[Newspaper:] The Weekend Australian 

[Date:] 13-14 September 1980


Baha'i faith fears extinction in Iran after 'spy' shootings

From Lindsay Mackie in London


With the news this week that seven members of the Baha'i faith have been shot in Iran by order of the revolutionary tribunal, the Baha'i community in Britain has expressed fear for the 400,000-strong Baha'i faith in Iran.

The seven, shot on Monday in the city of Yan [Yazd], were officially proclaimed guilty of spying.

But members of the national spiritual assembly of Baha'is in Britain say that is nonsense.

They point out that the Baha'i religion forbids political involvement of any kind.

The Baha'is say their persecution has historically been on religious grounds in Iran, but political vilification is a new and more explosive development.

A press spokesman at the Iranian embassy in London said this week: "We do not have any record of persecution for faith."

He said the Baha'is were a political party, created by the British. Under the Shah's system of modernisation, he said, "important posts were given to members of religions other than Islam. For instance, Iran Air was totally run by Baha'is."

The British group has made its anxiety known because it believes only world opinion can stop mass violence in Iran against the Baha'is.

Since the revolution in Iran began, the Baha'is have come under constant pressure. At the end of last month all nine members of their ruling body were arrested on charges of involvement in an alleged coup.


Political allegations

They have seen their holy places demolished, their jobs in the Public Service taken away, their religion impugned, and their rights to run their own companies removed.

The persecution, say the British Baha'is, is religious, although cloaked under spurious political allegations.

The Baha'i faith was founded last century and its followers study the Koran, but it is not an Islamic sect. Moslems in Iran traditionally think of the Baha'i religion as heretical because its first leader, the Bab, rejected the literal interpretation of the Koran.

There have been many instances of Baha'i persecution in Iran, including the massacre of 20,000 soon after the sect was founded.

The Baha'is say persecution has been unremitting since last year. Lists of members were stolen from a national Baha'i centre; then farmers had their crops destroyed, businesses were taken over and people were driven from their homes, in one instance to go to live in caves in the north of Iran.

Baha'is have been dismissed from government posts, Mr Mortimore says, and  allegations of Baha'i involvement in political plots and espionage have increased.










































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