The Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with oppression, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment. There were an estimated 350,000 Bahá'ís in Iran in 1986. The Bahá'ís are scattered in small communities throughout Iran with a heavy concentration in Tehran. Most Bahá'ís are urban, but there are some Bahá'í villages, especially in Fars and Mazandaran. The majority of Bahá'ís are Persians, but there is a significant minority of Azarbaijani Bahá'ís, and there are even a few among the Kurds. Bahá'ís are neither recognized nor protected by the Iranian constitution. The social situation of the Bahá'ís was drastically altered after the 1979 revolution. The Hojjatieh group flourished during the 1979 revolution but was forced dissolve after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini speech on 12 August 1983. However there are signs of it reforming circa 2002-4. Beyond the Hojjatieh group, the Islamic Republic does not recognize the Bahá'ís as a religious minority, and they have been officially persecuted, "some 200 of whom have been executed and the rest forced to convert or subjected to the most horrendous disabilities." Starting in late 1979 the new government systematically targeted the leadership of the Bahá'í community by focusing on the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) and Local Spiritual Assemblies (LSAs); prominent members of NSAs and LSAs were either killed or disappeared. Like most conservative Muslims, Khomeini believed them to be apostates, for example issuing a fatwa stating:
It is not acceptable that a tributary [non-Muslim who pays tribute] changes his religion to another religion not recognized by the followers of the previous religion. For example, from the Jews who become Bahai's nothing is accepted except Islam or execution. and emphasized that the Bahá'ís would not receive any religious rights, since he believed that the Bahá'ís were a political rather than religious movement. The Baha'is are not a sect but a party, which was previously supported by Britain and now the United States. The Baha'is are also spies just like the Tudeh [Communist Party]. Allegations of Bahá'í involvement with other powers have long been repeated in many venues including denunciations from the president. Since the 1979 revolution, the authorities have destroyed most or all of the Baha'i holy places in Iran, including the House of the Bab in Shiraz, a house in Tehran where Baha' Allah was brought up, and other sites connected to aspects of Babi and Baha'i history. These demolitions have sometimes been followed by the construction of mosques in a deliberate act of triumphalism.