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Dozens Of Iranian Activists Condemn Islamic Republic's Oppression Of Baha'i Community

Buildings belonging to Baha'is in Roshankooh, northern Iran, are destroyed earlier this month.

A group of 70 political and civil activists, university professors, artists, and human rights activists from Ian and abroad have condemned in a joint statement the Islamic Republic's treatment of the Baha'i community following a spike in restrictions and pressure on its members.

"The arbitrary suppression and arrest of Baha'i citizens in various cities has intensified in recent days as more Baha'i students have been deprived of education," the signatories said.

"These crimes are part of the chain of tyranny and the attempt to destroy and eliminate religious minorities and dissidents."

Baha'is -- who number some 300,000 in Iran and have an estimated 5 million followers worldwide -- say they face systematic persecution in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.

Iranian security forces have arrested dozens of Baha'i followers in recent weeks and raided the homes of hundreds of others.

Among the signatories of the statement are Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and Iranian-American movie star Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha'is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.

Thousands more have been banned from receiving higher education or had their property confiscated, while vandals often desecrate Baha'i cemeteries.

The statement said the ruling autocratic ideology of Iran is the result of religious apartheid, which has deprived millions of Baha'is of their civil rights because of their religious beliefs.

Iran' Ministry of Intelligence accused a number of Baha'is who were arrested recently that they are "directly connected with the Zionist center known as Bayt al-Adl located in occupied Palestine."

Bayt al-Adl (The Universal House of Justice), located in Haifa, is the nine-member supreme ruling body of the Baha'i Faith.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has on several occasions called the Baha'i faith a cult and issued a religious fatwa in 2018 forbidding contact, including business dealings, with followers of the faith.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda