The agricultural livelihood of Baha’i farmers in Iran is under threat, says horticulturist Tony Howey of Timaru. He is alarmed by the government’s forcible seizure of farmlands, rice paddies and walnut orchards belonging to Baha’i families in the village of Ahmadabad, a lush and fertile agricultural community in Mazandaran province. “Agents of the Iranian government have claimed their land and offered the families no compensation or official documents justifying the seizures.” said Howey.
Howey has farmed in Canterbury for nearly four decades. His family have farmed in the same area for several generations. He said that “while New Zealand farmers might get frustrated with increasing compliance and the vagaries of the weather and markets, this pales into insignificance when compared with the unjust and cruel confiscation of farm land usually held in the same families for many generations, and for no other reason than these families are practicing the peaceful Baha’i religion.” Unlike other religions that predate Islam, the Baha’i Faith is a modern religion that is not recognised by the Islamic Iranian government.
The Timaru farmer and businessman says the unlawful confiscations run counter to the prohibition of discrimination in all international legal instruments. “Given that farmers play a crucial role in a country’s food security, these actions are especially concerning.” added Howey
Howey said “I really feel for the landowners. They have tended their farms for generations, and many have never left their hometowns. To have their land torn away like this must be truly devastating and will lead to extreme hardship as in most cases this will be the only means of livelihood for these farmers.”
More than 80 Baha’i families own farms in Ahmadabad-half as residents, the other half living nearby-and Baha’i families have farmed these lands for several generations.
The 200 agents involved in the raid in Ahmadabad were also many of the same individuals who conducted the 2022 land seizures and home demolitions in Roshankouh in Mazandaran.