Thursday 22 May 2008

Iran's Abused


The mullahs in Tehran have repressed democrats, homosexuals, Kurds and women, among others in a long list. But spare a thought for Iran's 300,000-strong Bahai community.

Founded in 19th-century Persia as a modernist reform of Shia Islam, the Bahai stress the unity of humanity and world religions. So naturally their message of brotherly love is counter-revolutionary to Iran's theocrats. The Bahai's institutions have been destroyed, their members banned from universities and their cemeteries desecrated. Two hundred were killed in mass executions in the 1980s.

Then last week the Bahai leadership was arrested for "security" reasons. Iran's elastic "security laws" give the mullahs ample scope for suppressing any activity or group they deem undesirable. "Security" is just a pretext to clamp down on the Bahai, considered apostates by Tehran.

"This is a group that has acted against the country's interests and has links with foreigners, especially the Zionists," a government spokesman said Tuesday about the six arrested Bahai leaders. The location of the Bahai's religious center – in Haifa, Israel – presumably doesn't help.

The Bahais aren't alone. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, respect for the human rights of all Iranians has suffered. Many of the "crimes" persecuted by the Ahmadinejad zealots are lifestyle choices or of moral, rather than criminal, nature. Homosexuals are hanged and adulterers stoned to death. The world's second most prolific executioner after China, Iran leads in the killing of minors.

The brutalization of its own people suggests the kind of foreign policy a nuclear Iran might conduct. The atomic bomb would allow Tehran, already a global terror sponsor, to act abroad with almost as much impunity as it does against the Bahais at home.

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