Action Memorandum

MAY 23, 1996


FDI denounces persecution of Baha'is

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran condemns the continued persecution of members of the Baha'i faith, and appeals to West European governments and other human rights organizations to exert all available pressure on the government of Iran to prevent the pending execution of three Baha'is who have been condemned to death because of their faith.

In mid-February, an Iranian court sentenced Zabihollah Mahrami, a 49-year old Iranian Baha'i, to death for apostasy. Mr. Mahrami, an Agriculture Department employee in Yazd province, converted to Islam in 1981 to avoid being fired from his government job, but returned to his original faith seven years later. The Foundation believes the conviction of Mr. Mahrami on charges of apostasy constitutes a clear violation of the right to freedom of belief as described in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding international treaty to which Iran is a signatory.

On February 18, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of two other Baha'is, Mr. Kayvan Khalajabadi and Mr. Bihnam Mithaqi, for their activities within the Baha'i community. Both men were arrested in Karaj on April 29, 1989 and have been imprisoned ever since.

A fourth Baha'i, Mr. Ramidan'ali Dhulfaqari, was jailed on Dec. 8, 1993 in Rafsanjan and condemned to death for apostasy. Although he was released from on Jan. 6, 1994, the death sentence was not lifted, so he could be arrested again. The last execution of a Bahai in Iran dates from April 1992 when Bahman Samandari, a leading community member, was put to death. .

On May 14, the head of Iran's Judiciary branch, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, in a public rebuke of international human rights organizations for their criticism of Iran's treatment of its religious minorities, told theologians in Qom that "Religious minorities in Iran enjoy freedom. However... Baha'ism is not a religion but an espionage establishment."

The Foundation fears that Yazdi's statement and the recent death sentences against Baha'is could signal the beginning of a new wave of persecution against the estimated 300,000 to 350,000 Baha'is still living in Iran, in application of the 1991 "blueprint" for dismantling the Baha'i presence and influence in Iran that was approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i. [Document available from FDI on request]. Since the 1979 revolution, 201 Baha'is have been assassinated and 115 others reported missing and presumed dead, according to a report dated Feb. 9, 1996 by the UN Special Rapporteur for Religious Intolerance, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor [E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2, p16].

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private, non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland. Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director (exec@iran.org). FDI materials, including the FDI Newswire, are available free-of-charge via the Internet at http://www.iran.org/.