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Iran Arrests Baha’i Members on Claims of Spying for Israel
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, 27 April 2005. (Tom Habibi/Creative Commons)

Iran Arrests Baha’i Members on Claims of Spying for Israel

Iran has arrested members of the Baha’i religion on suspicion of having spied for Israel, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry revealed on Monday.

The ministry said in a statement that the members were linked to the Universal House of Justice, the nine-member supreme ruling body of the Baháʼí faith. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, along with other Baha’i institutions and shrines, is located in Haifa, Israel. The ministry said the arrestees had gathered intelligence in Iran and transferred it to Israel.

The ministry did not say how many people were arrested.

The representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN, Diane Alai, condemned the arrests on Twitter.

Alai later reported to the media that 13 Baha’is had been “suddenly arrested in raids on the homes and businesses of 52 Baha’is across the country.”

The Baha’i religion was founded in the 1860s by Persian nobleman Mírzá Ḥusayn-ʻAlí Núrí, known as Baháʼu’lláh. Followers of the religion consider Baháʼu’lláh to be a prophet.

Iran, a Shi’ite Islamic state, does not recognize the Baha’i faith as an independent religion but treats its followers as Muslim apostates. Baha’is are often seen as spies for Israel due to the religion’s world center being located in Haifa, where a forerunner of Baháʼu’lláh known as the Báb is buried. Baháʼu’lláh is buried in nearby Acre.

Members of the group have complained of persecution in Iran since the religion’s founding in the mid-1800s. Around 300,000 Baha’is currently live in Iran; more than 30,000 have immigrated to other countries.

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