GENEVA, 15 March 2011 (BWNS) - Iranian authorities have arrested a number of Baha'is who provided education to children in a region devastated by an earthquake seven years ago.
The Baha'i International Community has so far been able to confirm the arrest of four Baha'is this month in connection with the provision of kindergarten-level education in Iran's Kerman Province, south-east of Tehran. Two other Baha'is from the city of Kerman were also arrested on Sunday 13 March. Their involvement in education projects has not yet been confirmed.
"More than 26,000 people died and one in five teachers in the city of Bam reportedly lost their lives in the 2003 earthquake," said Diane Ala'i, representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.
"These Baha'is were offering a vitally needed service to children whose education system had been all but completely destroyed."
Last week, the Iran Student News Agency, reported that the prosecutor-general of the revolutionary court in Bam announced that a "number of Baha'is" had been arrested for "promoting their programs under the guise of kindergartens in Bam, Kerman and Tehran." Mohammad Reza Sanjari claimed that Baha'is "took advantage" of the need for cultural, social and educational measures following the earthquake.
"This latest round of arrests is yet another example of the widespread, and intensifying, religious persecution being carried out by Iran against its 300,000-strong Baha'i minority," said Ms. Ala'i.
"This and other recent actions suggest that the authorities will stop at nothing to keep Baha'is away from Muslims, even when the Baha'is are providing a service to those in their society in desperate need."
Three Baha'is from Isfahan - including two 18 year olds - were also arrested earlier this month while teaching children. They were subsequently released.
Some 79 Baha'is are currently being held in prison in Iran.
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