PARIS: Iranian authorities have destroyed half a dozen homes belonging to Bahais in a new phase of an crackdown that has shaken the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, an NGO has said.
Bahai representatives said 13 community members, including several prominent figures, had already been arrested in raids on Sunday following dozens of arrests over the last two months.
Bahais have been subjected to harassment ever since the inception in 1979 of the Islamic republic, which recognizes minority non-Muslim faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism but does not Bahaism.
Iranian officials on Tuesday sealed off the village of Roshankouh in the northern Mazandaran province and completely destroyed six Bahai homes as well as confiscating 20 hectares of land, Diane Alai, a Bahai International Community representative to the UN, said.
Video footage posted on social media showed the residents of Roshankouh, which is known to have a strong Bahai presence, standing aghast in front of the wreckage of their homes.
The BIC said in a statement that heavy earthmoving equipment was used to demolish the homes and one Bahai resident was arrested.
“We ask everyone to raise their voice and call for these dreadful acts of blatant persecution to be immediately stopped,” said Alai.
She denounced a “step-by-step plan” by the Iranian authorities of “first blatant lies and hate speech, then raids and arrests, and today land grabs, occupations and the destruction of homes.”
Bahais have repeatedly complained in the past of seizures of land and property. The authorities have sometimes claimed they were owned by organizations now prohibited in Iran but the Bahais countered that the assets were subsequently transferred to state-controlled foundations.
Thirteen Bahais on Sunday were arrested in raids on the homes and businesses of 52 Bahais across Iran, with the Iranian Intelligence Ministry leveling accusations of spying for Israel that the Bahais dismissed as preposterous.
With concern growing over the crackdown, the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom on Tuesday said the US “urges Iran to halt its ongoing oppression of the Bahai community and honor its international obligations to respect the right of all Iranians to freedom of religion or belief.”