Some 50 houses owned by members of Iran's Baha'i religious minority have been demolished in a village northeast of Tehran, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports. The incident took place on June 26 in Ivel, not far from the city of Sari in Mazandaran Province.
Radio Farda spoke on June 27 to Baha'i Natoly Derakhshan, who witnessed the
destruction of the homes. He told the station that the houses were first set on
fire and later demolished by four bulldozers.
"We informed the governor's office that they were destroying our houses, but they did nothing to prevent it," Derakhshan said.
The incident is not the first time that homes of Baha'is have been demolished in Iran. Baha'i cemeteries have also been razed, most recently in a May 29 incident in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Derakhshan said Baha'is had not been living full-time in the homes that were destroyed. They were forced out of the houses in Ivel in 1983.
"The Baha'is were then told that they had to convert to Islam," Derakhshan told Radio Farda. "They were beaten with spades and pick axes and kicked out of their homes."
Since then, according to Derakhshan, Baha'is have had to obtain annual authorization from the Justice Department to go to their houses in the village during harvest time.
"The [provincial] governor's deputy told us 'a governor is like a doctor to a society.' If he thinks there is a tumor harmful to society, he should remove it," Derakhshan said. "Are Baha'i farmers the harmful tumors to Iranian society?"
The Baha'i faith began in Iran in the 19th century, and currently has an estimated 5 million followers worldwide.
While Baha'is regard their faith as within the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, Iran's Shi'ite government regards Baha'ism as Islamic heresy.
There are some 300,000 Baha'is living in Iran, a community that human rights groups say has faced serious repression under the Islamic republic.
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