"Murder with Impunity"

Paul Marshall is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.

The Iranian government is currently intensifying its persecution of its largest religious minority, the Baha'is. This reveals something of the government's nature, and also sheds light on the hotly debated question: Does the regime remain a revolutionary one, or has it become instead a "normal country," one that, despite its fervent rhetoric, aspires only to international acceptance and regional power?

The regime has always persecuted the Baha'is, of whom 300,000 (out of some 5 million worldwide) still live in Iran.{josquote}There are also threats from vigilante groups such as the uneuphemistic "Association Hostile to Apostate Baha'is," which has threatened the life of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi for her defense of them.{/josquote} The Baha'i religion was founded in Iran in the mid-1800s, and the regime demonizes its adherents as heretics or apostates from Islam, who therefore should have no legal status or protection and who should be eradicated. However, its program in the 1980s of murder and imprisonment drew too much international attention and condemnation. So the government decided to pursue a strategy of slow strangulation.

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