[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[Adapted from website:] Baha’i World News Service
[Date:] 11 Khordad 1386 (1 June 2007)
A Brief History of the Recent Attacks on Baha’is in Iran
The reports and documents received from Iran in the last six months indicate the extensive and calculated efforts of the government of the Islamic Republic to continue and gradually intensify the persecution of the Baha’is of Iran. The evidence gathered reveals the Iranian government’s efforts to monitor and identify the Baha’is and present evidence of the continued mistreatment and discrimination against the Baha’i students at all levels, the increased efforts to deprive the Baha’is of their livelihoods, and on-going attacks on the Baha’i Faith in the official news media of the Islamic Republic.
This brief report, which covers the period from November 2006 to May 2007, provides evidence, citing numerous confirmed cases, that the intentions contained in the secret memorandum of the Iranian Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution of 25 February 1991, which is a plan for the gradual annihilation of the Baha’i community in Iran, still remain strongly in place.
The series of events reflects the government-led efforts to make the Baha’i community in Iran financially vulnerable and to create a sense of social and employment insecurity in the community and is generally indicative of efforts to establish an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. In addition, these efforts are intended as part of a broader effort to prevent the social, economic, and cultural development of the Baha’i community and to block its growth and development by creating suspicion and mistrust, and, even by sowing the seeds of hatred in the hearts of the people of the society, to create disunity and separation between the Baha’is and their friends and compatriots.
Gathering information about the Baha’is
One of the most worrying developments in recent years is the emergence of evidence that the Iranian government is secretly trying to identify and monitor Baha’is. Some observers have equated these efforts with the German government’s efforts to gather information about Jews in the early Nazi era.
The most recent items related to this stream are:
• Evident efforts by the Islamic Republic’s education system to identify Baha’i students and their families throughout Iran; for example, the Office for the Protection of Education Management in District 1 of Shiraz has issued a form to “register students’ identities with religious minorities and the perverse Baha’i sect.” This form not only requires detailed information about the student him/herself, but also information about his/her siblings by age, as well as other extensive information about the job, place of work, vehicle and even personal telephone numbers of his/her parents. In this form, under the heading of “religion”, there are four options: “Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and the perverse Baha’i sect.”
Profile of Baha’i Students in Shiraz
English translation of the registration form of Baha’i students in Shiraz
• Reports of the attempts being made to gather secret information; for example, in the guise of reporters or to inquire from children playing in the street.
• Constant harassment of the Baha’is identified by the Ministry of Information to provide private information about other Baha’is.
• Reports of increasing interrogation of Baha’is; for example, in February 2007, police officers, sometimes under the pretext of conducting an investigation, began traveling to certain parts of Tehran, Bandar Abbas, Mohammadiyeh, Shirvan, and Kermanshah. They started searching Baha’i homes and places of business and inquired in detail about their family members, their occupation, and education. Baha’is who were interrogated at their workplaces were also asked about their business licence and whether they owned the business or not, as well as the number of employees and their relationship to each other. In two cases, Baha’is were summoned to the local police station for questioning. In one case, when Baha’is asked why they were being asked to participate in this “survey”, they were told, “We have been instructed by the headquarters.” In another case, the reason given was that this information would help the authorities resolve the issues that had arisen. This comes after international human rights groups expressed concerns about the previous evidence that Iran was taking action to collect as much information as possible about the Baha’is and their activities.
The most important document about this action was the disclosure of the “top secret” letter dated 29 October 2005, signed by the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, who instructed the commanders of various government intelligence services, the police, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the commander-in-chief of the Iranian Army, to “identify” the Baha’is and collect “comprehensive and complete reports of the activities” of this community.
Other evidence obtained by the Baha’i International Community in connection with this measure to identify and monitor Baha’is includes:
- Letter dated 19 August 2006 of the Ministry of Interior of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the political and security deputies of the governorates general throughout the country, instructing them to “control and manage” the “social behaviour” of the Baha’is of Iran.
• “Confidential” letter dated 2 May 2006, from the Kermanshah Technical Production Association, addressed to the Union of Battery Manufacturers of Iran, asking them to “delicately and sensitively” announce “the names of the Baha’i sect covered by that union” “for the benefit” of that Union.
Attacks on Baha’i students
As reported for the first time on 5 April 2007, Baha’i students continue to be the target of severe harassment, insults, and other forms of severe psychological pressure. In addition, there appears to be an on-going operation to “educate” school teachers across the country about the Baha’i Faith, which includes equipping teachers with guidelines and materials to continue the severe distortion of Baha’i history and teachings along the lines of the tradition that has been used in attacks against this religion in Iran, and is now being pursued in the controversy that has arisen through the mass media; for example, on 23 April 2007, a group of high school religion teachers from three provinces visited a centre for religious studies in Qum as part of their in-service training, organized by the Ministry of Education. They attended a special two-hour speech criticizing the Babi and Baha’i religions.
On 14 and 15 May 2007, Iranian news services on the internet, Ayandeh Roshan and Rasa News Agency, reported that with the aim of acquainting religious and Qur’an teachers with the Baha’i Faith, “a special letter of introduction to Baha’ism” was published in Tabriz. This 85-page special letter, published with a CD, contains numerous articles on “Baha’ism”. The report contains false and baseless allegations about the Baha’i Faith and its history, such as repeated fabricated allegations about the role of British and Russian colonialism in shaping the religion and cooperating with Israel.
English translation of the report
Denial of access to university education
The Baha’i students who were admitted to the university for the first time after 25 years were expelled from the university in increasing numbers after their religious identities were revealed to the university officials. This is evidence of the fact that the government’s policy of opening its doors to Baha’i students was nothing more than a pretence to deceive the international human rights observers.
