Press Release:UK joins international community in calls to stop persecution of Baha’is in Ivel, Iran

For more information, please contact Media Officer at UK Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs, Sophie Gregory sophie.gregory@bahai.org.uk.


London – 16/2/21 – The Baha’is of Iran have attracted support from the UK and officials across the globe in response to Iranian authorities confiscating Baha’i owned land on religious grounds.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State Foreign Commonwealth& Development Affairs, had added his voice to the chorus of voices expressing concern at the treatment of the Baha’is.

In a tweet, he said: “The UK is deeply concerned by reports of expropriation & repossession of land owned by Baha’i communities in Ivel. This follows a worrying escalation in long-standing persecution against religious minorities in Iran. We will always stand up for people of all faiths & beliefs.”


Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Imam of Leicester and Chair of the Virtue Ethics Foundation, also released a statement. In it he said: “I am greatly alarmed to learn about the prejudicial ruling of two courts in the Islamic Republic of Iran confiscating land belonging to the Baha’is in the rural village of Ivel […]

“Islam does not permit a government to confiscate land from citizens just because they follow a different religion or ideology […] the verdicts must be confronted and overturned.”

In a final ruling in October 2020, two courts in Iran used Article 49 of the Iranian constitution to justify the seizure of farmland belonging to the Baha’is in Ivel, a village in the north of Iran. The confiscations, which have occurred solely on religious grounds, have left dozens of families internally displaced and economically impoverished.


The Baha’is’ lawyers were given no opportunity to see court documents to prepare a defence or to present any arguments. This case could set an alarming precedent in nullifying Baha'is’ right to ownership of land.


This is the latest in a pattern of persecution for the Baha’is in Ivel. The community has experienced attacks on their properties, arson, imprisonment, and expulsion. Numerous official documents reveal religious prejudice as the motive behind land confiscations. Some records show that Baha’is have been told their properties would be returned if they convert to Islam.


Others across the world have supported the Baha’is in Ivel. The former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, is among a group of more than 50 high-ranking legal professionals who have written an open letter to Iran’s Chief Justice, Ibrahim Raisi. The letter condemns the court ruling to confiscate Baha’i properties in Ivel, and the “new and intense” violations against the Baha’i community.


“Under the current Iranian government, Baha’is have experienced home raids, attacks on properties, confiscation of possessions, dismissals from employment, denial of access to higher education, imprisonment, and execution. Baha’is have sought legal remedies, but to little avail.” The letter states.


It goes on: “The 2020 rulings now establish a dangerous constitutional precedent of judicially sanctioned confiscation that nullifies legitimate property interests based only on the owners’ religious affiliation, thus departing not only from international human rights standards but also from the text and intent of the Iranian constitution itself.”


Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion issued a press release calling on the Iranian government “to recognise the Baha’is as a religious community and respect the rights of all religions”. Officials, including politicians, from Brazil, Sweden, and Canada have also expressed their support for the Baha’is in Ivel.


Press release ends



Background


· The Baha’is are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority and have been the target of 42 years of state-sanctioned systematic persecution—documented extensively by the United Nations.


· Confiscation of Baha’i properties—holy places as well as individual properties—has been part of Iran’s systematic campaign of economic, cultural and social persecution against the Baha’is. It has been part of a four-decades long effort to destroy the Baha’i community as a viable entity in the country.


· The confiscations in Ivel, affecting 27 Baha’is, were issued on August 1, 2020 by Judge Hasan Babaie, and affirmed in an appeal court on October 13, 2020, by Judge Mohammad Sadegh Savadkouhi.


· In 2010, homes belonging to some 50 Baha’is in Ivel were burned and demolished, driving them away from their ancestral farms and homes.


· The Baha’is in Ivel have resided in the village for over a century and a half—since shortly after the establishment of the Baha’i Faith—living side by side with their Muslim neighbours in relative harmony and contributing to the social progress of the village. The Baha’is also helped to establish schools, health institutions, and played an important role in strengthening the area’s agriculture.


· Baha’is have previously also been denied access to the health clinics and other institutions they had helped to establish in Ivel. Teachers have found various means to persecute Baha’i pupils, including by failing them in their exams; the hundred-year old Baha'i cemetery in the village was confiscated and sold for conversion into residential property; and in 1983, more than 130 Baha’is were locked in a local mosque, held captive for three days without food and water, and told to recant their faith.


· Baha’is in Iran are barred from government jobs and universities as per Iranian policy, their shops are closed and sealed regularly, they are arrested, imprisoned and released on large bail amounts, and in recent times a wave of property confiscation and targeting of Baha’i assets and properties is threatening their livelihoods. In an open letter to President Rouhani in 2016, the Baha’i International Community called it an “economic apartheid” against the Baha’is as a segment of Iran’s population.


· More recently, in November 2020, despite a national lockdown owing to the pandemic, over a hundred government agents raided the shops and homes of dozens of Baha’is in seven cities to demand that they hand over their property deeds.


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