Closures of Baha’i-owned factories in Iran illustrate effort to economically strangulate religious community
A recent intensification of attacks on Baha’i-owned businesses in Iran further demonstrates the Iranian authorities’ determination to suffocate the economic prospects of the Baha’is of that country, solely on account of their religious beliefs.
The Baha’i International Community has learned that on May 28, Intelligence Ministry agents raided and closed two factories, with full or partial Baha’i ownership, in the central northern city of Semnan. One of the factories – which manufactured vertical blinds – employed 51 staff, 36 of whom were not Baha’is. The other, a lens grinding factory, had two Baha’i and six other employees.“These factory closures not only illustrate the bitter animosity that the Iranian authorities hold towards Baha’is,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “They also show that, in this ongoing effort to strangle the Baha’is economically, the authorities are perfectly happy to cause other workers – including Shia Muslims – to face economic hardship as well.”
In late 2008, Semnan’s Chamber of Commerce – along with 39 member trade unions – decided to stop issuing business licenses and managerial permits to Baha’is, and to cease renewing current licenses. Existing business licenses and permits for Baha’is were revoked and confiscated. Since that time, at least 15 Baha’i-owned shops and manufacturing businesses in the city have been closed, depriving dozens of families of an income. Banks have refused to extend loans to Baha’is; Baha’i farmers have been harassed; and citizens have been urged not to patronize Baha’i-owned businesses.
The information has come to light as the annual conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) concludes in Geneva. The ILO, the principal intergovernmental body promoting and protecting rights to employment and vocational education, has repeatedly called on the Iranian government to end its persecution of Baha’is.