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Crimes Against Humanity: The Islamic Republic’s Attacks on the Bahá’ís

Crimes Against Humanity: The Islamic Republic’s Attacks on the Bahá’ís

This report complements two earlier publications, A Faith Denied The Persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran (2006) and Community Under Siege: The Ordeal of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz (2007). It argues that the Islamic Republic’s campaign of persecution against Iran’s Bahá’ís involves acts contrary to the principles of common humanity under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, customary law and international criminal law – acts that amount to crimes against humanity.

Table of Contents

















1. Executive Summary

Since 1979, high-level officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been linked to the murder, torture, imprisonment and persecution of members of Iran’s Bahá’í community. Between 1979 and 1987, nearly 207 Bahá’ís were executed because of their faith. Most of these executions followed arbitrary and summary trials conducted by a revolutionary court, where the “accused” were often convicted without the assistance of legal counsel and in contravention of international standards of “due process.” The regime has vigorously and systematically pursued its statesponsored campaign of persecution against the Bahá’ís in contravention of a host of domestic and international laws promoting peace and security and the protection of fundamental human rights.

  • Since 1979, the Islamic Republic has engaged in a deliberate and coordinated campaign to suffocate and ultimately destroy the Bahá’í community by removing all traces of its religion from public life, purging the faith’s members from political and governmental posts, and preventing Bahá’í participation in the country’s economic, social and cultural sectors.
  • The regime’s campaign of persecution has led to attacks on Bahá’ís throughout the country, and has included the targeting, unlawful arrest, prolonged detention, torture and extrajudicial killing of many adherents and leaders of the community.
  • These attacks constitute crimes against humanity because they are directed against a civilian population, are widespread and systematic in their nature and implementation, and involve acts (i.e. murder, torture, imprisonment and persecution) contrary to the principles of common humanity under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, customary law and international criminal law.
  • Numerous high ranking members of the Iranian government may be held liable for the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Bahá’í population. In particular, liability may fall on members of the Revolutionary Council who, since 1979, have devised and implemented a plan of attack on the Bahá’ís. Its members include leading clerics such as Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, and Ayatollah Abdul-Karim Mousavi Ardebili.
  • Notwithstanding individual criminal liability for specific attacks perpetrated by agents of the Islamic Republic, the international community should condemn the Iranian regime and hold it accountable for its attacks on one of the country’s most vulnerable religious minorities.

The Islamic Republic, and any individuals involved in the ordering, instigating, planning, aiding and abetting, or commission of these crimes against humanity must be held to account for their actions. To the extent that the regime’s actions constituted serious violations of human rights law, it is incumbent upon all member states of the international community to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

2. Preface 

This legal report complements two earlier IHRDC publications documenting the Islamic Republic’s state-sponsored campaign of persecution against its Bahá’ís citizens: A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran (2006) and Community Under Siege: The Ordeal of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz (2007). The two prior reports meticulously present facts surrounding the targeting, unlawful arrest, prolonged detention, torture and summary execution of nearly 207 Bahá’ís since 1979. The first report provides an overview of the abuses of the Bahá’ís in Iran both historically and since the founding of the Islamic Republic. The second report is an in-depth case study of one particularly notorious instance of persecution.

The instant companion for the earlier reports provides a brief legal analysis of the abuses documented therein, and argues that the acts committed against Iran’s Bahá’ís conflict with the principles of common humanity under international criminal law and amount to crimes against humanity. Individual Iranian officials may be subject to liability, now or in the future, for crimes against humanity in various courts. 

Moreover, the Islamic Republic, in promoting, inciting and allowing the commission of these crimes, has failed its state responsibility to protect and preserve the human rights of all of its citizens, including those of the Bahá’ís. Despite political realities that make it difficult to prosecute and convict the Iranian regime in a truly international forum, the international community should remain steadfast in its pursuit to bring the Islamic Republic to account for its persecution of one of the country’s most vulnerable religious communities.

3. The Legal Framework of Crimes Against Humanity 

The charge of crimes against humanity has no treaty devoted exclusively to its regulation and criminalization, but has long been recognized as among the gravest crimes in international law pursuant to customary international law.[1] The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute or Statute), the treaty which established the International Criminal Court, provides the most current and widely-accepted definition of “crimes against humanity” under customary international law.[2] The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a state party to the Rome Statute and thus is not bound by it.[3] Like all nations, however, Iran and its citizens are bound by the customary international law prohibition on attacks amounting to crimes against humanity.[4] Accordingly, this report provides an analysis of the Iranian regime’s crimes against humanity using the provisions set forth in the Statute.

