[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]

 

[Adapted from website:] Zamaneh Tribune

[Date:] 19 Bahman 1395 [7 February 2017]

 

Added by Hassan Manouchehri.  Author: Hassan Manouchehri

The Bitter Story of the Baha’is of Iran

Many years ago, we had a Baha’i neighbour in Shiraz. In those days, I was only a six- or seven-year-old child and could never understand the concept of discrimination and double standards, but I always remember vague scenes from those days. Today, the scenes that make more sense to me are the bitter tales of the behaviour of the people of my country towards a minority of their compatriots who have 150 years of history.

Mr. Mansouri, our esteemed neighbour in those days, a downstairs tenant of my father with two beautiful daughters, and, of course, a few years older than me, forms my clearest picture of the memories of those days. It is related to the day when my father dropped Mrs. Mansouri’s broth dish to the ground in front of her. And the bitterness of Mrs. Mansouri remained with them until the last days of her stay in our house. I could not understand why, every time the smell of their delicious broth wafted through the house, she had to secretly call us in and we had to secretly eat the broth. I did not know, in those days, why their cooked broth was najis[1], but the rent for the house that was taken from them was halal [lawful]. And these days I think more about such inconsistency. Three years later, they moved out of our house, and later I found out that their tennis champion daughter and their other daughter, a painter, were not allowed to continue their studies and a little later, I heard about their permanent emigration from Iran.

This is the bitter story of dissidents in Iran, the bitter and decades-long story of the Baha’is of Iran and the violations, injustices and contradictions committed against them.

Through this introduction, I am trying to point out the main problem of such attitudes in the society, and that is nothing but the behaviour of the people, apart from the actions of the government.

In my view, resolving the Baha’i issue in Iran could accelerate the exit of Iranian society from the blackness of indifference and tyranny. Violence against Baha’is and discrimination against them have always been accompanied by the bitter stories of ordinary people collaborating and cooperating with the clergy and rulers of the time.

To successfully overcome this situation, Iranian society must clarify its task with the main issue of democratic governments, and that is nothing but the recognition of the rights of intellectual, religious and ethnic minorities, and this means that, in addition to respecting civil rights, society also must learn to respect dissidents.

The important question in this article is whether the people, on the Baha’i issue, have been with them, or have they made a worthy protest against the repeated violations of the rights of this minority? And most importantly, why have people generally supported the clergy and sometimes the government?

The behaviour of the Iranian people towards the Baha’i issues has always been twofold. In the first encounter, they remain completely silent; on the other hand, they do not show any behaviour of solidarity with the Baha’is, and this is the chain of behaviour that creates pervasive and institutionalized violence.

To this day, the reality of the traditional Shia majority in Iran is that with the support of their religious sources and principles, the Baha’is are considered a frightening, secretive, spying minority, to the extent that the vast majority of Shia clergy call them najis. Only a few days after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini said that he considered them Israelis and najis.

These interpretations become even more important when we know that for the past 150 years or more, Baha’is have been oppressed everywhere, from the most remote villages to large, modernized cities, and this trend continues unabated to this day.

These things and our collective silence and indifference―and even, in some cases, the incitement of such behaviours―have blackened the record of the people in this field, to the point where the Iranian society now not only remains silent about such events, but even endorses the religious government’s behaviour, and this is what has perpetuated Iranian tyranny and turned it into a crisis.

There is only one way out of this tyranny, and that is to support Baha’is and other groups deprived of their rights and to unanimously cry out for their rights, including the right to education.

 

 

[1] [Najis:  Ritually impure/unclean]