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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Baha'is in Iran

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Iran Facts
Area:    1,648,000 sq. km.
Capital:    Tehran
Total Population:    68,960,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The outlook for Baha段s in Iran is not good. Although the general political situation in Iran improved with the election of President Khatami in 1997, the status of Baha'is has continued to worsen with the new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. A covert university which offered the Baha'i the only possibility for higher education was closed in 1998, and further restrictions on university enrollment through obligatory religious identification have forced Baha段s to withdraw from the university system. In addition, a 2006 letter from a senior political official has ordered the expulsion of any identified Baha段 student from 81 universities. As long as the government is controlled by a Shi'i Muslim clergy that considers them heretics, the Iranian populace will maintain its prejudices against Baha'is. While nongovernmental organizations such as the Baha'i International Community (UN) and Baha段 World Headquarters (based in Haifa, Israel) provide ideological encouragement, there is little force behind their demands for better Baha段 treatment in Iran. Although the government has reduced its repression from organized killings of Baha段s in the 1980s, repression still exists in different sorts of non-violent coercion, including arbitrary arrests, destruction of religious sites, and confiscation of property. Despite recent repression the Baha段s are not likely to rebel as it is not only against the principles of their religion, but has also not been a strategy employed by the group in the past. Nonetheless, government repression has been able to reduce the amount of nonviolent protest as well.


Analytic Summary

The Baha段s of Iran are likely the most persecuted minority in the country. The Baha段 faith began as an offshoot of Shi段 Islam in Iran in the mid-1800s. Iran痴 relatively small Baha段 community is distinct from the dominant Shi段 majority due to their religious differences (BELIEF = 2), although they are Persian speaking (LANG = 0) and of Persian origin (RACE = 0) like the Shi段 majority. The Iranian Shi'i Muslim clergy considers Baha'is to be heretics and has opposed them since the inception of the religion; accordingly, Baha段s have been mistreated in Iran for more than a century and a half --especially in the post-1979 era.

The observance of the Baha段 faith is prohibited by the Iranian constitution (CULPO106 = 3), as is the celebration of holidays, and organizations that promote Baha段 culture. In April 2001 however, the government announced the elimination of the requirement that citizens indicate religious affiliation at the time of marriage registration, which effectively allows Baha段s to register their marriages and civil attestation of their marriage to serve as a marriage certificate.

In the economic sphere, Baha段 face discrimination in the frequent confiscation or plunder of their homes by government officers. Seizure of personal property, in addition to the denial of access to education and employment (ECDIS06 = 4), is eroding the economic base of the Baha'i community. In the political realm, the Baha段 are prohibited from expressing themselves freely and are restricted on their rights during judicial proceedings and on political organizing. The Baha段s are specifically denied any position of influence (POLDIS06 = 4).

Coupled with this ongoing discrimination is an explicit policy of group repression by the Iranian government. Arrests, show trials, and systematic domestic spying are all frequent occurrences that have been levied against members of the Iranian Baha段 community (REPGENCIV04-06 = 3; REPNVIOL04-06 = 3). While no execution of an Iranian Baha段 has been reported since 1998, several Baha段 are currently imprisoned under a death sentence. Baha'is were subject to arbitrary arrest and detention by Iranian authorities throughout the 1980s. Many of these detainees were tortured and executed. There were more than 200 such executions during the 1980s and many more arrests. The Iranian government claims that these arrests and executions were for "criminal offenses" but it is far more likely that these "criminal offenses" were fabricated. Despite such brutal conditions, there are only three reported instances of Baha段 protest and no reports of rebellion in recent years (PROT04-05 = 1; REB98-06 = 0); this may be due to the Baha段痴 small numbers, primary urban dispersal (GROUPCON = 1), and the effectiveness of the Iranian government in curbing all forms of Baha段 association and organization.



Amnesty International Report 2001-2003: Iran.

Baha段 International Community. 典he Situation of the Baha段s in Iran,

Cooper, Roger. 1985. 典he Baha'is of Iran. Minority Rights Group.

Helfgott, Leonard M. "The Structural Foundations of the National Minority Problem in Revolutionary Iran." Middle East Studies, XIII (1-4).195-213.

Human Rights Watch. World Report 2001-2003: Iran.

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Keesing's Record of World Events, 1990-1994.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

Meron, Theodore. 1989. "Iran's Challenge to the International Law of Human Rights." Human Rights Internet Reporter. 13:1. 8-13.

Metz, Helen Chapin. 1987. Iran: a Country Study (4th ed.). Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.

Richard, Yann. 1989. "The Relevance of 'Nationalism' in Contemporary Iran." Middle East Review. Summer. 27-36.

Persecution of Baha段s in Iran. Various reports. 2004-2006.

UN Commission on Human Rights. 2/12/1990. 迭eport on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

U.S. Department of State. Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Iran. 1991,1993, 2001-2006.

U.S. State Department. 2007. International Religious Freedom Report 2007- Iran.

The Washington Post, 1990-1994.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006