BIC NEW YORK — The #StopHatePropaganda campaign calling on Iran’s government to end more than 40 years of government-sponsored hate speech against the country’s Bahá’ís has drawn unprecedented support from a global coalition of government officials, leaders of thought, civil society organizations, activists, religious leaders, artists, prominent Iranians, and many others, reaching over 88 million people as it trended around the world.
The Bahá’í International Community (BIC) tracked more than 42,000 posts on online platforms calling on Iran to end the persecution of the country’s Bahá’ís.
“We were moved to see this campaign reach breakthrough levels of support,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the BIC to the United Nations. “The international community has long recognized that the Bahá’ís in Iran are an innocent community that is scapegoated and persecuted by the Iranian government for its own purposes. Today the world has stood up against this injustice.”
Among those who led the campaign on social media were celebrity actors and comedians Rainn Wilson, Justin Baldoni, Maz Jobrani, Penn Badgley, and Max Amini in the United States, the UK’s soccer legend Gary Lineker, as well as the actors and comedians Omid Djalili, David Baddiel, Rob Brydon, David Walliams, Shappi Khorsandi, and Janey Godley, former Australian soccer player Craig Foster, the Australian hip hop artist Maya Jupiter, and parliamentarians including Australian Senator Janet Rice, MP Kevin Andrews, the Mayor of Dubbo Stephen Lawrence, the UK members of parliament Jess Philips and Alistair Carmichael, the Canadian MPs Judy Sgro, Kerry Diotte and Cathay Wagantall, and hundreds of other civil society leaders and public figures in dozens of countries who were among those leading the campaign on social media.
Writing in Newsweek, a former Canadian minister of justice and attorney general, Irwin Cotler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the freedom of religion and belief, Ahmed Shaheed, and the Director of Policy and Projects at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre, Brandon Silver, criticized the “apartheid-like system of unjust imprisonments and dispossession of [Bahá’ís] in Iran … Hate tears at the seams of society, and is a catalyst for crisis and conflict, a natural progression toward mass atrocity.”
United States Senator Ben Cardin said, “I am very concerned about a recent rise of hate propaganda directed by government-run media platforms against the Bahá’í community of Iran,” adding that a Senate resolution had been passed condemning “the Iranian government’s state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority.”
The Member of European Parliament, Cornelia Ernst, who serves as Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iran, said the Bahá’ís in Iran are “oppressed and harassed from cradle to grave … in all areas of life.”
India’s Colonel Dr. Divakaran Padma Kumar Pillay, a decorated former Army officer, said that his country had the “largest population of Bahá’ís in the world” and that he “[urged] the Iranian authorities and the people of Iran … to stop the hate speech and false propaganda against the Bahá’í community.”
A Brazilian Member of Parliament, Erika Kokay, said on Twitter that Iran’s government “must guarantee” human rights. “Crimes against humanity start with words,” she added, “and we cannot let history repeat itself with the Bahá’ís.
Growing support for the rights of the Bahá’ís within Iran and in the Iranian diaspora was also a distinctive feature of the campaign. Activists and media personalities—including one highly visible human rights worker currently in Iran, Narges Mohammadi—helped to spread the campaign among Persian speakers online.
Other supporters in the Iranian diaspora included activists Masih Alinejad, Ladan Boroumand, and Azadeh Pourzand, actor Mahnaz Afshar, broadcaster Sina Valiollah, academics including Abbas Milani and Ammar Maleki, and the journalist Golnaz Esfandiari.
The Stanford historian Professor Abbas Milani welcomed the fact that the campaign has contributed to the fall of the “terrible wall of silence” regarding the historic injustice and violence suffered by the Bahá’ís in Iran.
The BIC recently launched the campaign “#StopHatePropaganda” following an increase in the scale and sophistication of anti-Bahá’í propaganda in Iran.
Examples of official and semi-official hate speech flagged included a coordinated network of hundreds of websites and social media accounts with content such as “Bahá’ís are unclean and enemies of your religion,” “Associating with Bahá’ís is banned,” “Purchasing any goods from a Bahá’í store is forbidden,” and “The modern ‘Human Rights’ is a big lie.” Millions of Iranians have been reached by such propaganda which has also included doctored and painful images of Bahá’ís and the founders of the Faith.
“We are grateful for the exceptional solidarity that the world has shown for the Bahá’ís in Iran,” said Ms. Dugal, Principal Representative of the BIC to the United Nations. “And by supporting the #StopHatePropaganda campaign this array of luminaries and activists have said, in a single voice, that Iran’s government must stop spreading hatred against the Bahá’ís and all other minorities in their country and start respecting the rights of all its citizens.”
The persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran is widely documented in the website, Archives of Persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran.