Iran targets Baha’i children for conversion to Islam

Iran targets Baha’i children for conversion to Islam
Iranian officials have reportedly ordered teachers to identify children belonging to the Baha’i minority in order to convert them to Islam. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Iran targets Baha’i children for conversion to Islam

Iran targets Baha’i children for conversion to Islam
  • Leaked documents from the northern city of Sari show authorities plan to step up “strict controls” of Baha’is
  • Move is latest step to suppress religious minority, one of the most persecuted in the world

LONDON: Iranian officials have reportedly ordered teachers to identify children belonging to the Baha’i minority in order to convert them to Islam.
Leaked documents from the northern city of Sari, in Mazandaran province, show authorities plan to step up “strict controls” of Baha’is, already one of the world’s most persecuted religious minorities, including “rigorously” controlling their “public and private meetings.”
The documents, supposedly drawn up by the city’s Commission on Ethnicities, Sects and Religions, and obtained by the League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran and the International Federation for Human Rights, highlight a series of steps against a range of religious communities, including Christians, with “bringing (Baha’i children) to Islam” among the core directives.
The commission operates under the auspices of Iran’s National Security Council, chaired by President Hassan Rouhani.
Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN, said the documents, which would have been passed on to bodies including the military and police, would almost certainly come “from national government entities at the highest levels.”
Their existence “suggests that similar meetings and directives about the Baha’is may be occurring across Iran,” she added. “Clear plans to change children’s beliefs is a galling violation of human rights.”
The Bahaʼi faith, which has an estimated 6 million followers, originated in Iran during the 19th century. About 350,000 Baha’is live in Iran, making them the country’s largest religious minority.
The UN says since Iran’s 1979 revolution, hundreds have been executed and many more forced to flee. Their beliefs are considered heretical by the religious establishment.
Systematic attacks on members of the faith are commonplace. Many have faced bans on employment and university education, arbitrary detention, and have had their premises damaged and even firebombed.
The UN estimates that billions of dollars’ worth of land and property has been seized from members of the community, explicitly sanctioned by the regime.
Last year, it also determined that the Baha’i faith was no longer a recognized religion by the Iranian state.
“Despite constant claims from the government that Baha’is are not persecuted for their beliefs, the Iranian authorities have once again exposed their true intentions,” Ala’i said.
“This revelation is strikingly reminiscent of examples in history when governments have monitored minorities with draconian measures ahead of even more sinister actions.”