise restraint and not carry out these death sentences.

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