According to the Baha’i leadership studies, Iraq is home to less than 2,000 Baha’is, spread all across the country. In 1970, Iraq banned the Baha’i Faith, and in 1975 there was a subsequent decision of prohibiting the issuance of identification documents to Baha’is. In 2007 the government abolished the Ministry of Interior’s decision of 1975, but to date issued only about six or seven Baha’i identity papers. Baha’is still have “Muslim” in their IDs since the 1975 decision that forced them to change their documents.

Iraqi law recognized the non-Muslim sects in Iraq in a statement by court No. 6 in 1917. Articles 13, 16 and 17 of the statement contains the provision to register the personal status of Iraqis according to the minority group that he belong to.

Since that date, the courts began to ratify civil marriage contracts of Baha’is, which were performed under the religious law of the Baha’i Faith. This was further strengthened in the Iraqi Constitution, which in 1925 recognized freedom of religion and belief. This provided the Baha’is with the opportunity to complete the establishment of a National Spiritual Assembly and Local Spiritual Assemblies, publicly establish their headquarters in Alhaidar, and to live according to their religious principles, including social involvement and activities. In 1936 the Iraqi Ministry of Interior issued an Official Guide explicitly recognizing the Baha’is as one of the minority groups in Iraq (Arabs and Kurds, and other folks … In Iraq, Muslims, Christians, Israelis and Yazidi, Sabean and a few of the Baha’i and the Magi), and stated again that they are guaranteed liberties by the Constitution. The Baha’is continued to interact in Iraqi social life and enjoy freedom to practice their religious and social practices in harmony with the rest of the society in Iraq.

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Following the Baathist coup in 1963, the new leaders have drastically limited the freedoms previously guaranteed to the Iraqi citizens. The new regime began with attempts to prevent Baha’i activity in Iraq in 1967. The suffering of Baha’is began to escalate; Baha’i became subjected to maltreatment and prisons. This culminated in the decision of the Directorate of Civil Status No. 358 24 / 7 / 1975 that stopped allowing to register Baha’is in the records of civil status.

Baha’is used to obtain a certificate of citizenship that stated “Baha’i” in the field of religion up until 1975. Then they were denied registration of marriages in the records of civil status, and denial of Baha’i identity card or a copy of registration for the record. New births were not registered, and thus Baha’is were deprived of the right to have a passports and employment, entrance to universities, and buying and selling homes and property, forcing some of them to change the field of religion to :Muslim”. This is incompatible with the simplest principles of human rights, and not in line with the constitutions in Iraq, which emphasizes the freedom of belief, stating in Article (40): “Iraqis are free to make personal commitments, according to their religions, sects, beliefs or choices, and be regulated by law.”

Despite the wide space of freedom that was brought by the change in 2003, the Baha’is of Iraq still face many hardships. With a constant and all encompassing discrimination for more than three decades, Baha’is lived in the dark, and there are many Iraqis who do not know anything about the Baha’is in Iraq, who used to make up 0.5% of the population of Baghdad. After pressure on Baha’is concentrated in certain villages, they were forced to scatter and live in isolation from their community. The Baha’s are not given any attention by the government, the Iraqi media and political parties, this is perhaps for religious reasons or ignorance about the Baha’is because of false information spread about them. Therefore, Iraqi civil society organizations are the only place that might highlight the issue, without regard to the small number of Baha’is. Baha’is had more rights in the past but as time passed and more Iraqi minorities demand their rights, this one group actually goes backwards and losses more rights.

Is it conceivable that the Iraqi society before eighty year ago was a more tolerant and civilized society than it is now? Where is the democracy and justice our Iraqi leaders promised us? Do not Baha’is deserve the rights given to big players in the political game, or will they have the same fate of other minorities in Iraq like bombings, death and neglect?

Originally posted by Wamith on MideastYouth.com