GENEVA – July 8, 2021 – The international Baha’i community is calling for the Iranian government to be held accountable for its hate speech against the Baha’i in Iran. In recent months, the four decades long government sponsored campaign of hate speech and propaganda has reached a new level, growing in both sophistication and scope. This has raised new concerns about the rights of Baha’i in Iran, as history shows that blatant human rights abuses often take place in a climate of hatred and disinformation.
The international BahÃ¡’Ã community has followed anti-BahÃ¡’Ã propaganda in Iran for decades and has seen an increase in hateful propaganda against the BahÃ¡’Ãs in recent months. The unfolding strategy of demonizing the Baha’i community is reflected in a growing and coordinated network of hundreds of websites, Instagram accounts, Telegram channels and clubhouse rooms, with content such as “The Baha’i are impure and enemies of your religion,” “Dealing with Baha’i is forbidden”, “Buying goods in a Baha’i shop is forbidden” and “Modern ‘human rights’ are a big lie” and many others. These platforms produce hundreds of thousands of disinformation reaching millions of Iranians. A BIC publication, Inciting Hatred, provides a more detailed analysis of this 40-year media campaign against the Baha’i.
The websites and social media channels are complemented by videos, printed newspaper articles and other written media, books, seminars, exhibitions, graffiti and fatwas from official and other government sponsored media that purport to be independent.
“History is full of victims of serious crimes instigated by hate speech,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the International Baha’i Community at the United Nations in Geneva. “We fear that the spread of disinformation against the Baha’i could signal a sharp rise in persecution against them.”
Spreading untruths has been a key weapon in the Iranian government’s attack on the Baha’i since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The aim is to demonize the Baha’i and try to provoke public hatred against the community in order to justify crimes against them, a tactic widely used by oppressive governments throughout history.
The Iranian government does not recognize the Baha’i as a religious minority and, as such, the Baha’i have no right to appeal against these statements, nor are they allowed to respond and present their own case to their fellow Iranians.
AntÃ³nio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, says in his 2019 Action Plan to Combat Hate Speech (link is external): “[h]The speech is a threat to democratic values, social stability and peace. Basically, the United Nations must face hate speech at every turn. Silence can signal indifference to bigotry and intolerance, even as a situation escalates and the vulnerable become victims. “
Incitement to hatred is prohibited under international treaties that Iran has ratified itself, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Iran has consistently ignored its international commitments and it is time it was held accountable for inciting hatred and committing countless human rights violations against the Baha’i with impunity,” said Bani Dugal, chief representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations. â€œHate crimes always start with words. Let’s not let history repeat itself. “
- The Baha’i, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been systematically persecuted by the Iranian government since the Islamic Revolution. More than 200 Baha’i were executed in the 1980s; today they are denied jobs in the public service, higher education, their livelihoods are often destroyed, their cemeteries desecrated and they are vilified in state and semi-official media as well as from the pulpit and in schools and other educational institutions.