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Baha'is seek Modi's help to overcome Iranian persecution
Sunday March 29, 2015 9:55 PM, Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS

Disheartened by Iran accepting just two of the 10 recommendations made by a UN rights panel on ending the persecution of Baha'is, the community hopes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi can help ensure their safety in that country.

Lotus Temple

According to Shatrughun Jiwnani, director of the capital's iconic Baha'i House of Worship or the Lotus Temple, Iran, where the Baha'i faith was born in the 19th century, was still engaged in "state-sponsored persecution of the community".

"Modi recognizes the different religious groups in India, and we are constantly making approaches to the foreign ministry to help reduce the persecution of Baha'is. They are listening to us," Jiwnani told IANS.

"We have to move slowly and we are taking one step at a time. We will achieve our goal one day, I have faith in humanity... We are hopeful that Modi will play an important role in helping the community."

A monotheistic religion which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind, Baha'ullah founded the Baha'i faith in Persia.

Baha'í teachings and doctrine say there is only one god who is the source of all creation, that all major religions from the same god, and all humans have been created equal. Over times, its core principles came into conflict with Islam.

Over time, Baha'is began to move out of Persia, later Iran, to escape persecution. The first Baha'is came to India in 1844. Of some five million Baha'is worldwide, nearly two million live in India, the largest outside Iran.

The Lotus Temple in south Delhi is the most prominent landmark of the community in India. The flowerlike shaped temple is a major tourist draw. It is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction.

Jiwnani felt that Modi's voice may be heard in Tehran because of the good relations India has with Iran.

Iran on March 19 accepted two recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council - ending discrimination against Baha'i women and girls and promoting the community's access to higher education as well as ensuring freedom of religion to all minorities including Baha'is.

But Tehran rejected eight other recommendations vis-a-vis the Baha'is.

Jiwnani said the troubles for Baha'is have mounted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution although it is the largest religious minority in that country.

"If there will be no significant change in the Iranian government's policies, the outlook for human rights in Iran is bleak," he said.

Noting that attacks on Baha'is have increased systematically in the last few years, Jiwnani said he was left "disheartened" but was confident that more campaigns, especially in India, will put pressure on Iran.

"Public awareness campaigns are crucial," Jiwnani said.

He said 40 prominent Indians, including former attorney general Soli J. Sorabjee, wrote an open letter to the Iranian government this month seeking an end to the "atrocities" on Baha'is.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at

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