November 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Repression of Baha’is Condemned by U.S. Agency

November 15, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Repression of Baha’is Condemned by U.S. Agency

Latest Developments

A key U.S. agency condemned Iran on November 15 for its resurgent persecution of the Baha’is, the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that since the beginning of November, the clerical regime “has arrested scores of Baha’is in cities including Hamadan, Mehrshahr, Yazd, Karaj, Alborz, and Tehran.” The detainees include at least 10 women. One male Baha’i, Zabihi Moghadam, received an eight-year prison sentence for “membership in anti-regime groups” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”

In a November 13 post on X, Rashad Hussain, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said, “Persecution of Baha’is in Iran must end. Religious persecution is unacceptable and the trend of authorities targeting Baha’i women is deeply disturbing.”

Expert Analysis

“Iran’s Islamist rulers oppress all religious minorities but none more cruelly and vehemently than the Baha’is, who are viewed as heretics. How dare the Baha’is disobey the religious dogmas of the theocrats! This has long been a concern for USCIRF, not least during the years I served as a commissioner. It’s a terrible mistake for the current administration to ignore this persecution and attempt — repeatedly and without positive results — to appease the clerical regime.” — Clifford D. May, FDD Founder and President, Former USCIRF Commissioner

“Iran’s persecution of the Baha’is reflects its fundamental intolerance of views that differ from its radical Islamist ideology. Rather than provide Tehran with sanctions relief, the United States should make clear that it will impose maximum pressure on the regime so long as Iran’s minorities face persecution.” — Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor

Iran’s War Against the Baha’is

Founded in the 19th century by a Persian nobleman named Baha’u’llah, who deemed himself a new divine messenger, the Baha’i faith embraces a doctrine of continuing revelation that emphasizes the fundamental unity of all religions. Because this belief contradicts the Muslim idea that all revelation ceased after the time of Muhammad, Tehran considers the Baha’i faith not merely erroneous but a perversion of religion itself.

Consequently, the Islamic Republic’s constitution omits the Baha’is from its list of recognized religious minorities, which includes only Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians — faiths the regime regards as divine precursors to Islam. As a result, teaching or practicing the Baha’i religion remains illegal in Iran.

Iran’s Most Repressed Minority

In a February 2023 report, Javaid Rehman, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, said the Baha’is constitute Iran’s “most severely persecuted” minority. The report said Baha’is experienced “imprisonment and ill-treatment; raids on homes and confiscation of personal belongings; temporary release in lieu of unjustly heavy bail guarantees pending the conclusion of their trials; expulsion from or denial of entry to universities; [and] raids on, and sealing of, business premises or refusal to issue work permits.”

In a report released in March 2023, the State Department noted that the Baha’is “reported political and socioeconomic discrimination regarding their access to economic aid, business licenses, and job opportunities.”

U.S. Sanctions 29 Iranian Targets for Human Rights Abuses,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Arrests 12 Human Rights Activists Ahead of Nationwide Protests Anniversary,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran’s Religious War against the Baha’i,” by Tzvi Kahn


Iran Iran Human Rights