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Iranian Authorities Arrest 12 Baha'i Members in Continuing Crackdown on Faith

Iran map with Iranian flag overlay
Iran map with Iranian flag overlay

Iran has stepped up its actions against Baha’i citizens, arresting 12 believers Tehran accuses of being “heretics” and having links to Israel in a continuing crackdown that has been condemned by Iranian and global rights groups.

Iranian state media on Sunday said the arrests took place in different cities in Mazandaran province, the same area where 14 members of Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority were arrested August 31.

Baha'is — who number about 300,000 in Iran and have an estimated 5 million followers worldwide — say they face systematic persecution in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.

On several occasions, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called the Baha'i faith a cult and in a religious fatwa issued in 2018 forbade contact, including business dealings, with followers of the religion.

Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha'is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.

Members have rejected allegations of Iranian authorities and say members in Iran are committed to working for the good of the country.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Simin Fahandej, the spokeswoman for the Worldwide Baha’i Community in Geneva, said the Iranian government is increasing pressure on Baha'is, including the issuance of stiff prison sentences against them, as part of a "new wave of persecution."

Shi’ite Islam is the state religion in Iran, but the government recognizes minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, but not Bahaism.

Some information for this article came from AFP.