OCTOBER 6, 1998
EDITORIAL NUMBER= 0-07993
IRAN'S PERSECUTION OF BAHA'IS
Two of three Iranian Baha'is now under sentence of death at Mashhad are reportedly under imminent threat of execution. The two men are Sirus Zabihi-Moghaddam and Hedayat Kashefi Najafabadi. Their relatives and friends fear the death sentences could be carried out at any moment. A third Baha'i, Ataullah Hamid Nasirizadeh, has reportedly had his sentence commuted to ten years in prison.
All three men were imprisoned solely because of their religious faith. The two men under immediate threat of death have reportedly been told that they may be permitted to have a lawyer review their cases. It is not clear whether this review has any chance of saving their lives.
On July 21st, authorities in Mashhad hanged Ruhollah Rowhani, a Baha'i father of four children. Iran at first denied Rowhani's existence. Later it admitted that he had been imprisoned, but denied that he had been executed. Then, following an international outcry, Iran acknowledged the execution. In response to protests from a number of governments, Iranian officials asserted that no more Baha'is would be executed.
Classified as "unprotected infidels" by the Tehran regime, Baha'is suffer extreme discrimination in Iran. Baha'is cannot legally enforce a contract, inherit property, collect pensions, hold government jobs, or attend universities. They are routinely jailed and their personal property is confiscated. Baha'i marriages and divorces are not recognized.
Recent news reports from Iran suggest that the Iranian government has launched a series of arrests of Baha'i intellectuals throughout the country. The U.S. calls on the Iranian government to comply with its international obligations and stop the execution of peaceful, law-abiding Iranian citizens who seek only to exercise their religious faith. Iran should release all Baha'is in detention and respect the right to religious freedom of the people of Iran -- including the Baha'is.
All rights reserved, Voice of America.