Iranian authorities arrest 12 Baha’i members in ongoing crackdown on faith

Iran has stepped up action against Baha’i citizens, arresting 12 believers accused by Tehran of being ‘heretics’ and having ties to Israel in an ongoing crackdown that has been condemned by rights groups Iranian and global.

Iranian state media said on September 4 that the arrests took place in different towns in Mazandaran province, the same region where 14 members of Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority were arrested on August 31.

Baha’is – who number 300,000 in Iran and have around 5 million followers worldwide – say they are systematically persecuted in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called the Baha’i Faith a sect and, in a religious fatwa issued in 2018, banned all contact, including business dealings, with followers of religion.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, hundreds of Baha’is have been arrested and imprisoned for their beliefs. At least 200 were executed or were arrested and never heard from again.

The members have rejected the allegations of the Iranian authorities and say that the members in Iran are determined to work for the good of the country.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Simin Fahandej, spokesperson for the global Baha’i community in Geneva, said that the Iranian government was increasing pressure on Baha’is, especially
the issuance of heavy prison sentences against them, as part of a “new wave of persecution”.

Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran, but the government recognizes minority religions including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, but not Bahaism.

Based on reports from Radio Farda of RFE/RL and AFP

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