Muslim leaders and government officials denounce Iran’s persecution of Baha'is
The American Islamic Congress, the Canadian Council of Imams, Chair of the Virtues Ethics Foundation and one of the leading Islamic scholars in the United Kingdom Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the All India Tanzeem Falahul Muslemin, and the All India Saifi Association have all issued statements in support of the Baha’is in Ivel, expressing grave concern about the confiscation of the properties.
“We are calling for the Higher court in Mazandaran and all responsible personnel to take action and to help the Baha’i community in Ivel get back their properties,” reads the statement from the American Islamic Congress. Echoing these sentiments, the Canadian Council of Imams writes, “We are deeply concerned by the ruling issued by an Iranian Court to confiscate the properties of 27 Baha’is in the farming village of Ivel.” Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the United Kingdom specifically called upon Iran’s Chief Justice, Ebrahim Raisi, “to address this injustice”, adding that “Islam does not permit a government to confiscate land from citizens just because they follow a different religion”.
“The sight of Muslim leaders around the world coming to the aid of their Baha’i friends in Iran in an extraordinary wave of support is a powerful signal to the Islamic Republic that their co-religionists around the world condemn their actions,” says Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “Statements of support from leading Muslims for the Baha’is in Ivel, who have lived there for more than 150 years with their Muslim neighbours, show that the Iranian government’s invocation of Islamic law is a thin veil covering its persecution of the Baha’is.” Ms. Ala’i added.
In a further sign of international support for the Baha’is in Iran, government officials around the world have condemned the Iranian court decision. The Canadian Foreign Minister, Marc Garneau, says his government is concerned by the ruling, urging Iran to “eliminate all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief.” The call has been echoed by officials in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the United States, the European Parliament and the United Nations. In Sweden, 12 members of parliament and elected representatives have also strongly called on Iran to return the lands of the Baha’is of Ivel.
“Stop confiscating Baha’i properties in the village of Ivel,” states Jos Douma, the Netherlands’ Special Envoy for Religion or Belief. “And—at last—recognize Baha’i[s] as a religious community.” The German Federal Government Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion, Markus Grübel, also called for Iran to recognize the Baha’is as a religious community in the country and to end the “discrimination and persecution of Baha’i communities.”
South Africa’s Legal Resources Centre, an organization known for its human rights work during apartheid, has also issued a letter condemning the property confiscations.
Confiscation of Baha’i-owned properties in Ivel began in the early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. In 2010, properties belonging to some 50 Baha’is in Ivel were burned and demolished, driving them away from their ancestral farms and homes.
The Baha’is in Ivel have repeatedly appealed for their rights in the past, filing complaints with the authorities at all levels and taking legal action to reclaim their lands, to no avail.
“The world is watching and is appalled by the Iranian government’s blatant injustices towards the Baha’i community,” says Ms. Ala’i. “The innocence of the Baha’is is more evident than ever to the international community, and Iran is being held accountable for the gross injustices it has inflicted on the Baha’i community in Iran. The government must take the necessary steps to not only return the lands to the Baha’is in Ivel but to end the systematic persecution of the Baha’is throughout the entire country once and for all.”
- The fresh support comes after a former Canadian prime minister and more than 50 others in Canada’s legal community signed an open letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, expressing “deep concern” over the confiscations.
- The ruling to confiscate the properties was made in a Special Court for Article 49 of the Iranian Constitution, which allows the Iranian government to seize any properties in the country. Article 49 states that the “ruling must be carried out by the government after investigation, research and proof through Islamic law.”
- However, despite the requirements of law, numerous court rulings and official documents reveal the discriminatory motives behind the confiscations. The seizure of properties is part of Iran’s systematic persecution of the Baha’is, reported extensively by the United Nations.
- In October 2020, despite many efforts by the Baha’is—whose lawyers were denied the chance to see files related to their case, to prepare their defense—an appeals court upheld the ruling by the Special Court. The ruling allowed the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, a foundation under Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to sell the lands owned by the Baha’is.
- Confiscation of Baha’i properties—holy places as well as individual properties—has been part of Iran’s systematic campaign of economic, cultural and social persecution against the Baha’is. It has been part of a four-decades long effort to destroy the Baha’i community as a viable entity in the country.
- Confiscation of Baha’i-owned properties in Ivel began in the early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Baha’is were also denied access to health clinics and other institutions, which they had helped to establish; teachers found various means to persecute Baha’i pupils, including by failing them in their exams; the 100-year old Baha’i cemetery in the village was confiscated and sold for conversion into residential property; and in 1983, more than 130 Baha’is were locked in a local mosque, held captive for three days without food and water, and pressured to recant their faith.