Iran's Neo-Apartheid: Rampant Persecution of Baha'is
Tehran Bureau / Winston Nagan

Later this month, the United Nations will host Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his final annual visit as president of Iran. His ineligibility for reelection next year due to a term limit means that he will not return in September 2013. His government's nuclear ambitions have so dominated recent discussion about his country that it has been possible, at times, to overlook how abysmal its human rights record has been. Having grown up with the indignities of the apartheid system in South Africa, I bristle whenever I hear anyone equate a government's treatment of a portion of its citizenry to apartheid. Usually, the claims are exaggerated. But in Iran today, the government's treatment of the Baha'i community bears striking similarities.

Baha'is are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran. Although the community's central tenets involve the promotion of peace, the acceptance of the divine origin of all of the great religions of the world, and the unity of humankind, its members are harassed and persecuted by the government and accused of being spies. The Baha'is have suffered persecution since the founding of the religion in Iran in the mid-1800s. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, repression and discrimination intensified. The regime has established a set of restrictions on Baha'is that are surprisingly reminiscent of the apartheid system.

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