Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Arsonists in Iran target Baha’i homes and vehicles

Acts of arson targeting homes and vehicles are the latest violent tactics directed against the Baha’is of Iran.

“In the early hours of the morning of 18 July, the house of the Shaaker family in Kerman went up in flames, only weeks after their car had been torched and in the wake of a series of threatening phone calls,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“As would be expected in the light of the mistreatment Baha’is in Iran are routinely receiving, the officials who investigated the fire either ignored or dismissed obvious signs of suspicious activity, including a muffled explosion, simply saying that it was the result of an electrical problem,” she said.

The fire at the Shaaker home in Kerman was one of at least a dozen fires or arson attempts affecting the property of Iranian Baha’is in the past year or so. The following cases have been reported over the last 15 months:

  • On 15 July at 1:15 a.m., Molotov cocktails were thrown into the front courtyard of the home of Khusraw Dehghani and his wife, Dr. Huma Agahi, in Vilashahr, only months after anonymous threats directly related to her being a Baha’i forced Dr. Agahi to close her clinic in nearby Najafabad where she had practiced medicine for 28 years.

  • On 25 July, the car of a prominent Baha’i in Rafsanjan, in Kerman province, was torched and destroyed by arsonists on motorbikes. Soheil Naeimi, the owner of the car, and 10 other Baha’i families in the town had received threatening letters from a group calling itself the Anti-Baha’ism Movement of the Youth of Rafsanjan that, among other things, threatened jihad (holy war) against the Baha’is.

  • On 10 June, an outbuilding on the property of the Mr. and Mrs. Mousavi, elderly Baha’is living in the village of Tangriz in Fars province, was destroyed by fire when it was doused with gasoline. The Mousavis, along with their two sons who were sleeping close to the building, narrowly escaped injury when the gasoline tank used to start the fire exploded. The Mousavis believe that the perpetrator thought they were all sleeping in the hut when he set the fire. Mr. Mousavi issued a formal complaint against the person they suspected, but the legal office has declined to pursue the case because the suspect swore on the Qur’an that he was not guilty. Out of respect for the Qur’an, the Mousavis have dropped the charges.

  • On 4 April, the home of a Baha’i was set on fire in Babolsar, in the north of Iran.

  • In February in Shiraz, a 53-year-old businessman was attacked on the street, chained to a tree, doused with gasoline, and assaulted by unknown persons who then attempted to throw lighted matches at him. Also in Shiraz in February, several arson attempts were made against vehicles and a home belonging to Baha’is.

  • On 1 May 2007, arson destroyed the home of ‘Abdu’l-Baqi Rouhani in the village of Ivil, in Mazandaran.

  • In Karaj, the burial section of a Baha’i cemetery was set on fire.

“These latest attacks follow the authorities’ attempts to deprive the Iranian Baha’i community of its leadership,” Ms. Dugal said, referring to the arrests in March and May this year of the seven members of Iran’s national Baha’i coordinating group, all of whom are still locked up in Evin Prison in Tehran without any charges and without access to an attorney or to their families.

“As Baha’is worldwide watch with alarm this escalation in violence,” she added, “their fears that a sinister plan of persecution is unfolding become increasingly confirmed. Their only hope is that enough voices of protests are raised around the world to compel the government in Iran to put an end to this violence.”


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