The Rome Statute defines a crime against humanity as an enumerated criminal act “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”[5] The enumerated acts include murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of the fundamental rules of international law, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds, and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury.[6]

As the above definition reveals, what distinguishes a crime against humanity from an ordinary offense is the context in which the offense occurs – that is, the prohibited acts occur as part of a widespread or systematic attacks on a civilian population. The Statute defines “attack” as “a course of conduct involving the multiple commissions of [the enumerated] acts … in furtherance of a state or organizational policy.”[7] The attack need not be very large in scale.[8] A single act may constitute a crime against humanity.[9] Finally, the attack must primarily target[10] a predominantly civilian population.[11]

4. Crimes Against Humanity Directed at the Bahá’ís of Iran 

This report will assess crimes against humanity committed in Iran against the Bahá’í population from the Islamic Revolution of 1979 to date. More specifically, it will analyze the three principal elements of a crime against humanity: the targeting of a civilian population, a widespread or systematic attack, and the particular enumerated acts at issue: murder, torture, imprisonment and persecution. This analysis, in turn, strongly suggests that the Islamic Republic’s systematic targeting, unlawful arrests, prolonged detentions, torture and summary executions of members of the Bahá’í community amount to a crime against humanity.[12] 

4.1. Directed against a Civilian Population 

Crimes against humanity are directed against a population of civilians.[13] The Bahá’ís of Iran are civilians. Civilians are “people who are not taking any active part in … hostilities.”[14] There is simply no evidence that Iranian Bahá’ís have actively participated in hostilities against the Islamic Republic or any other state.[15] Despite this, the Iranian regime has consistently maintained that the Bahá’í sect is a political organization (as opposed to a legitimate religious group) that threatens the security of the state.[16] Yet the government has never produced convincing evidence supporting its characterization of the Bahá’í community. Though it is the case that Iran’s Bahá’ís oppose many of the regime’s policies – including those directly targeting them – their political or religious activities do not deprive them of civilian status for the purposes of a crimes against humanity analysis.[17]

Pursuant to the Rome Statute and customary international law, Iran’s Bahá’ís also constitute a population that is not “a limited and randomly selected number of individuals.”[18] More specifically, Iran’s Bahá’ís “form a self-contained group of individuals, either geographically or as a result of other common features.”[19] It is clear, therefore, that the regime’s systematic targeting of this group of individuals who share a common faith satisfies the definition of “population” under customary international law. The regime’s repeated targeting of the Bahá’í community’s leadership provides further proof of its deliberate campaign of terror against this civilian population.[20]

4.2. A Widespread or Systematic Attack 

To qualify as a crime against humanity, an act in question must be part of a widespread or systematic attack, rather than a “random act of violence.”[21] “Widespread” has been construed to refer to the scale of an attack, and may relate to a series of acts or a single act of great magnitude.[22]  “Systematic” means that the attack is “organized and follow[s] a regular pattern on the basis of a common policy.”[23] An attack need not, however, be part of a formal or explicit government policy to be systematic – its systemic nature can be informal and may be deduced from the way the acts occur.[24] The ICTY and ICTR tribunals have identified systematic attacks based on many factors, including the structured manner in which the acts took place, the establishment of institutions to implement a policy of attacks, the involvement of political or military authorities, and the use of financial, military or other resources.[25]

The Islamic Republic’s attacks on the Bahá’í community since 1979 qualify as both widespread and systematic. The cumulative and intended effect of these widespread attacks has been to terrorize an already vulnerable minority group into submission. As chronicled in the factual reports, over the last 30 years Bahá’ís in numerous cities, including Tehran, Yazd, Qazvin, Hamadan, Tabriz and Shiraz, have been subject to regular raids on their homes by the Revolutionary Guards, seizure of their property, arrests, detentions and executions as a result of their refusal to denounce their faith.[26] The regime’s coordinated attacks on this community have also been systematic. Since the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian government has engaged in an official program to suffocate and ultimately destroy the Bahá’í community by, among other tactics, preventing Bahá’í participation in the country’s education and employment sectors.[27] According to the government, such deprivations are appropriate “punishment” for membership in an allegedly heretical sect.[28] The following circular from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs illustrates this attitude:

