Shedding Light on the Plight of Baha’i People in Iran
The human rights situation in Iran continues to worsen day by day. Last January, Human Rights Watch warned of a deepening human rights crisis. In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that human rights and religious freedom conditions in Iran have regressed to a point not seen since the early days of the Islamic revolution. The worsening human rights situation affects all Iranians, and time does not permit me to do justice to all those suffering at the hands of the authorities.
One group that has been group that has been particularly affected is the Baha’is. The Baha’i community of Iran is the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority and its treatment is a case study of the real intentions of the Iranian government with respect to its human rights obligations.
The Baha’i faith is an independent, monotheistic, world religion based on the teachings of the 19th century prophet founder Baha’u'llah. Its central teachings include the recognition of the common divine source of all religions and the belief in the fundamental oneness of humanity. Baha’i teachings call for the elimination of all forms of prejudice and urge followers to work for the creation of a global society characterized by peace, unity and justice.
There are approximately five million Baha’is around the world in 218 countries and territories. Here in Canada, the Baha’i community was founded in 1898 and currently includes some 30,000 members. The Baha’i faith originated in Iran in the middle of the 19th century, and early Baha’is came from many social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They faced severe persecution from the beginning, often spurred by a clerical elite threatened by the spread of post-Islamic religion.
The persecution faced by Baha’is in Iran today has few parallels in human history. This is a community of more than 300,000 people that for more than 30 years has been subject to an often explicit state policy focused on its destruction. The intensity of pressure felt by this religious minority is almost impossible for us, as Canadians, to imagine, yet it is our duty as senators, indeed as fellow human beings, to raise our voices in solidarity with their cause.
Baha’is face prosecution in Iran because a hardline clerical elite views their religion as illegitimate, and they are therefore considered to be apostates or opponents of Islam. This attitude toward Baha’is is spread by lies and misinformation channelled through state-controlled media. Baha’is are often falsely accused of being foreign agents working secretly against the nation. The result of such disinformation campaigns is widespread ignorance that perpetuates a culture of prejudice.
This is an example of clear injustice and oppression, perpetrated against a peaceful people for no reason other than their religious beliefs. The Baha’i community conducts its affairs with transparency and honesty; it keeps no secret about its beliefs and intentions, with members who want nothing more than to practise their religion and serve their country.
As Canadians we are privileged to live in a country where diversity is valued and where we enjoy freedom of religion and belief. I believe that we should all speak out where these same freedoms are denied elsewhere, giving hope to our brothers and sisters who live under constant state pressure, in the name of humanity.
Senate Chamber Inquiry – June,21 2011
Persecution of the Baha’i People in Iran
Senate Chamber Statement – June,14 2011
The Baha’i People