World newspapers provide extensive coverage about Iran’s nuclear development or its relations with Israel, but it is unusual for the media to focus on the plight of members of the Bahai faith in Iran who are probably the most persecuted group in that nation. Two months ago, seven members of the faith were arrested including Jinous Sobhani who works with human rights groups that were founded by Nobel Prize winner Airin Ebadi. The Iranian government charges that Bahais were in the pay of Israeli secret agents and were plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. The Japanese government has joined the European Union, the UN and other nations in protesting the trials of Bahai members as so-called agents of Israel. The Bahai faith was founded in Persia in 1844 and now has about five million members in the world.
Iranian Bahais suffer constant persecution in virtually every aspect of society ranging from education to work to leisure so it would be madness for any member of the faith to work with Israel. This is a trumped up charge to discredit decent people who seek peace and an end to hatred in the world. Most probably, it is those beliefs which are the source of the arrests.
A world wide six million member religious group continues encountering prejudice in Turkey which refuses to recognize the Baha’i faith as a significant religious entity. A Baha’i is not allowed to enter his/her religious faith on identify cards which are important documents in modern societies. Although, the Turkish Baha’s community does not encounter the severe discrimination against them which is practiced in Iran, they still confront the daily issues of being an ignored religion in a society that essentially is Muslim. A European Union report noted, “administrative documents such as identify cards include an entry on religion that may be filled in or left blank. this might lead to discriminatory practices.” The United States State Department has also expressed its concerns over the manner in which people of the Bahai’ faith are treated in Turkey. It is common for Interior Ministry police to check up on them and create an image that somehow a Baha’i is not a loyal Turk. Parents of Baha’i children have to deal with their children being given instruction in the Muslim faith in schools, but there is no allowance for learning about their own religion.
It is clear that Baha’i members do not deal with threats of jail and loss of jobs which is very common in Iran, but there is no reason why Turkey cannot recognize the religion and accord it all the freedom and opportunities provided other religious faiths.