In accordance with Paragraph 8 of Article 29 of the Reconstruction of Human Resources Policy for Ministries, Governmental Organizations and other Government affiliated Offices which was approved on 5/7/1362 [Oct. 27, 1981] by the Consultative Islamic Majlis, the punishment for membership in misguided sects recognized by all Muslims to be outside of Islam or membership in organizations whose doctrine and constitution are founded on the basis of rejecting the divine religions, is permanent dismissal from governmental employment.[29]

Similar circulars were sent from the Ministry of Education to universities and even some secondary schools as part of a series of nationwide campaigns to purge Bahá’ís from all governmental and educational institutions in the country.[30] 

4.3. Enumerated Acts 

Of the acts that constitute crimes against humanity against Iran’s Bahá’ís, this report focuses on four of the most egregious: murder, torture, imprisonment and persecution. For each of these charges, it must be shown that the perpetrator knew that the conduct was part of, or intended the conduct to be part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.[31] 


“Murder” as a crime against humanity has been defined simply as an act or omission with intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm (or with reasonable knowledge that death would result) that results in such death.[32] As detailed in the factual reports, nearly 207 Bahá’ís were executed between 1979 and 1987 because of their faith.[33] Most of the 207 executions followed arbitrary and summary trials conducted by a revolutionary court, where the “accused” were often convicted without the assistance of legal counsel.[34] The case of Bahman Samandari is illustrative. Samandari was a Bahá’í accused of espionage and executed the day following his arrest.[35] The U.N. Human Rights Committee investigated his case, and one Committee member found that he was

tried by an Islamic revolutionary court without the assistance of a lawyer, sentenced following summary proceedings and executed. Such a situation was completely contrary to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [which provides minimal due process standards] … It was not sufficient that there should be a judgment; a number of guarantees must also be met.[36]

Likewise, the 22 Bahá’ís executed in Shiraz in 1983 were arrested, detained for 9 months, convicted and executed for their membership in the “wayward sect of Bahá’ísm” without any due process.[37] Their interrogations, trials and executions took place in the prison itself, without the presence of counsel.[38] Witnesses stated that several of the trials took no more than ten to fifteen minutes.[39] Each victim was simply given the opportunity to recant his or her faith and sentenced to death upon refusal.[40] The head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Musavi-Ardebili, approved their death sentences.[41]

Although sanctioned by the state and its judiciary, the summary executions of many (if not most) of the Bahá’ís killed by the regime during the past 30 years fail to meet minimum international standards set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR or Covenant), to which Iran is a signatory.[42] The ICCPR (and the companion International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) impose affirmative obligations on member states, including the primary duty to implement national legislation in order to “give effect to the rights recognized” in the treaty and the duty to provide “effective remedies” when violations of those duties occur.[43]  The ICCPR requires all member states to “respect and to ensure to all individuals within [their] territory and subject to [their] jurisdiction” all rights recognized by the Covenant irrespective of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”[44]

Any execution of a member of the Bahá’í community that failed to meet the standards set out in Articles 6,[45] 9[46] and 14[47] of the ICCPR may qualify as an extrajudicial killing (or murder) constituting a crime against humanity. Moreover, the U.N. Human Rights Committee recognizes Article 6’s inherent duty to prevent extrajudicial killings (i.e. murder) by noting that member states “should take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary killing by their own security forces.”[48] In fact, the Committee’s General Comment on the legal obligations of states party to the ICCPR explicitly states that the continued failure to punish and prevent extrajudicial killings may constitute a crime against humanity.[49]

Given the above, it is clear that contrary to its obligations under the ICCPR, Iran has consistently violated the Covenant’s guarantee of the right to life inside its borders.[50]  Not only has the regime failed to prevent the commission of extrajudicial killings by its own security forces, it has actively encouraged such practices.


