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Iranian Religious Groups


Recognized religious minorities were allowed by the government to establish community centers and certain cultural, social, sports, or charitable associations that they would finance themselves. This did not apply to the Baha'i community, which was denied the right to assemble officially or to maintain administrative institutions since 1983. Since the Baha'i faith had no clergy, the denial of the right to form such institutions and elect officers threatened its very existence in the country. Broad restrictions on Baha'is appeared to be geared to destroying them as a community.

The largest religious minority in Iran has the Baha'i faith, estimated at 350,000 adherents throughout the country. Baha'is were considered apostates because of their claim to a religious revelation subsequent to that of the Prophet Mohammed. The Baha'i Faith was defined by the government as a political "sect" linked to the Pahlavi monarchy and, therefore, as counterrevolutionary. Historically at risk, Baha'is often have suffered increased levels of mistreatment during times of political unrest.

Baha'is may not teach or practice their faith or maintain links with co-religionists abroad. The fact that the Baha'i world headquarters (established by the founder of the Baha'i Faith in the 19th century in what was then Ottoman-controlled Palestine) is situated in what subsequently became the state of Israel exposed Baha'is to government charges of "espionage on behalf of Zionism."

According to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the US, since 1979, more than 200 Baha'is have been killed, and 15 disappeared and presumed dead. The Government continued to imprison and detain Baha'is based on their religious beliefs.

The property rights of Baha'is generally were disregarded. Properties belonging to the Baha'i community as a whole, such as places of worship and graveyards, were confiscated by the government in the years after the 1979 revolution and, in some cases, defiled. The Government's seizure of Baha'i personal property, as well as its denial of access to education and employment, continued to erode the economic base of the Baha'i community.

Baha'i group meetings and religious education, which often took place in private homes and offices, were severely curtailed. Public and private universities continued to deny admittance to Baha'i students. The use of suspended sentences appears to be a government tactic to discourage Baha'is from taking part in monthly religious gatherings.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:45:16 ZULU