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article imageMembers of Baha'i Faith face persecution in Iran

By Samuel Okocha     Nov 11, 2011 in World
Failing to obtain official recognition, Iran's largest religious minority group Baha'i is facing persecution including denial to access education.
Since the faith arose in Iran in the mid-19th century, the group has reportedly faced persecutions and discrimination with many faithful ending behind bars for working to provide younger members of their community a tertiary education.
"People apply for university and their applications are turned down, even though they have strong results from secondary school," CNN quotes Iran specialist for Amnesty International USA, Elise Auerbach as saying. "They can't get credentials, so they're barred from pursuing all sorts of professions. They can't be doctors, lawyers, university professors or scientists," she added.
Self help measure
In a self help bid to educate its members, Baha'i managed to set up a decentralized college known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education BIHE in 1987, running classes in the living rooms and kitchens of homes of members with the help of volunteer Baha'i professors, many of whom reportedly lost their jobs in Iranian universities over their religious beliefs.
The institution was said to have been declared illegal after 30 Baha'i homes across Iran were raided as part of a crackdown on BIHE in May. In October, seven professors and administrators were sentenced to four and five years each. Their offence was being involved in what authorities called an illegal group intending to commit crimes against national security.
Iran's position
Iran is refuting claims that the Baha'i is being persecuted.
Spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations, Alireza Miryusefi while admitting the Baha'i Faith is not recognized as an official religion in Iran, says its members have full civil rights.
"Contrary to allegations made by supporters of the cult abroad, they have had equal access to universities and every year tens of them are graduated from Iranian universities," CNN quotes him as saying.
Miryusefi said raids on BIHE, as CNN reports, were conducted because those involved in the institution had "systematically controlled activities of cult members, and ... interfered in their private, social and economic lives." He also said the organization had the aim of "entrapping" non-Baha'is, in order to eventually create "an extremist cult movement."
More persecutions
Aside from restriction from getting educated, Baha'i has reportedly faced other forms of persecution. For example, CNN reports that Seven Baha'i religious leaders are currently imprisoned for crimes including "espionage for Israel," "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the system."
Amnesty International has described the Baha'i leaders as prisoners of conscience, and adds that their convictions are politically motivated. The human rights group says members of the faith are barred from meeting, holding religious ceremonies or practice their religion with other believers within Iran.
Religous intolerance is highest in the Middle East and Europe, according to a report by Pew Reserach Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life.[url= t=_blank].
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