Baha'is most persecuted religion in Iran: U.N. investigator

Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:48pm EDT
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By Louis Charbonneau

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of the Baha'i community in Iran are the most persecuted religious minority in the Islamic Republic, where suppression of alternative faiths is growing worse, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed said on Monday.

Shaheed also warned that the increasingly harsh sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program may be preventing normal Iranians from exercising their human rights because they face greater difficulties accessing medicine and other basic necessities.

"By and large I would say the Baha'is are the most persecuted religious minority in Iran," he told a seminar at the International Peace Institute in New York.

The Baha'i faith is not a recognized religion in Iran, which Shaheed said was likely the main reason its practitioners were being persecuted.

"The numbers of Baha'is that are in prison have increased, over a hundred at the present time according to the information I have," Shaheed said.

"They face a whole range of discrimination, from being unable to practice their faith, being denied access to basic services," he said. "And often they face charges unrelated to their faith, national security charges."

Baha'is regard their faith's 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad. Iran's Shi'ite religious establishment condemns the faith as heretical.

Shaheed will present his annual report on rights in Iran to the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee later this week. His report details how rights activists in Iran face beatings with batons, mock hangings, rape and threats that family members will be raped or killed.   Continued...