Iran: persecution and marginalisation of the Baha’i community

photo by Yassin Mohammadi via Unsplash.

The Iranian government has recently intensified its persecution of the Baha’i’ community in a recurring series of demolition of homes, land grabs, and arrests. Bahaism or the Baha’i faith is the second largest religion in Iran. It is also the largest religious non-Muslim minority in the country. The history of the life of Bahaism’s central religious figures takes place in Iran and goes back to religion’s beginning.

However, despite the rich history of Bahaism within Iran, the community has experienced prolonged abuse. They suffered mass expulsion, displacement, demolition and confiscation of their properties and land. 

The oppression of the Baha’i community goes back to the early days of the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They have experienced mass discrimination and many executions by the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution under the rule of Ruhollah Khomeini and now the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

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The Baha’i International Community (BIC), released a statement of deep concern towards the systematic persecution of members of this religion by the Islamic Republic of Iran. With many Baha’is imprisoned in Shiraz and Tehran, solely because of their religious beliefs, and without due process and legal trial. There are now more than a thousand Baha’is in Iran waiting for prolonged periods of time for legal hearings and prison sentences. 

Long history of persecution of the Baha’i community

Since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, there have been many examples of continuing maltreatment and discrimination against the large Baha’i community in Iran. 

The United Nations office of the Baha’i International Community, estimates that more than 2,000 homes, shops, orchards and other properties were seized from Baha’i members in Iran up to 2003, in which the property was then worth about $10 billion.

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Authorities are now increasingly using the legal system to seize and transfer their properties to the Iranian state. These properties and land are seized by EIKO (Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order), under the government’s claim that the ownership of the Baha’i people to their property is illegitimate. According to a Reuters investigation, EIKO’s holdings of the confiscated properties have topped $90 billion. 

The case of Mona Mahmudnizhad

‘Why in my country are those who are members of my religion abducted from their homes at night and taken to mosques in their nightgowns, and subjected to whipping?’.

Those are the words of Mona Mahmudnizhad. She was only 17 years old when, along with 8 others, was sentenced to death in 1983. They were hanged by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on the grounds of being a member of the Baha’i faith. 

In October of 1982 Mona was arrested with her father, and later detained in Adelabad prison in Shiraz. Mona’s refusal to renounce her Baha’i faith led to her death sentence. Her detention was solely due to her religious affiliation. 

Mona was a high school student at the time of her execution. Her case demonstrates the horrors the Baha’i community in Iran faces. She remains a symbol of innocence to members of the Baha’i faith to this day.

‘Why am I not free to express my ideas in this society? Why don’t you let me be free to express our goals in this community; to say who I am and what I want, and to reveal my religion to others?’  – wrote Mona in her high school essay.

Written by Dawid Mliczek.

Sources: Baha’i International Community Representative Offices, Reuters, Baha’i World News Service, Iran Press Watch.


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