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Baha'i in Iran

Who: Members of the Baha'i religion
When: 1979 to present
Where: Throughout Iran
Estimated Numbers: At least 200 killed, hundreds imprisoned

The Baha'i faith is a 19th Century synthesis of world religions in a humanistic and universal doctrine encompassing all races and nationalities that started in Iran.  After the 1979 revolution in Iran and the implementation of Islamic law, persecution of Baha'is increased due to orthodox Shi'i claims that is was heretical.  Practice of the religion is banned, and Baha'is are excluded from participation in higher education and public social institutions. Police frequently raid Baha'i homes and destroy their property and cultural icons, including cemeteries. Proof of an agenda to wipe out this largest religious minority exists in government documents and statements. Observers are unsure whether these policies will change if the Iranian government continues the liberalization process.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, and other activist organizations report on human right violations against Baha'i. Annually, the UN Commission on Human Rights includes them in its reports on Iran. Yet, if the treatment of Iranian Baha'i fits into the limited United Nations definition of genocide might be questioned. Clearly, the attack on the group is based on religious distinctions manipulated by the political elite. Although the number of deaths has not reached the horrific levels of other cases of genocide, Iran seeks to eliminate them as a group through murder and social deprivation, thus meeting the UN Convention's definition of genocide.

For more information:
Baha'i International Community: Baha'i World

For questions and comments, write to Kelly Andrews, WFA Presidential Fellow, at

©Copyright 2002,

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