Under customary international law, the prohibition against torture is among those most fundamental principles from which states cannot exempt themselves, and which states must prosecute (or extradite accordingly) whenever possible.[51] The responsibility to prevent torture and prosecute or extradite those responsible for its commission extends to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Torture as a crime against humanity consists of three elements: (i) an intentional act or omission, (ii) that inflicts severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, (iii) and that was intended to achieve a prohibited purpose.[52] Prohibited purposes, as set forth in the Convention Against Torture, include obtaining information or a confession (from the victim or a third person), punishment, intimidation or coercion and discrimination.[53]

Since the early 1980s, agents of the Iranian government have frequently acted to inflict torture on Bahá’ís, and evidence of state-sanctioned torture against Iran’s Bahá’ís is widespread and systematic.[54] For example, examination of the bodies of seven Bahá’ís executed in Hamadan on June 14, 1981 showed clear signs of torture.[55] Their bones had been broken, there were signs of burn marks, and their legs and arms were pierced with bayonets.[56] In Shiraz, Bahá’ís who had been detained by the regime’s security forces were forced to endure long interrogations, mock executions and regular lashings.[57] This torture was sanctioned by the state in an effort to obtain the names and addresses of other Bahá’ís, gain false confessions concerning the activities of Bahá’ís and persuade members of the community to recant their faith.[58] If the government was successful in forcing a detainee to recant through torture, it would often publicize the recantations in order to demoralize the wider Bahá’í community and encourage defections from the faith.[59] The coerced and fraudulent confessions were also used by the regime to justify its actions against the Bahá’í community as a whole.[60] 


Pursuant to the Rome Statute, systematic and widespread imprisonment in violation of the fundamental rules of international law may amount to a crime against humanity.[61] To constitute a predicate act of a crime against humanity, however, the imprisonment or detention must have been arbitrary and “without due process of law.”[62] According to the ICTR, imprisonment

[a]s a crime against humanity refers to arbitrary or otherwise unlawful detention or deprivation of liberty. It is not every minor infringement of liberty that forms the material element of imprisonment as a crime against humanity; the deprivation of liberty must be of similar gravity and seriousness as the other crimes enumerated as crimes against humanity (…). In assessing whether the imprisonment constitutes a crime against humanity, the Chamber may take into account whether the initial arrest was lawful, by considering, for example, whether it was based on a valid warrant of arrest, whether the detainees were informed of the reasons for their detention, whether the detainees were ever formally charged, and whether they were informed of any procedural rights. The Chamber may also consider whether the continued detention was lawful. When a national law is relied upon to justify a deprivation of liberty, this national law must not violate international law.[63]

Since the founding of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s Bahá’ís have faced arbitrary, systematic and widespread imprisonment by the regime’s security forces.[64] More often than not, these imprisonments failed to meet minimum “due process” protections set out in the ICCPR, to which Iran is a signatory.[65] These protections include the right to be informed of the reason for one’s arrest and detention (during the course of one’s arrest) and the charges involved,[66] the right to a hearing assessing the legality of the person’s detention,[67] and the right to a timely trial before a competent court.[68] They also include trial and post-trial “fair hearing” guarantees.[69] As such, the regime’s past and ongoing campaign of imprisonment against the Bahá’ís satisfies the crime against humanity requirements of international criminal law.

The illegal and arbitrary character of the mass imprisonment of Bahá’ís since the late 1970s is also clear from the nature of the charges brought against them. For example, Bahá’ís have frequently been accused of espionage and Zionism because the world headquarters of the Bahá’í Faith is located in Haifa, Israel, the last resting place of the religion’s founder.[70] Yet when Bahá’í prisoners held for espionage or Zionism agree to renounce their faith and convert to Islam, they are usually released – proving the arbitrary nature of the official charges filed against them (and the illegitimate reasons for their imprisonment).[71] A particularly cogent example of the arbitrary detention of Bahá’ís is the arrest of Simin Sabiri and Roya Ishraqi in Shiraz, on the charge of “not being married.”[72] There is no such crime under the Iranian penal code.

