Iranian authorities have arrested several followers of the Baha’i faith accused of spying for Tehran’s arch-foe Israel, local media in the Islamic republic reported on Tuesday.

The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, are not recognized by the state and often targeted over alleged ties to Israel — home to their most important shrines and world headquarters.

“A number of members at the core of the Baha’i spy party have been arrested in Gilan province” in Iran’s north, said the Fars news agency, citing an intelligence services statement.

Fars reported the group was alleged to have links “with the Zionist center known as Bayt al-Adl located in the occupied Palestinian territories,” referring to the Baha’is’ Universal House of Justice in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa.

The report did not specify how many had been arrested.

The intelligence services also accused the group of “promoting Baha’i teachings,” particularly among children, according to Fars.

Iran, where Shiite Islam is the state religion, recognizes some minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Baha’is, however, are branded “heretics” by the Islamic republic.

In August, authorities arrested a group of Baha’is and 12 more followers the following month, all on similar charges relating to alleged links to Israel.

Baha’is consider Baha’u’llah, born in 1817 in modern-day Iran, to be the latest prophet sent by God and founder of their monotheistic faith.

The group has complained of discrimination in Iran since the emergence of their faith in the second half of the 19th century, well before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Baha’i community claims to have more than 7 million followers worldwide, including some 300,000 in Iran.

Source » voanews