At U.N., President Rouhani ignores human rights and Baha’i persecution


September 25, 2014

WASHINGTON —At a speech before the U.N. General Assembly this morning, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani failed to address Iran’s abysmal human rights record. Elected last year on a platform promising improvements for all Iranians, including minorities, he chose instead to devote his entire speech to ISIL and the nuclear negotiations that are ongoing with the west. In contrast, last year, his visit was marked by numerous promises that his government would work to improve human rights in Iran. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says that, other than the release of a small handful of prisoners of conscience at this time last year, his pledges have not been kept.

For Iranian Baha’is, the situation has not improved under President Rouhani. More than 100 Baha’is remain in prison, held solely for their religious beliefs, according to 2014 reports from UN officials, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. According to a report released this month by the Baha’i International Community, government-sponsored anti-Baha’i propaganda has actually increased during President Rouhani’s tenure. These reports indicate that Baha’is continue to experience educational economic exclusion.

“The current crisis in the Middle East should not provide cover for Dr. Rouhani and his government to avoid their obligations to protect freedom of thought, conscience, and religion under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party,” said Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

Baha’is eschew violence, are politically non-partisan, and pose no threat to the government. Mr. Bowers added: “If Dr. Rouhani’s statements last year on human rights or citizens’ rights, as he termed them, were to be regarded as more than mere rhetoric, his government could immediately signal its seriousness by beginning to release the Baha’i prisoners as well as others from among the hundreds of prisoners of conscience. Much was made at this time last year about the release of a handful of prisoners of conscience, including a few prominent human rights advocates, but we have seen very little since then and nothing, not even words of hope, in connection with the Baha’i prisoners.”

In the report released earlier this month, the Baha’i International Community noted that during the first six months of 2014, incidents of anti-Baha’i propaganda in government-run media increased by a factor of 10, from 55 in January to 565 in June. “Dr. Rouhani has to be asked what his government is planning to do to stop this form of incitement,” said Bowers. “Several examples over the last century have demonstrated that this kind of incitement has been a precursor to the most extreme human rights abuses against entire communities.”

Earlier this year, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard began destroying a historic Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz – the resting place of some 950 Baha’is. Earlier this month, three UN experts – Heiner Bielefeldt, Ahmed Shaheed, and Rita Izsak – called on the Iranian government to bring a halt to this demolition.

“Dr. Rouhani needs to be called to account for this extreme act of religious intolerance,” added Bowers. “We urge Dr. Rouhani to address these issues of human rights and religious freedom in his upcoming press conference.”

For additional information, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990, or visit: http://publicaffairs.bahai.us/what-we-do/human-rights/persecution-of-the-bahais-in-iran.

Contact Rachel Wolfe, Media Relations Officer, at USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org to arrange for interviews.