Other examples evidencing the arbitrary imprisonment to which Iran’s Bahá’ís are routinely subjected include the arrests of 54 Bahá’í youth from Shiraz in 2006.[73] Despite having received advanced written permission from the Islamic Council in Shiraz to participate in a literacy program for underprivileged children, these youths were imprisoned and charged with spreading anti-government propaganda.[74] Fifty of them had their 3-year prison sentence suspended on the condition that they participate in religion classes conducted by the Islamic Propaganda Organization.[75] Finally, as of this writing, seven Bahá’í community leaders arrested in May 2008 have still not been publicly charged with any crime, despite having been held in detention for over 4 months.[76]


The Rome Statute defines the crime of persecution as “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.”[77] Persecution may be based on the group or collectivity’s politics, religion, race or ethnicity.[78] The ICTY explains that

infringements of the elementary and inalienable rights of man, which are ‘the right to life, liberty and the security of person’, the right not to be ‘held in slavery or servitude’, the right not to ‘be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ and the right not to be ‘subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile’ as affirmed in Articles 3, 4, 5 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by their very essence may constitute persecution when committed on discriminatory grounds.”[79]

Aside from murder and torture,[80] the following acts have been found to constitute persecution when committed on discriminatory grounds: “comprehensive destruction of homes and property,”[81] “plunder of property”[82] and “destruction of property or means of subsistence,” “destruction and damage of religious or educational institutions,”[83] “harassment, humiliation and psychological abuse,”[84] “den[ial of] bank accounts, educational or employment opportunities, and choice of spouse … on the basis of … religion,”[85] “incitement to murder and extermination,” and “hate speech.”[86]

A review of the regime’s systematic and widespread abuses reveals that all of the foregoing actions have, at one time or another, been taken against Iran’s Bahá’ís. As demonstrated above and in the prior reports, the Bahá’ís in Iran have suffered various forms of political, economic, social and cultural persecution.[87] Many have had their private property and businesses confiscated, been denied educational and employment opportunities, seen their sacred and holy places destroyed (including the House of the Báb, the faith’s most revered site) and witnessed the desecration of their cemeteries.[88] It is clear, therefore, that the Iranian regime’s targeting of the Bahá’í community violates the ICCPR’s requirement of all member states to “respect and to ensure to all individuals within [their] territory and subject to [their] jurisdiction” all rights recognized by the Covenant irrespective of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” (emphasis added).[89]

5. Accountability for Crimes Against Humanity 

Accountability based on individual criminal liability allows for the arrest, conviction and punishment of individuals responsible for violations of fundamental human rights.[90] Such accountability may be based on direct involvement in a crime, including the commission, planning, instigation, ordering or aiding and abetting of criminal conduct.[91] Individual liability may also be established pursuant to the principle of command responsibility, which assigns liability for the failure of a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or punish subordinates who perpetrated crimes of which the superior had knowledge.[92] Application of this international principle of accountability, whether grounded in direct involvement or command responsibility, demonstrates that many high ranking officials and agents associated with the Islamic Republic’s security and intelligence apparatuses may be guilty for their part in the commission of crimes against humanity against Iran’s Bahá’í community.  

5.1. Individual Accountability 

Since the Nuremberg Tribunals, it is axiomatic that individuals – whether or not acting in their official capacity – may be tried for and convicted of crimes against humanity.[93] These crimes are subject to universal jurisdiction – that is, any member of the international community may prosecute these crimes if certain conditions are met.[94] Further, as in the case of the ICTY and ICTR, the international community may establish an ad hoc tribunal for the prosecution of such crimes.[95]

Under international law, individuals may be guilty of crimes against humanity for their participation in prohibited acts. The ICTY, for example, has explained that “criminal liability does not attach solely to individuals who physically commit a crime but may also extend to those who participate in and contribute to the commission of a crime in various ways, when such participation is sufficiently connected to the crime, following principles of accomplice liability.”[96] Similarly, as illustrated by the Rome Statute, individuals may be accountable for committing or attempting to commit a crime, alone, jointly, or through another person, and for ordering, soliciting, inducing, aiding or abetting another to commit the crime.[97] Critically, for an enterprise undertaken jointly, individual accountability is attributed to “all participants in a common criminal plan.”[98] Civilian or political officials are criminally responsible for crimes committed by subordinates where the superior either knew or consciously disregarded information about the crimes.[99]

Numerous individuals may be held liable for the crimes against humanity perpetrated in Iran against the Bahá’í population.  In particular, liability may fall on members of the Revolutionary Council who, since 1979, have devised and implemented a plan of attack on Bahá’ís.[100] Its members include leading clerics such as Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Abdul-Karim Mousavi Ardebili.[101] For a conviction to be sustained, specific details would have to established in particular prosecutions for each individual, including the existence of “a common plan, design or purpose, which amounts to or involves the commission of a crime,”[102] and intent to advance the plan (which can be inferred from participation).[103] Further inquiry into the inner workings of the Revolutionary Council is needed to establish whether individual members were criminally accountable.