In February, the Baha’i International Community reported that out of 178 Baha’is admitted to universities this academic year, 70 had been expelled. By 3 May 2007, that number had risen to 104, meaning that more than 58 per cent of Baha’i students admitted had been expelled solely for following the Baha’i Faith from the beginning of the school year to the present.
Deprivation of means of subsistence
In the past six months, measures to deprive Baha’is of their livelihood have accelerated, and include the following measures:
• Refusal to issue or renew their work permit
• Closing businesses owned by Baha’is
• Encouraging the banks to close Baha’i accounts and reject their loan applications
• Issuing orders to chain stores and government offices to refrain buying from Baha’i companies because they are owned by Baha’is
• Refusal to pay retirement benefits to Baha’is employed in the private sector in some parts of the country
• Threatening and forcing the private sector employers to refrain from hiring the Baha’is and pressuring them to expel their Baha’i employees; for example, on 2 April 2007 the chairman of a company in Sanandaj was summoned to the office of the Ministry of Information and told that because one of its employees was a Baha’i, the company would be shut down unless the Baha’i was fired.
Spreading lies to incite the public against the Baha’is
Provocative material about the Baha’i Faith and its followers continues to be published in the mass media. Offensive attacks on this religion still appear in “Kayhan”, one of the oldest and most influential newspapers in Iran. This newspaper is published by the Kayhan Foundation and is currently managed by Hossein Shariatmadari, who is also the representative of the supreme leader in this institution.
Recently, the newspaper published on its front page an article entitled “Interview with a Survivor from the Baha’i Faith.” This was the first in a series of interviews with Behzad Jahangiri (his new Islamic name is Hussein Fallah), a former Baha’i who converted to Islam with his ex-wife, Mahnaz Ra’ufi, about ten years ago. Over the past year, “Kayhan” has published a series of articles based on Mahnaz Ra’ufi’s so-called “memoirs” with the same intention of “exposing” the internal activities of the Baha'i community. The article of 15 May 2007 from Kayhan, is an example of recent attacks on the Baha’is Faith. This article, for example, implicitly and erroneously states that Baha’i spouses are selected for them at the time of marriage, and that they live together before the marriage. The article also contrasts the number of Baha’is inside and outside Iran.
For more information on Iranian mass media attacks on the Baha’i Faith, visit this link:
Disrespect for Baha’i property
Some Baha’i cemeteries have been destroyed in the past six months.
Deprivation of liberty to travel
Although, in recent years, some Baha’is have been able to obtain passports and travel with relative freedom inside and outside Iran, the passports of some of them intending to travel outside Iran have recently been [revoked]. Some Baha’is, such as those who have been indirectly involved in coordinating community activities, are also on the “travel banned” list. For example, the passports of members of a Baha’i family who had gone to the airport to travel to Kuwait were confiscated. The official who met with then told them, “You are all [Baha’i] spies and we will not let you go out to spy. We will stop you.”
Deprivation of legal procedures
Discrimination against Baha’is in the legal system still remains an issue. On February 2007, for example, the General Court in Falard, decided not to allow a lawsuit because the plaintiffs belonged to the “Baha’i sect.”
A copy of the lawsuit
English translation of a copy of the lawsuit
Harassment of Baha’is and their non-Baha’i friends, including physical attacks
Four Baha’is are currently in prison. Also, since March 2005, more than 120 Baha’is have been arrested or detained for short periods, ranging from a few days to several months. All of them have been released on bail and are awaiting trial on charges related solely to their religious activities.
Baha’is throughout Iran face increasing personal harassment; for example, the movement that targets Baha’i homes and sends them threatening and intimidating notes, as well as CDs aimed at disproving the claims of the Baha’i Faith, continues. In some cases, these messages have been sent to all family members, regardless of age.
Many Baha’is have also received provocative text messages (SMS) on their cell phones. Initially, the most commonly received messages were:
1. Do you know that America is using you to pave its way?
2. Do you know that your approach to “observing wisdom” in propagating your religion means misleading others?
3. We ignore those who respond rudely, because this response reflects the true Baha’i spirit. We will meet those who respond politely, in person and soon.
The tone of these messages has clearly become more threatening. Last year’s messages, for example, included statements such as:
• The Baha’i missionary = foreign infantry
. Baha’is: Do you know that your cooperation with the United States will incite Muslim hatred and that they will take revenge on you?
. Baha’is: Did you know that your cooperation with the United States at this time and in these critical circumstances will provoke Muslim resentment and have consequences for you?
On several occasions, Baha’is who had been interrogated by government officials were asked why they were not leaving the country. Individuals wishing to join Baha’i activities have been interrogated, insulted, and threatened. Baha’i soldiers are harassed during conscription training.
The last worrying event:
One of the issues of particular concern in recent times is the news of the killing of two elderly Baha’i women by unidentified assassins in late winter 2007, which took place separately in two different cities.
On 16 February 2007, Saltanat Akhzari, an 85-year-old woman resident of Abbas-abad, a suburb of Shiraz, was murdered in her house. The next day, Shah Begum Dehghani, a 77-year-old Baha’i, was brutally murdered by a masked assailant at her home in Mohammadiyeh, Isfahan. Mrs. Dehghani died on 3 March 2007. The two women had no relationship with each other. Both victims were elderly women who were alone in their relatively small towns during the brutal assaults. Mrs. Akhzari’s body was found with her hands, feet and mouth tied. But Mrs. Dehghani was lured out of her house in the middle of the night and then brutally beaten with a rake.
While the motive for the attacks is still unclear, Iranian Baha’is find the similarities between the two killings troubling.