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TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran has arrested 12 members of the Baha’i religious minority, accusing them of links to the Islamic Republic’s arch-enemy Israel, state media reported on Saturday.
Iran calls the Baha’is “heretics” and often accuses them of being spies linked to Israel, as their global headquarters are located in the city of Haifa in northern Israel.
“The General Directorate of Intelligence of Mazandaran Province has identified and arrested 12 members of the Baha’i Zionist Organization in different towns in the province,” reported Iribnews, the state television website.
“Two of the leaders of this spy organization were trained in Bayt-al-Adl,” the Baha’i Universal House of Justice in Haifa said of those arrested in the northern province.
Iran, where Shia Islam is the state religion, recognizes minority faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, but not Bahaism, which has an estimated 300,000 followers in Iran.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry last announced in early August that it had arrested Baha’is suspected of spying and working illegally to propagate their religion.
They had been instructed “to infiltrate educational environments at various levels, especially kindergartens across the country”, the ministry said at the time.
In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Iran to end human rights abuses against minority religions, including the Baha’is, citing “harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention” among other violations.
The Baha’i Faith is a relatively modern monotheistic religion with spiritual roots dating back to early 19th century Iran, promoting unity and equality for all.
The Bahai community claims to have over seven million followers worldwide.

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