Iran arrests Bahais for ‘online university’

Tehran – Iran has arrested a "number" of Bahais for running an "online Bahai university" aimed at propagating their faith, the government-run Iran newspaper reported on Monday.

"The security forces were able to arrest those responsible for running the online Bahai university, the so-called BIHE, and dismantling the network," the report said without elaborating when and how many people were arrested.

According to the Bahai Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) website, it "was founded in 1987 in response to the Iranian government's continuing campaign to deny Iranian Bahais access to higher education."

The Iran newspaper report added that, "this so-called online university was in fact a disguise for spreading the [faith] of the misled Bahai group and setting a trap for the citizens… A large number of books, CDs and computers were seized from them."

In March, Iran said a number of Bahais, who were "promoting their faith in kindergartens" were arrested in the southern city of Bam.

The Bahais, who are barred from higher education and government posts in staunchly Shia Muslim Iran, are regarded as infidels by the majority community and have been persecuted both before and after the country's 1979 Islamic revolution.

In August, Iran sentenced seven leading Bahais to 20 years in jail on charges ranging from spying for foreigners to spreading corruption, from undermining Islam to cooperating with arch-foe Israel.

Their sentences were later halved, according to the Bahai community in France.

The Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the latest prophet sent by God and believe in the spiritual unity of all religions and all mankind.

Bahai leaders believe a total of 47 members of their religion are imprisoned in Iran simply for their beliefs.

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