Iran's Baha'i minority says Shia republic trying to wipe out minority faith

'Iran disseminated more than 20,000 anti-Baha'i propaganda materials in the last three years'.

Iran's Baha'is say Shia republic trying to wipe out minority faith
Visitors walk in front of the first South American Baha'i temple during the inauguration in the commune of Penanolen on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, October 13, 2016. Reuters

The leaders of the suppressed Baha'i minority community in Iran have said the Iranian government is stepping up its hate campaign against the religious minority.

Since 2013 -- when President Hussain Rouhani came to power -- 151 Baha'is have been arrested and at least 388 cases of economic and educational discrimination have been reported, the Baha'i International Community said on Tuesday.

" ...Taken altogether, what we have seen is an overall shift in tactics by the Iranian government, apparently as part of an attempt to conceal from the international community its ongoing efforts to destroy the Baha'i community as a viable entity," Baha'i chief UN representative Bani Dugal said, according to the Associated Press.

The report submitted to the United Nations said the Iranian government disseminated more than 20,000 anti-Baha'i propaganda materials in the national media in the last three years.

The Baha'i faith is an independent world religion, which has around seven million members. Baha'i followers say it's the second most widespread religion in the world in terms of geographical reach.

According to the Baha'i International Community, Iran is home to around 300,000 Baha'is. The Shia majority Iran views the Baha'is as heretics. The Baha'i religion was founded in 1844 in the southern city of Shiraz when a local sage announced himself to be a prophet and championed unity among faiths.

However, the new religion was suppressed in no time by the Shia majority who believe Muhammad is the last prophet. The Baha'i leader was banished to Acre in present-day Palestine where he died in exile. The followers bore the brunt of the backlash and hundreds were killed.

In later years, the monarchs who ruled Iran considered Baha'is as a religious minority. However, after the Iranian revolution of 1979 Baha'is faced widespread persecution. Scores were killed and houses, assets and properties of the community were confiscated.

Though the Islamists who came to power recognised Jews and Christians as religious minorities, Baha'is were not recognised. In 2013, spiritual leader Khamenei said in a fatwa that Iranians should avoid all contact Baha'is.

The latest report says Tehran "has shifted its strategy of oppression, moving away from arrests and imprisonments to more easily obscured measures such as economic and educational exclusion."