“We never say that Baha’is have the right to education; Baha’is don’t even have citizenship rights. Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians enjoy citizenship rights. They have representatives in the Parliament, because they are Abrahamic religions and we engage with them and their representatives are our friends,” Ayatollah Bojnourdi told Fars News Agency.

A high-ranking cleric and Khomeini-era member of the Supreme Judicial Council has told Fars News Agency that Baha’is are not entitled to citizenship rights. The statement was made only weeks after Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, denied the systematic denial of Baha’is right to higher education. “We never say that Baha’is have the right to education; Baha’is don’t even have citizenship rights,” Ayatollah Bojnourdi told Fars. “Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians enjoy citizenship rights. They have representatives in the Parliament, because they are Abrahamic religions and we engage with them and their representatives are our friends,” he added.

Such statements reflect the continuation of the widespread and systematic violation of the rights of Baha’is in Iran, despite assertions by Iranian Judiciary officials who, faced with growing international criticism in this area, allege otherwise. The statements made by Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Bojnourdi, who is an influential cleric, lay the groundwork and provide religious justification for violence against Baha’is and for violations of the basic human rights of Baha’i citizens; they have been consistently used as instructions for cracking down on Baha’is by various state organizations, particularly security organizations.

In answer to a question about the right to education for all citizens, including the Baha’is, Bojnourdi said, “Absolutely not! Some issues do not need experts to provide opinions—those who oppose Islam are outside of this discussion. Baha’is are against Islam and they are outside of this discussion.”

In October 2014, Mohammad Javad Larijani denied there were any restrictions on Baha’i citizens in Iran and said that Baha’is are treated according to the “citizenship contract.” He claimed that Iran protects individuals who are committed to its citizenship laws, and asserted, “If an individual commits a violation, it has nothing to do with Shiites, Sunnis, or others in Iranian society.” A few months prior to these statements, in an April 2014 interview  with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), Larijani said: “The authorities never target Baha’is just because they are followers of this faith, because according to the constitution, all Iranian citizens are entitled to certain rights and cannot be deprived of rights stipulated in the constitution.”

Dian Alaei, the Baha’i community representative at the UN, reacted to Javad Larijani’s statements in March 2014: “Mr. Larijani must be uninformed about the present situation facing the Baha’i community in Iran,” Alaei said, “or else he would know that Baha’i youths cannot attend university, Baha’i cemeteries are demolished with bulldozers, and Baha’i shops are locked up when their owners close during official Baha’i holidays. These are things that can be seen by all.”

The widespread violations of the rights of Baha’i citizens in Iran have been consistently criticized at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Since the 2011 appointment of Ahmed Shaheed as the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, his annual reports to the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have consistently cited serious violations of the rights of Baha’is in Iran, including systematic violations of their right to education and to earning a living, and their persistent persecution.

Shaheed’s repeated requests for permission to travel to Iran have all been denied by the Iranian authorities. Ayatollah Bojnourdi, however, expressed an interest in meeting with the Special Rapporteur. “I would very much like to see this Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, up close and to talk to him, because he has generated a lot of anti-revolutionary rhetoric, and, regrettably, no one has gone to sit down and talk to him. I would very much like to talk to him and explain the Islamic rights, and ask him whether it is a violation of human rights if we arrest a violator and put him in prison?….”

Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Bojnourdi, 71, was a student to Ayatollah Khomeini for years in Najaf, and was twice a member of the Supreme Judicial Council, until the Council’s dissolution.