The letter—whose signatories include former justice ministers and judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as prominent legal academics and practicing lawyers—condemns a recent court ruling to confiscate Bahá’í properties in Ivel, a village in northern Iran.
“We know the Bahá’í Faith to stand for values of peace, justice, and unity,” the letter states, “values which have been under sustained attack by the Iranian authorities for decades. Violations of the human rights of Iran’s Bahá’ís have already been decried by the Canadian government, the United Nations and numerous human rights organizations. Today, as members of the Canadian legal profession who believe in the rule of law, we too stand with the Bahá’ís of Iran and call upon you, as the head of the Iranian judiciary, to address this new abuse inflicted upon the Bahá’ís of Ivel.”
The unprecedented outpouring of support comes after Bahá’í-owned properties have been unjustly confiscated by Iranian authorities in Ivel, displacing dozens of families and leaving them economically impoverished.
Numerous official documents unmistakably reveal religious prejudice as the sole motive behind the confiscations. Some records show, for instance, that Bahá’ís were told that if they converted to Islam, their properties would be returned.
“The 2020 rulings now establish a dangerous constitutional precedent of judicially sanctioned confiscation that nullifies legitimate property interests based only on the owners’ religious affiliation, thus departing not only from international human rights standards but also from the text and intent of the Iranian constitution itself,” the letter to Chief Justice Raisi states.
Religious discrimination against the Bahá’í community, it further states, “can provide solid grounds for prosecution of Iran’s authorities before international criminal courts and other international institutions.”
Despite repeated attempts by the Bahá’ís in Ivel to appeal for their rights, their lawyers were given no opportunity to see court documents to prepare a defense or to present any arguments.
The situation in Ivel, the letter says, is an “alarming new chapter” in the persecution of a Bahá’í community that dates to the mid-1800s and was once a “thriving and peaceful multi-generational community… of farmers and small business owners.” Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahá’ís in Ivel have been “forced from their homes, imprisoned, harassed, and their property torched and demolished.” In 2010, homes belonging to 50 Bahá’í families in Ivel were demolished as part of long-running campaign to expel them from the region.
Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, says, “This letter from prominent legal figures demonstrates that the cruel treatment meted out to the Bahá’ís by the Iranian authorities has not gone unnoticed by the international community. It has, instead, served to galvanize public conscience around the world.”
The history of land confiscation and mass displacement of Bahá’ís in Iran is detailed in a special section of the website of the Canadian Bahá’í community’s Office of Public Affairs.