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May 25, 2024 2:17 pm

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Baha’i Women Under Attack in Iran: Authorities Escalate Arrests and Summonses

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GENEVA—7May2024—Asurgein attacks on Baha’i women across Iran has seen dozens of women summoned to court in recent weeks, facing baseless criminal charges and years in prison, separating them from their families and exposing them to the cruelty and violence of the Iranian judicial system. Sixty-five of 85 Baha’is summoned to court or prison since early March—more than three-quarters—have been women.

The Baha’i community has seen a rise in attacks against women since last year—after the 2022 uprising in support of the rights of women in Iran. Baha’i women currently comprise two-thirds of all Baha’i prisoners in Iran. A significant number of Baha’is, notably women, were arrested in the months after the protests, with some being held without due process and their whereabouts unknown.

In the larger context of the targeting of women in Iran and the challenges with gender equality, this dramatic rise in persecution against Baha’i women is an alarming escalation affecting a group of people who face intersectional persecution: as women and as Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, who have been systematically persecuted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“The recent attacks against Baha’i women truly shows the message that our story is one, as a woman in Iran, whether you are a Baha’i, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Zoroastrian, of any or no faith at all,” said Simin Fahandej, Baha’i International Community (BIC) Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “The Iranian government puts you in jail, expels you from university, terminates your job, and persecutes you for standing up for your aspiration to live a full life as equal human beings, working together and side by side with others, regardless of gender, background and faith, to make your country better for all.”

This increase in persecution reflects a broader trend of escalating attacks against the Baha’is in Iran. The BIC’s analysis of 2021-2023 shows that, since 2021, the overall persecution of the Baha’is in Iran has increased by about 50 percent each year.

Incidents of persecution have included arrests, trials, prison sentences and summonses, home searches, property confiscations, destruction of cemeteries and denial of burials, business closures, and the denial of access to education.

Recent months have seen even a higher escalation in the attacks against Baha’i women. In October 2023, 10 women from Isfahan, mostly in their twenties and thirties, were arrested. In the same month, 26 Baha’is, 16 of them women, received sentences totaling 126 years in prison, signaling the continued targeting of women across the Baha’i community.

Amonth later, in November 2023, six more Baha’i women from Isfahan were detained for one month, facing harsh conditions in the quarantine ward of Dolat Abad prison. Deliberate delays in giving them medical care, restricted access to warm water, and the denial of information about the reasons for their arrests, or the charges against them, highlight the alarming escalation in the Iranian government’s harsh new tactics against the Baha’i community.

Ministry of Intelligence agents have also engaged in an orchestrated campaign of coercion and intimidation of the neighbors of some of the Baha’is in order to extract forced statements of complaint against the detained Baha’i women.

“As we continue the ‘Our Story is One’ campaign, which marked the execution of 10 Baha’i women 40 years ago, as well as all women who continue to make sacrifices for the cause of gender equality, we see that the Iranian government insists on its age-old and failed effort to wedge divides between its citizens through increased persecution, hate speech and the targeting of women,” Ms. Fahandej said. “Its actions prove that the story of the 10 Baha’i women is the same as that of all Iranian women today, and its failure to create such divides, as seen through the support for Our Story is One, shows that no amount of hate speech and discrimination can destroy the deepest longing of the human heart for unity and to work together with others in complete equality, for the cause of justice.”

Earlier this year the BIC also submitted a report to the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission, mandated with investigating human rights abuses in Iran since September 2022, in which it detailed the impact of these events on the Baha’i community in Iran, particularly on Baha’i women.

And just last month, Human Rights Watch launched a groundbreaking new report which made headlines for its legal determination, for the first time, that the Iran government’s treatment of the Baha’is amounts to the “crime against humanity of persecution.” The report also recommended that the UN Fact-Finding Mission focus part of its ongoing investigations on “the increase in the targeting of Baha’i women.”

“This collective narrative of struggle and resilience, faced by Baha’i women and all Iranian women, allows them to come together and show that efforts to divide will always fail, and that when one group is affected by injustice, no other groups will remain untouched,” Ms. Fahandej said. “The increased targeting of Baha’i women, who are doubly challenged both as women and as members of a minority group, calls for global attention and action, solidarity with the Baha’is and all Iranian women, who are demanding their right to live with dignity and equality in their own country. We call on the international community, governments and the media to ask the Iranian government to immediately stop its senseless persecution of Baha’is, and particularly women, who have become the focused target of this discrimination, and to respect the universal principle of human rights for all its citizens.”

Sanjeevni Today
Author: Sanjeevni Today

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