Currently, no international forum exists that may readily prosecute the Islamic Republic and its agents for their widespread and systematic attacks on the Bahá’í community of Iran. In time, however, the international community and its members may hold the perpetrators accountable and, accordingly, create or expand fora to accommodate such prosecutions.

5.2. Iran’s State Responsibility 

The Iranian state, as opposed to individuals, cannot be held accountable for crimes against humanity in judicial fora. This does not, however, mean that the Iranian government is not responsible for the crimes described in this report.[104] Pursuant to the ICCPR, all states have an affirmative legal obligation to take action to prevent such violations, investigate allegations of grave human rights violations, and hold accountable the responsible parties even if they are state officials.[105] Far from remedying the attacks on its Bahá’í citizens, however, the Iranian regime has actively promoted and sponsored them. The international community should condemn Iran and hold it accountable for its active and blatant disregard of international human rights laws.

6. Conclusion 

It is the judgment of the IHRDC that the Islamic Republic’s deliberate and coordinated attacks against Iran’s Bahá’í community amount to a crime against humanity. The campaign evinced a widespread and systematic character and was directed at the highest levels of the Iranian state. More specifically, a number of leading regime figures including Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, Hassan Ibrahim Habibi, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, and Ayatollah Abdul-Karim Musavi Ardebili may all bear direct criminal responsibility for these actions.

At present, there seem to be relatively few logistical (and political) avenues by which high ranking regime elements involved with Iran’s campaign of persecution against the Bahá’ís can be brought to justice. Yet legal channels do exist. Criminal prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction and customary norms, whether they occur in the domestic courts of a U.N. member state or as part of a future ad hoc tribunal charged with prosecuting and convicting high ranking Iranian officials responsible for crimes against humanity, remain a possibility. In the absence of effective opportunities to secure criminal convictions, however, prosecutors and families of victims should continue to employ innovative civil legal strategies in order to hold the Iranian regime financially accountable for its actions.[106]

To bring the perpetrators of Iran’s state-directed violence to justice requires great resolve and perseverance. It is the hope of the IHRDC that at the very least, this report and its companions inform, educate and inspire victims, human rights advocates, government authorities and members of the public to remain steadfast in their pursuit to bring the Islamic Republic to account for its persecution of one of the country’s most vulnerable religious communities.


The legal analysis presented in this report is based on the facts collected and collated in two previous IHRDC reports: A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran and Community Under Siege: The Ordeal of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz.

IHRDC gathered information for this report from the examination of the following sources:

  • Government documents. These include recorded public statements by state officials, court documents, official reports by organs such as the United Nations Commission for Human Rights and the British Parliamentary Human Rights group, statements released by Iranian government agencies and published legal instruments.
  • Documents issued by non-governmental organizations. These include reports and press releases written by organizations such as Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders.
  • Documents prepared by NGOs. IHRDC has used information gathered by human rights monitors such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
  • Books and articles written by private individuals.  These include political memoirs, and the published accounts of survivors and eyewitnesses of the incidents described.
  • The Bahá’í International Community. The Bahá’í World Center and its subsidiary organs have extended the IHRDC access to their archives.
  • Academic articles. A number of historians, political scientists and lawyers have written articles on human rights and international criminal law. 
  • Media reporting. This includes articles published in newspapers inside and outside Iran.
  • Photographs. These include photos of attacks on Bahá’í property that have been taken by members of Bahá’í community as well as those published by the Iranian media since 1979.

The IHRDC particularly wishes to thank the Library of Congress for its invaluable assistance in researching this project.

All names of places, people, organizations, etc., originally written in Farsi have been transliterated using the system of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES), available at http://assets.cambridge.org/MES/mes_ifc.pdf. Under the IJMES system, names of places with an accepted English spelling and names of prominent cultural or political figures may be spelled according to the English norm.

Where the report cites or relies on information provided by government actors or other involved parties, it specifies the source of such information and evaluates the information in light of the relative reliability of each source. The IHRDC has meticulously cross-checked all the sources of information used to compiled this report to ensure their credibility and accuracy.

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Baha'i, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience