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Iran eyes badges for Jews
Law would require non-Muslim insignia
By Chris Wattie

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."

Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was "stunned" by the measure. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," he said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."

Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.

It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.

Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran's small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities -- the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim. "They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them," he said.

The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.

"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons, but Tehran believed by Western nations to be developing its own nuclear military capability, in defiance of international protocols and peace treaties.

The United States, France and Israel accuse Iran of using a civilian nuclear program to secretly build a weapon. Iran denies this, saying its program is confined to generating electricity.

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