Also to be perused: The Globe and Mail published a web-only comment about the situation of the Baha’is of Iran, Canada’s most well-known national newspaper, written by Maurice Copithorne, a former United Nations special representative on the human-rights situation in Iran. Here’s an excerpt:
The recent harassment of Baha’is also took the form of 30 mostly negative, and often defamatory, articles that appeared in one of the official Tehran dailies last fall. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, published a statement in March reporting the existence of a confidential letter of Oct. 20, 2005, distributed within the government calling on officials – reportedly on the instructions of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – “to identify persons who adhere to the Baha’i faith and monitor their activities.”
The special rapporteur declares that “such monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities.” She expresses concern that the result of such monitoring “will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against” Baha’is.
She also said that, since taking up her mandate in July of 2004, she had intervened with the government on a number of occasions regarding the treatment of the Baha’i community. And she called on “the government of Iran to refrain from categorizing individuals according to their religion and to ensure that members of all religious minorities are free to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear.”
[ . . . ] Iran would seem to be one of the handful of countries in which the human-rights situation is now visibly deteriorating. In the past several years, Canada has been taking the lead in promoting a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the human-rights situation in Iran and, no doubt, will do so again this year.
More needs to be done. Iran failed in its efforts to be elected to the new UN Human Rights Council. The April resolution establishing the council instructed it to “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each state of its human-rights obligations and commitments.” The order in which countries will be called before the council has yet to be determined. Given the growth in Iran of violations of international human-rights norms as set out in a variety of UN instruments, Iran should clearly be among the first group of respondents.
(Updated [11/06/2006]: Reuters AlertNet also has a story available on the arrests of Baha’is in Iran.)