[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

 

A Brief Overview of What Has Befallen the Baha’is.

 

In view of the fact that some people, these days, whether because of ignorance and lack of knowledge, or because of ill-will and enmity, depict the Baha’i community of Iran as being prosperous and protected from any injustice or assault, and one which has been living with the utmost safety and power under the previous regimes and been provided with protection and security by the government—at times even running so wild in their imaginations and illusions that they consider the previous regimes to have been the followers and servants of this oppressed group—we wish to present a brief overview of the events and incidents that have inflicted persecution, deprivation, cruelty, and injustice upon the Baha’is in the sacred country of Iran, and illuminate and clarify the extent of repression and proscription shown toward the Baha’is in Baha’u’llah’s homeland.

For nearly a century, since the dawn of the Sun of Truth in the sacred country of Iran during the Qajar dynasty, attacks, injuries, injustices, and cruelties have been heaped upon the followers of this religion and they have been afflicted with various hardships and torments. The Bab was martyred, Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha were exiled; the followers of the Faith were murdered with utmost cruelty in Mazandaran, Neyriz, and Zanjan; an horrific massacre took place in Tehran, and injustices spread throughout the cities in the country during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah and his progeny, until nearly twenty thousand Baha’is were killed. The details of these injustices are recorded and documented in the histories, travelogues, and writings of government historians, Orientalists, and foreign world travellers. These atrocities continued after the fall of the Qajar dynasty. In the last half-century, in various and different ways, the followers of Baha’u’llah in the Faith’s original land, namely Iran, have been afflicted with a variety of pressures, deprivations, and cruelties. Repeated inquiries and appeals to the government offices and authorities by Baha’i individuals and organizations has never received the desired attention and action. Rather, strict and harsh orders were repeatedly given by the then heads of governments to deprive Baha’i individuals, who are faithful and trustworthy servants of the country and the people, of their basic rights and everyday freedoms.

Now, by relying upon the few specific cases of three or four individuals who have been [assumed] to belong to this community, and often by referring to the individuals who, in reality, are not counted among the followers and members of the Iranian Baha’i community—except that perhaps they may be relatives or kinsmen of some Baha’is—they consider the generality of the members and individuals of this oppressed and deprived community to be partaking of exceptional privileges and opportunities, and dismiss the deprivations that unfortunately continue to this day.

During the years when the monarchy was changing and the affairs of the country were entrusted to the Sardar Sepah [commander-in-chief of the army][1], in Kermanshah there was a riot and sedition against the Baha’is which led to the deaths of some of the believers. This riot spread to Kashan, Hamadan, and other localities. Subsequently, the Baha’i schools in Kashan and a few other places were closed. The believers in Hamadan came under severe persecution, and the friends in Abadeh became refugees in the wilderness as a result of the injustice and cruelty of their enemies, and some of them died. In Shahroud, some of the believers were beaten and their homes were raided and attacked. In the Village of Hesar in Khorasan, the attackers arrested a group of Baha’i children and beat them severely. The Baha’is of Hesar were thus forced to take refuge in the Village of Nameq; however, the friends of God could not find safety and protection there either. In Shahmirzad, Sangsar and Semnan, the enforcers of martial law imprisoned the oppressed and beleaguered Baha’is, instead of vindicating their rights and carrying out justice, and helped in the destruction of their homes. They destroyed the Hoseiniyyeh school belonging to the Baha’is, and in Maragheh, Hamadan, Kashmar, Yazd, and other places, Baha’is were [dismissed] from their places of employment and were subjected to various forms of persecution.

In 1303 [1924/1925] at the beginning of this century, there were increased rumours about the establishment of a republic in Iran and there was the possibility that the regime of monarchy would be changed to a republican form of government. Those opposing a republic, whose aim was to retain the monarchy, spread a rumour that the Baha’is were against the monarchy and wanted a republic, and must therefore be eradicated at the root. They quoted some verses from the Kitab-i-Aqdas [Book of Aqdas] as proof, and pushed the notion upon the government authorities that the Baha’is were in favour of a republic and against monarchy. The details of this are written and recorded in the publications of the time. This tumult and opposition resulted in the intensification of persecution, attacks and assaults on the Baha’is in various parts of Iran, and some of them were killed. It must be noted that the slogan of those opposed to republican government, led by Haj Agha Jamal Esfahani was, “We want the Quran; we don’t want a republic.”

It must be pointed out that during that time, the complaints of the beleaguered and oppressed Baha’is were published in some newspapers, both within and outside Iran, and were finally submitted to the person of the shah. However, he did not pay any attention to them and the head of the monarch’s cabinet responded that, “These kinds of letters have no need of a response.” The same kinds of statements and responses were given to the individuals and authorities appealing for justice in these instances.

The incidents that took place in the first years of this century in Iran have been recorded in history and include over fifty instances of raids and attacks on Baha’i homes and establishments, [including] assault, harm, injury, killing of the believers, the closing of Baha’i schools and other impairments and losses.

In 1308 [1929/1930], the government announced that religion must be listed in birth certificates and they dismissed faculty members, teachers, and everyone serving in schools based on the guilt of being a Baha’i. They then expanded this to other establishments and deprived and prohibited the Baha’is from employment in governmental organizations. This order was issued in a variety of forms every year and announced to all government offices. The latest episode in recent years was when a memorandum was issued by the then prime minister, Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, bearing his signature. This document is available in all human resource offices throughout the country. During the same period, Baha’is were deprived of the right to employment in private, industrial and business establishments as well as in governmental offices. In every case, they officially stated that they were unable to hire Baha’is or continue their employment per the order of the Department of Intelligence, and in each organization or corporation one of the duties of the security office was to oppose the hiring of the Baha’is and to fire them.

