The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims.
Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The United Nations office of the Baha’i International Community, a non-governmental organization, estimates that more than 2,000 homes, shops, orchards and other properties were seized from its members in Iran up to 2003, the most recent figure available. The property was then worth about $10 billion.
“It’s really one of the most obvious cases of state persecution,” Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said about the treatment of Baha’is in Iran at a United Nations conference in Geneva this year. “It’s basically state persecution, systematic and covering all areas of state activities, the various systems from family law provisions to schooling, education, security.”