Ten weeks have passed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas and, during this period, Iran has seen an increase in atrocities, particularly against minorities.
Some Canadians of Iranian origin believe the regime is escalating its brutality against its own people as the world’s attention focuses on the Middle East.
“Since October in particular, there has been such an increase in violent persecution against the Baha’i community in Iran,” Chohre Rassekh, a Vancouver resident, told Global News.
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Rassekh is a Baha’i, belonging to Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority religion – a religion where simply existing in Iran is enough to land you in prison.
In Iran, Bahais are denied the right to burial, higher education and most jobs. More recently, they cannot register their marriage either.
Iranian law only allows the practice of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Islam.
Systemic persecution of Bahá’ís is not new, but the Iranian regime has intensified its repression and employed new tactics, with more arrests targeting women and the elderly, violent raids and harsher prison sentences , according to the Bahá’í International Community.
Several members of their community were imprisoned for trying to help victims of a recent earthquake, which “the rest of the world would consider social action,” Rassekh said.
“They were arrested on charges of working against the government,” she added.
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Three Baha’is from northern Iran were recently collectively sentenced to more than two years in prison for operating a daycare, according to the Baha’i International Community.
Since October, at least 40 Baha’is have been arrested in Iran and dozens of homes have been searched.
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“They are breaking into the house in a very violent way, at gunpoint, to enter the homes of Bahá’ís,” Rassekh said.
Human rights experts say the persecution of Baha’is is the litmus test for what comes next in Iran.
Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, the number of state executions has increased to more than three people per day, according to the nonprofit Iran Human Rights.
“In November we have 115 executions and October 80 for executions,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, founder of Iran Human Rights.
Moghaddam said Iran had carried out 32 hangings so far in December. This includes the execution of a 22-year-old minor, Milad Zohrevand, the eighth protester linked to the Women, Life, Freedom movement to face the death penalty for participating in the nationwide anti-regime protests that have erupted across Iran. last year after the death of Mahsa Amini.
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In October, the United Nations condemned the Iranian regime for carrying out executions at an “alarming rate.”
“Normally, these executions would have sparked international outrage… Unfortunately, we have not seen strong reactions,” Amiry-Moghaddam said.
On December 20, Iran executed a 29-year-old woman who Amiry-Moghaddam said was the victim of a child bride. He said she was on death row for the murder of her husband when she was 19.
Rassekh asks the world to pay attention.
“We have the right to a decent life and civil rights,” she said.
To illustrate his point, Rassekh read an excerpt from a letter written by Mahvash Sabet, an Iranian Baha’i woman who is serving a second 10-year prison sentence for her religious beliefs. Sabet, a former member of the Baha’i community’s leadership group, wrote from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
“For 45 years, we Bahá’ís have been constantly prevented from leading normal lives in our ancestral homeland,” the letter read.
Sabet’s letter goes on to state that since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, people of his faith have become “the others.”
“I feel very moved every time I read it. I feel extremely moved,” Rassekh said of the letter.
The message behind Sabet’s letter is that all Iranians must remain united in their struggles.
As Rassekh watches the news unfold from afar, she thinks her pain is the same as that of all Iranians fighting against injustice.
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