UNITED NATIONS: The Baha'i International Community said yesterday that Iran's effort to crush the religious minority has continued unabated and intensified on some fronts despite President Hassan Rouhani's promises to end religious discrimination. In a 122-page report, the community said Rouhani's government has stepped-up its "campaign to incite hatred against Baha'is" including by disseminating more than 20,000 pieces of anti-Baha'i propaganda in the Iranian media. Since Rouhani was inaugurated in August 2013, the report said at least 151 Baha'is have been arrested, and at least 388 incidents of economic discrimination have been documented ranging from threats and intimidation to shop closings.

The report also said that under Rouhani, thousands of Baha'is have been blocked from attending universities and 28 followers have been expelled. Iran has banned the Baha'i religion, which was founded in 1844 by a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by followers. Muslims consider Muhammad the final prophet. In 2013, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa, or religious edict, urging Iranians to avoid all dealings with Baha'is. The report said that "on every front the Iranian government is facing pressure to end the decades-long, systematic persecution of Baha'is."

But instead of keeping its promises to end religious discrimination, the report said, "the government has shifted its strategy of oppression, moving away from arrests and imprisonments to more easily obscured measures such as economic and educational exclusion," Bani Dugal, the Baha'i chief UN representative, said "taken altogether, what we have seen is an overall shift in tactics by the Iranian government, apparently as part of an attempt to conceal from the international community its ongoing efforts to destroy the Baha'i community as a viable entity."

On a broader scale, the report said that since the previous government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to intensify the persecution of Baha'is in 2005, more than 860 followers have been arrested, about 275 have been sent to prison, and there have 950 incidents of economic suppression and 80 violent attacks against Baha'i-owned businesses or properties ranging from arson to vandalism. The report urges the international community to keep pressuring Iran to end discrimination against Baha'is. "The take-away from the report is that international pressure on Iran, whether by the United Nations, the news media, activists or even the general public, remains a critical means of protection against a wider pogrom that targets the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran," Dugal said._ AP