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Baha’is in Iran Enjoy Easier Lives in Kurdish Areas

By FUAD HAQIQI 31/8/2013
The Tom Lantos Human Rights commission (TLHRC), co-chaired by Congressmen James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), held a hearing on The Worsening Plight of Religious Minorities in Iran. Photo:
The Tom Lantos Human Rights commission (TLHRC), co-chaired by Congressmen James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), held a hearing on The Worsening Plight of Religious Minorities in Iran. Photo:


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran’s outlawed Baha’is living in the country’s Kurdish regions enjoy good relations with the local Sunni community, compared to those in Shiite regions, members of the persecuted faith say.

“Baha’is living in Sunni areas of eastern (Iranian) Kurdistan have good relations with local people and there is mutual respect between both sides, but this is not the case in Shiite areas such as Kermanshah,” said Jamal Haeiri, a Baha’i Kurdish activist.

The faith has about 300,000 followers in Iran. Though exact numbers are unavailable, a considerable number live in the country’s western Kurdish regions.

Haeri, who left for Australia to escape continuous pressure from Iranian authorities, said that dozens of families live in the Kurdish areas, including in his native Sanandaj, or Sina in Kurdish.

Following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, the new regime began persecuting followers of the Baha’i faith. Some 200 Baha’is have been executed in Iran to date, and about 100 are in prison.

Under the Islamic Republic, Baha’is have been deprived of cultural, political, civil, and religious rights, and some sources say that persecution has intensified recently.

“In the beginning of the Islamic rule in Iran, the government tried to convince Baha’is to convert their religion to Islam, but now the government is pushing Baha’is out of Iran,” Haeiri said.

A common issue faced by Baha’is in Iran is that they are deprived of higher education. In 2006, 70 Baha’is were expelled from university, and the year after the Payameh Noor University expelled another 30. In 2011, 20 Baha’is were banned from entering universities.

Recently, a Baha’i cemetery in Sina was destroyed by a court decision, and the land seized by authorities. Haeiri said that the cemetery contained 40 Baha’i graves, including his mother’s.

The Iranian government has faced frequent condemnation from the international community and human rights organizations for denying the rights of religious minorities.

Simin Fehendej, a representative to the United Nations, believes that Iran’s persecution of Baha’is is over the question of prophethood. Muslims regard Muhammad as the last prophet, but for Baha’is, the 19th century founder of their faith Bahalluah, is God's latest messenger.


Tom Armistead | 31/8/2013
Thank you for this news. In the United States and much of the world, Bahá'ís watch the persecution in Iran with anguish, and we pray often for the protection of our fellow believers. It is good to hear that they are safer in the Kurdish areas. Please allow me to correct one point in your otherwise excellent article. We regard Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of our Faith, as the latest Manifestation of God, but certainly no the last. God has sent His Messengers and Prophets to uplift every people throughout history. The writings of Bahá'u'lláh are very clear that God does not alter this pattern, and humanity may expect other Manifestations, at intervals of roughly 1,000 years, "till the end that has no end." Tom Armistead Florida, USA
Baqi Barzani | 1/9/2013
Bahaism is a faith that was originated in 19th-century in Persia by by ' Bahaulla'. Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine include: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. Baahis suffer immensely and face persecution in the Muslim world in general because of their religious believes. A very insightful faith. I have a lot Bahai Friends and I used to associate with them and visit their centers. Very nice, educated and peace-loving people. Below is a quote from Bahá’í Writings for readers: “To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.” ~ I am glad that our South Kurdistan has become a safe heaven for all minorities and a symbol of pluralistic co-existence.
Rezqar | 2/9/2013
Baqi, Why in your comments you consistently advocate minority rights ? Are not you a Muslim?
Baqi Barzani | 2/9/2013
To Kaka Rezqar, I would love to see a colorful Kurdistan (Multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural). Strive to “Promote Freedom of Religion" in Kurdistan. I appeal to the president to build the biggest church in Middle East in Ankawa region where most Christian communities are concentrated so that when foreign visitors land in Hawler airport, they can easily notice it. The estimated expenditure won’t exceed more than 10 Million. That is the best advertisement to sell Kurdistan to the world, not by having a journalist eulogize KRG's gains in a newspaper. I also urge the president to invite his holiness the Pope to visit Kurdistan if he has time in order to rally more support for Kurdish case globally. We need to encourage more inter-faith debates and relations to eliminate extremism and terrorism. A tolerant and free Kurdistan is our ultimate wish. Thanks for your comment!
Abdu'l-Hanif Al-Shukri | 6/9/2013
To the one above who criticized the Muslim man for supporting minority rights, "Say not to everyone who greets you with a greeting, 'Thou art not a believer.' "
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