Iranian intelligence agents arrested six members of an informal Bahá’í committee on May 14 in a development that strongly resembles earlier arrests that ended in disappearances and executions.
The six men and women were arrested at their homes, which intelligence agents searched for several hours. The six were then taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. They are members of a committee that looks after the needs of the 300,000-member Iranian Bahá’í community. A seventh member of the committee was arrested in the northeastern city of Mashhad in March.
The latest arrests bear a disturbing resemblance to an earlier series of arrests in 1980 and 1981, shortly after the revolution of 1979. All nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran were arrested in August 1980 and disappeared without a trace. Eight members of the replacement assembly were executed in December 1981.
Since the Iranian revolution, over 200 Bahá’ís have been killed or executed in Iran, although there have been no executions since 1998. The May 14 arrests are the latest events in an escalating campaign of persecution against the Bahá’ís, the largest religious minority in the county. Among other recent developments:
- A campaign of harrassment, intimidation, abuse and expulsion of primary and second school students;
- A group of young Bahá’ís working with underprivileged youth was arrested and imprisoned;
This week’s arrests have aroused numerous responses:
- The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the arrests. “We urge the authorities to release all Baha’is currently in detention and cease their ongoing harassment of the Iranian Baha’i community,” the statement says.
- The non-partisan Institute on Religion and Public Policy issued a statement about the latest arrests. “These latest arrests, however, are particularly disturbing because they signal that the government is worsening its abuse of and increasing its attacks against Bahá’ís,” the statement quoted IRPP President Joseph K. Grieboski as saying.
- The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center issued a statement: “The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center is gravely concerned for the safety of the detainees,” citing the 1980 and 1981 arrests and executions. In a blog posting, National Review Online called IHRDC “one of the most careful and politically-neutral human-rights organizations.”
- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement on the recent arrests: “This development signals a return to the darkest days of repression in Iran in the 1980s when Baha’is were routinely arrested, imprisoned, and executed,” the statement quoted Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie as saying.
For more information on the persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran, go here.
The U.S. House of Representatives is considering House Resolution 1008, which condemns the persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran. In a letter, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia’s 8th District informed me that he is a sponsor of the resolution. Thank you, Rep. Marshall, on behalf of Bahá’ís everywhere.