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Iran: Amnesty International seeking clarification of official letter about Baha'i minority

Amnesty International is seeking information from the Iranian government about a letter which calls for government ministries and the Republican Guard to compile information and report to the Armed Forces Command on the activities of adherents of the Baha'i faith (also referred to as Babism), an unrecognized religious minority in Iran, and the authorities' intentions if they are compiling data relating to members of one of Iran's minority religious communities.

The letter, dated 29 October 2005, purportedly was written by the Chairman of the Armed Forces Command, Major General Seyyed Hossein Firuzabadi acting on instructions from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The letter directs the Ministry of Information and the Commanders of the Army, Police and Revolutionary Guards, among others, to provide information to the Armed Forces Command as it has been "given the mission to acquire a comprehensive and complete report of all the activities of [Baha'is and Babists] for the purpose of identifying all the individuals of these misguided sects".

As an independent non-governmental organization that works throughout the world for the protection and promotion of universal human rights, Amnesty International is greatly concerned when it receives information about steps taken or being considered by governments against racial, religious or other minorities or vulnerable groups or which suggest that discriminatory measures or other actions which would violate human rights are being contemplated. Amnesty International has been concerned for many years about violations of human rights committed against Baha'is in Iran and was therefore particularly concerned to learn of this letter and has taken steps to seek clarification about it. Amnesty International wrote to Major General Firuzabadi and those named as intended recipients of the letter in mid-May 2006 but, to date, has not received any response.

Baha'is and members of other religious minorities have suffered extensive persecution in the past. Many Baha'is were executed amid the political convulsions which occurred in the early years after Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, and they and other religious minorities continue to be subject to widespread discrimination and recurrent bouts of repression at the hands of the authorities. Most recently, 54 Baha'is were arrested in Shiraz on 19 May 2006 while engaged in teaching underprivileged children, for which they had official permission. Most were released by 26 May; the remaining three were released on 14 June 2006. None was formally charged but all risk facing unspecified charges in the future.

Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of the letter referred to above should contact the Iran Research Team at the International Secretariat on +44-20-7413-5500.

... Payvand News - 7/25/06 ... --

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