ZURICH, March 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A representative of the Baha'i Community of the United Kingdom has warned that Iran "may use the current interim agreement with the United States and other western nations on the nuclear issue to divert the world's attention from its increasing mistreatment of religious minorities."
In a public lecture hosted yesterday by Christian Solidarity International (CSI), Dr. Kishan Manocha, Director of the Office of Public Affairs of the Baha'i Community of the UK, said that the Baha'i in Iran face "a coordinated campaign to eliminate their community" at the hands of the Iranian regime. In spite of recent steps towards rapprochement between the regime and the Western powers, Dr. Manocha said, the regime's record on religious freedom "remains appalling": "Human rights must be on the agenda in any engagement with Iran. They must not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency."
Dr. Manocha noted that many groups in Iran face state-sponsored persecution, including "Christians, Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, trade unionists, the lesbian and gay community, women's rights activists, students, journalists, and human rights defenders."
However, Manocha called the situation of Iran's Baha'i community "unique."
Unlike Christian, Jews and Zoroastrians, Baha'is are not protected under Iran's constitution, and therefore have "no rights of any sort." Manocha noted that Iranian courts often rule that people who attack Baha'is "are not liable, because Baha'is are unprotected infidels."
According to Manocha, in Iran's Islamic Republic, Baha'is are banned from higher education, denied public sector jobs, business licenses and marriage licenses, and denied the right to open schools or hold communal land. Their children are abused in school, their elderly homes are subject to police raids, and their cemeteries are often desecrated or destroyed. 136 of Iran's known religious prisoners are Baha'i.
Manocha sees no relaxation of state-sponsored persecution of the Baha'is despite the reformist rhetoric of Iran's newly-elected President Hassan Rohani and Iran's negotiations with the West over its nuclear program. "All signs point to a further clampdown," Manocha reported.
Manocha praised the Baha'i community's "constructive and non-adversarial" response to "a sustained and systematic campaign of genocidal intent." In choosing this path, Manocha said, the Baha'is have so far avoided "providing the authorities with a pretext for a full-scale, genocidal assault."
Manocha's presentation, "Outside the Law: The Baha'i in Iran," was the ninth in a series of lectures under the banner The Future of Religious Minorities in the Middle East: www.middle-east-minorities.com.
SOURCE Christian Solidarity International (CSI)