Iran will elect a new president on May 19. But the real event will take place days before, on May 14, and it will offer more insight into the nature of the regime than managed elections ever could provide.
May 14 will mark the ninth anniversary of the arrests of the Iranian Baha’i leadership, known as the Yaran. These seven men and women managed the religious and worldly needs of Iran’s Baha’i, who make up the country’s largest non-Muslim minority. Iranian authorities condemned them to 20-year prison terms for their alleged misdeeds—charges that included “corruption on earth,” “insulting religious sanctities,” “espionage for Israel,” and “propaganda against the system.” The group’s secretary was arrested on March 5, 2008, and was also sentenced to 20 years in prison.
From the Iranian revolution in 1979 to this day, the regime has shown the Baha’i no mercy. The Iranian Baha’i community has faced continued oppression on the economic front and in the denial of educational opportunities. Last November, Iranian authorities shut down more than 100 Baha’i-owned businesses throughout Iran after those businesses were briefly shuttered by their owners to observe the Baha’i holidays. In December and January alone, more than a dozen Baha’i students were kicked out of Iranian universities because of their faith. As one student put it, “This has been going on for 37 years [since the Iranian revolution]. Every year, university security officials identify new Baha’i students and find excuses to throw them out.” Meanwhile, hundreds of students took the national entrance exam for universities, passed, and were denied entry into any university.
The unjust imprisonment of Baha’i continues, with new arrests by the Intelligence Ministry as recently as April. It is estimated that 80 to 90 Baha’is remain imprisoned in Iran solely due to their religious beliefs. The effort to smear the Baha’i and their religion continues as well, with thousands of anti-Baha’i articles
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