A machinery of hate: increasing propaganda raises concern for Baha’is
In recent months, the four-decades long state-sponsored campaign of hate speech and propaganda has reached new levels, increasing in both sophistication and scale. This has provoked fresh concerns for the rights of the Baha’is in Iran, as history shows that flagrant violations of human rights often take place in a climate of hate and disinformation.
The Baha’i International Community has been tracking anti-Baha’i propaganda in Iran over the decades and has, in recent months, witnessed an expansion in the machinery of hateful propaganda targeting the Baha’is. The unfolding strategy to demonize the Baha’i community is reflected in a growing and coordinated network of hundreds of websites, Instagram accounts, Telegram channels and Clubhouse rooms, with content such as “Baha’is are unclean and enemies of your religion”, “Associating with Baha’is is banned”, “Purchasing any goods from a Baha'i store is forbidden”, as well as “The modern ‘Human Rights’ is a big lie,” and many others. These platforms have been producing hundreds of thousands of pieces of disinformation reaching millions of Iranians. A BIC publication, “Inciting Hatred,” offers a more detailed analysis of this 40-year media campaign against the Baha’is.
The websites and social media channels are compounded by videos, print newspaper articles and other written media, books, seminars, exhibitions, graffiti and fatwas from both official outlets and others sponsored by the government but purporting to be independent.
“History is replete with the victims of grievous crimes incited by hate speech,” says Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “We are concerned that the increasing spread of disinformation targeting the Baha’is may signal a severe increase in the persecution meted out against them.”
Spreading falsehoods has been a central weapon in the Iranian government’s assault against the Baha’is since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The goal is to demonize the Baha’is and to try to provoke public hatred for the community, thus justifying crimes against them, a very common tactic used by oppressive governments throughout history.
The Iranian government does not recognize Baha’is as a religious minority and, as such, Baha’is have neither the right to legally appeal against these statements nor are they permitted to respond and present their own case to their fellow Iranians.
“[h]ate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace. As a matter of principle, the United Nations must confront hate speech at every turn. Silence can signal indifference to bigotry and intolerance, even as a situation escalates and the vulnerable become victims.”
Incitement to hatred is prohibited under international treaties that Iran itself has ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Iran has consistently ignored its international obligations, and it is time that it is held to account for inciting hatred and committing countless human rights violations against the Baha’is with impunity.” says Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s Principal Representative to the United Nations. “Hate crimes always begin with words. Let us not allow history to repeat itself.”
- The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been systematically persecuted by the Iranian government since the Islamic Revolution. More than 200 Baha’is were executed in the 1980s; today, they are denied public sector jobs, higher education, their livelihoods are often disrupted, their cemeteries desecrated, and they are vilified in state and semi-official media as well as from the pulpit and in schools and other educational institutions.
- The situation has deteriorated in recent months: dozens of Baha’i properties have been confiscated even as secret government documents have been exposed that target the Baha’i community. The situation has been extensively reported on by the United Nations and other agencies.
- The persecution of the Baha’is in Iran is widely documented in the website, Archives of Persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.