The continuation of the pressures and deprivations in 1313 [1934/1935] led to the issuing of an order to close the Baha’i schools in Iran. Over 50 Baha’i schools in the cities and villages of Iran, which often represented the first, and at times the only, institution of learning in that locality, were closed, and the Baha’i and non-Baha’i children and pupils of these schools were thrown into confusion in the middle of the academic year. The minister of education announced this decision as an unequivocal order issued by the person of the shah. Despite repeated appeals by Baha’i individuals and communities to the royal court of the shah and their requests for attention and restoration of justice, not only were these statements and inquiries dismissed out of hand, but the national police openly threatened the Baha’is, telling them that if they did not stop these demonstrations, meaning their requests for removal of injustice and appeals for fairness, all of their gatherings would also be banned.

At any rate, in the years prior to Shahrivar 1320 [August 1941], all Baha’i individuals were deprived of every official employment opportunity, their schools and places of worship were closed, and limits were placed on their gatherings. In some areas, even the Baha’i cemeteries were attacked and desecrated. In 1317 [1938/1939], by order of the shah, the Baha’is were dismissed from all of their military positions and offices, and it was even ordered that they must repay the cost of the education and training they had received. Such unjust orders were issued repeatedly until last year, and innocent individuals who had been accepted into training courses, even after clearly stating their religion, were later ordered to repay the cost of their training because of their religion and beliefs.

In 1318 [1939/1940], Baha’i couples were summoned to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and sentenced to prison and fines; several Baha’i youths who had gotten married according to Baha’i laws were imprisoned. The Baha’i marriage certificates were deemed unacceptable and courts of law began to openly issue unjust prohibitions of Baha’i ceremonies. At the instigation of a few ungodly and prejudiced individuals, they also imprisoned the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Yazd during the same year and kept them in confinement for a number of years.

During this period, Baha’i publications and media were banned. However, those opposing the Baha’i Faith were allowed to write whatever slanders, allegations, and objections against the Baha’is they wished and to publish and distribute them. Every day, a new book, publication, or magazine would be published in opposition to the Baha’is without giving any opportunity to the Baha’is to present the principles of their beliefs and teachings. This limitation has continued unabated.

As a result of these pressures, the buildings of the Haziratu’l-Quds, namely the administrative centres of the Baha’i communities throughout Iran, were left unfinished and closed. Even the changes that happened in Iran as a result of the Second World War did not diminish these limitations and deprivations. Rather, importing any Baha’i book or scripture into Iran, publication of Baha’i books, the use of any institutions belonging to them, and employment in various establishments remained prohibited solely because of their [affiliation with] the Baha’i Faith. Even in 1323 [1944/1945], several innocent Baha’i individuals in Kashan and Shahroud were murdered because of their belief and faith, and their known murderers did not come under investigation or punishment. Such incidents have been repeated [in] recent years, and last year they resulted in the killing of a Baha’i youth in Fazelabad in Gorgan.

Finally, in 1334 [1955/1956], at the instigation of, and with open and official intervention by, the government authorities, public attacks and raids on Baha’i establishments intensified across Iran. All Baha’i establishments in Iran were confiscated and the property and documents in them were impounded. In some localities in Fars, Khorasan, and in Yazd and other areas, the homes of Baha’is were destroyed, and Baha’i individuals were subjected to torture and torment. Some were forced to deny and recant their beliefs. For two years, Baha’i establishments remained under the possession of government authorities, particularly the National Intelligence and Information Agency, until persistent actions and repeated inquiries finally attenuated some of these pressures. However, in most cases permission to make use of these buildings was never issued.

The era of government under Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, through the instigation and enticement of enemies and ill-wishers, led to unwarranted and hefty taxes on Baha’i properties, almost all of which were non-profit and dedicated to charitable affairs, even the cemeteries and similar establishments. Subsequently, the oppressed and fragile community of the believers was forced to pay very hefty sums of money in estate tax. In addition to that, based on interpretations of the law and submission of a special bill to the Congress and its ratification, other taxes were imposed.

During the current year, taking advantage of the special circumstances in the country, they pillaged, destroyed, and burned down more than 800 homes, stores and establishments belonging to Baha’is in various parts of Fars, Azerbaijan, Hamadan, and Khorasan, forced more than one thousand families to flee, deprived them of the means of life, and made them to wander homeless in the winter. They killed some individuals and forced others to deny their beliefs. The details of these incidents have been published in the newspapers and publications within and outside Iran.

It appears that in Iran, which is the homeland and birthplace of the Founders of the Baha’i Faith, and in the eyes of the Baha’is of the world is considered as a sacred and beloved country, the Baha’is―who are the only non-Muslim community that affirms and believes in the truth of the sacred religion of Islam—have continuously been subject to the utmost injustice, cruelty, torment, persecution, and deprivation. Whenever a few individuals have occasionally had opportunities for freedom and advancement owing to special personal and private circumstances, this has never had anything to do with the freedom of action, security, prosperity, power, and authority of the Baha’i community. In most cases, such individuals have been baselessly and without cause [associated with] the community even though they have not been members of the community.

We hope that in these days, when the glad tidings of equality and justice have been announced, the pressures and deprivations that have been inflicted upon the Iranian Baha’i community for many years will come to an end and the faithful and trustworthy Baha’i individuals in Iran who are interested in service will be able to freely participate in the development and prosperity of the beloved country of Iran and exert themselves in service to all Iranians.

 

 

[1] [Sardar Sepah is the title of Reza Shah Pahlavi. His first role was commander of the Iranian army, which was combined with the post of Minister of War and his title was Sardar Sepah] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reza_Shah