Seizures of Baha’i irrigated farms in the midst of Iranian water crisis

Evanston, Illinois, UNITED STATES

New York, Dec. 07, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Thirteen irrigated farmland plots belonging to Baha’is in the village of Kata in Iran’s southwest have been targeted by authorities seeking to further expropriate the assets of Baha’is in the country. 

“This is yet another example of the Iranian Government’s increasingly callous program of targeted religious persecution against the Baha’i community” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative to the UN for the Baha’i International Community.  “This act inflicts an intolerable and brazen injustice upon an innocent, law-abiding community. Arbitrarily taking farmers' livelihoods away from them and putting their land up for sale is an act which runs counter to every norm of human decency.” 

The organization “Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order” – a parastatal agency controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which holds and sells assets seized from proscribed groups and individuals and has done so since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – advertised the 13 land parcels on an auction website in mid-October. Each property has been listed for sale at a price estimated to be only 15% of its fair market value. 

This action comes in the midst of serious water shortages in Iran, and it appears that this is a motivating factor in the seizure and sale of these valuable irrigated lands at this time.

The auction listings have been published even though Baha’is have held the deeds to these properties for generations. 

Complaints by the local Baha’is – and even attempts to repurchase their own lands – have been rebuffed by the authorities. The Baha’is were told that the auction was closed to Baha’is, and also to any Muslims that had dealings with Baha’is, confirming that the seizure and auction is a targeted act of religious persecution.

“State confiscation of property and the denial of livelihoods are both violations of Iran’s human rights commitments under United Nations conventions,” said Ms. Dugal. “The incomes earned from these farms have sustained these families for over 100 years. This plunder, which is being called an auction, must be cancelled without delay.”

More than 400 Baha’i families were displaced from Kata after the Revolution. Several hundred homes were torched by revolutionary mobs. The situation was so dire that the Kata Baha’is were forced to live in a refugee camp after the loss of their homes. Court and official orders in 2002, 2008 and 2016 also confirm more recent attempts by the authorities to confiscate farmlands in and around Kata.

The last year alone has seen repeated seizures of Baha’i properties by the Iranian authorities across the country. In February, a global outcry trended as #itstheirland against the destruction and confiscation of dozens of Baha’i properties in Ivel, Mazandaran Province; in August, after raids on Baha’i homes during which security agents sought and confiscated property deeds, six plots in Semnan Province were taken; and in November, farmlands were again seized surrounding the village of Roshankooh, also in Mazandaran Province.

“How many times must we remind the Iranian authorities that lands owned by Baha’is are not theirs to do with as they please?” asked Ms. Dugal. “Iran’s government must acknowledge this fact today and return all these assets to their rightful Baha’i owners.”