[Newspaper:] The Guardian

[Date:] 20 March 1982


Baha'is persecution warning

By Simon Tisdall


The brother of two senior Baha'is leaders who were executed in Tehran warned yesterday of increasing persecution in Iran which he said threatened the lives of all the 300,000 Baha'is living in the country.

The man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against relatives and fellow Baha'is, was speaking in London after fleeing Iran earlier this month along with the wives of the two dead men.

"There is so much ignorance in Iran that people do not know the facts about the Baha'i faith," he said. "The situation looks very dark and I feel it will get much worse, very much worse." About 110 Baha'is have been executed in Iran since the mullahs took power after the fall of the Shah in 1979, and many more have been gaoled. In December, last year, all but one of the members of the Baha'i Iranian National Spiritual Assembly (the faith's ruling body) were arrested and later executed without trial.

Iran has consistently denied that there is any persecution on grounds of faith in the country but has nevertheless accused Iranian Baha'is of being Zionists, imperialists, and spies.

On March 12, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution expressing "deep concern" about human rights in Iran, particularly with respect to the Baha'is, and asked the UN Secretary-General to investigate the problem. The Iranian representative, Mr Ali Sabzalian, rejected the resolution.

But pressure has also come from the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and in Britain where Lord McNair raised the Baha'i question in the House of Lords last month.

The wife of one of the Baha'i leaders who was executed in December yesterday described her efforts to find out why he had been killed. "I asked what evidence they had against him. They just said he was a spy. So I said, 'Look, I am his wife. At least you can tell me. If you are so sure he is a spy, why don't you televise or broadcast trials so everyone can see what he has done?'

"But they said nothing. They had no evidence. It was because he was a Baha'i."

The Baha'i faith is heresy to the Shi'ite clergy of Iran who regard the Bab of Shiraz, who founded the faith in 1844, as a usurper and false prophet. Orthodox Muslims revile Baha'i belief in the equality of the sexes, and the unity of religions and there have been periodic purges of the Baha'is, in 1852, 1902, 1926, and most recently under the late Shah in 1955.

No [now] the fear is that the Baha'is are once again about to become the scapegoat for Iran's present troubles, including high unemployment, food shortages, high prices, and enervating war with Iraq.

Baha'is remain banned from holding Government posts, from voting, from sending their children to school. Baha'i marriages are not recognised in Iran and Baha'i wives, therefore, face possible prosecution for prostitution.












































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