GENEVA—19 August 2022—
The Baha’i International Community has received news of a shocking and outrageous new propaganda ploy to incriminate the Baha’is in Iran through a staged video production filmed in a kindergarten.
On 31 July, the same day as intelligence agents were invading Baha’i homes and arresting pre-school teachers, agents also entered a kindergarten in a major city in Iran and distributed Baha’i books and pamphlets to its teachers, none of whom were Baha’is. The agents then instructed and forced the kindergarten staff to say, on camera, that Baha’is had brought these materials and distributed them to the teachers.
“This shameful act of fraud and pretense, carried out in a kindergarten, once again reveals the true motives of the Iranian government in persecuting Baha’is only for their faith,” said Simin Fahandej, the BIC’s Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “As the Iranian government has found no shred of evidence for their ludicrous accusations against the Baha’is, they have now resorted to fabricating evidence themselves, using Baha’i materials to accuse Baha’is of attempting to influence and convert Muslim children to the Baha’i Faith.”
Although the Iranian government attempts to frame the Baha’is as converting Muslim children, numerous official government documents testify to Iran’s plans to, in fact, convert Baha’i children to Islam.
In 1991, a confidential government memorandum, brought to light at that time by a United Nations Special Rapporteur, prepared by Iran’s Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council and signed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself, instructing that Baha’i children be enrolled in schools which have “a strong and imposing religious ideology” and that Baha’is be treated in such a way that “their progress and development are blocked”.
“The Iranian government not only attempts to distort history in school textbooks in order to remove the Baha’i Faith from Iranian history, and to force Baha’i children to change their faith,” continued Ms. Fahandej. “But it is now producing fake materials to advance its already baseless allegations against the Baha’is.”
This incident has occurred within a larger context of mounting attacks against the Baha’is in Iran in recent weeks. Since 31 July, the BIC has received reports of over 196 separate incidents of persecution against the Baha’is in Iran, including arrests, imprisonments, confiscation of homes and properties, closure of business and exclusions from university.
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence released a rare statement on 31 July, in which it alleged that members of the Baha’i community were “propagating the teachings of the fabricated Baha’i colonialism and infiltrating educational environments,” including kindergartens. A number of Baha’i kindergarten and pre-school teachers were arrested on that day under the pretext offered by the Ministry’s statement. Filming the staged readings now also demonstrates that the authorities want to potentially use video footage to substantiate their false claims and seek to incite the general public against them.
Efforts to spread hate propaganda against the Baha’is are government policy. The 1991 memorandum by Iran’s Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council also said that Iran’s “propaganda institutions … must establish an independent section to counter … the Baha’is.”
And in March 2021 two human rights groups, League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran and the International Federation for Human Rights, published an official Iranian directive which instructed local authorities in the city of Sari, in the northern province of Mazandaran, to “conduct strict controls” on the Baha’is in the city by “monitoring their operations,” and to introduce measures to “identify Baha’i students” so as to “bring them into Islam.”
“The Iranian authorities have spread hate propaganda against the Baha’is for 43 years,” said Ms. Fahandej. “But Iranians of good will, who number in their millions, see through these lies. The incident at the kindergarten is the latest in a shameful litany of brazen deception, propaganda and hate speech, but these efforts do not go unnoticed by the international community and only work against Iran’s interests, showing its true motives of persecuting innocent people only for their beliefs.”