[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:] Iran-e Emrooz
[Date:] 29 Bahman 1387 [17 February 2009]
Written by: Doctor Hosein Bagherzadeh
In the face of factional conflicts to win the executive power of the Islamic Republic of Iran [presidential elections], the regime has resorted to one of its usual tricks to suppress the Baha’is, amidst the official and unofficial whispers of communication and negotiations with the United States [of America], which have intensified these days, and the severe economic pressure that has overwhelmed the majority of the people confronting them with a difficult future. This wave began with the arrest of tens of Baha’is and is currently waged with seven of them accused of being spies.
The latest act in this anti-Baha’i move was the letter from Attorney General Ghorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabai, addressed to his successor at the Ministry of Intelligence, asking him to confront the “Baha’i administration”. A number of news agencies connected to the government have characterized this letter as giving permission for a decisive confrontation with Baha’i administrative elements until they are completely destroyed. Furthermore, the government agents at Friday prayer gatherings have been collecting signatures for the “dissolution of the perverted [Baha’i] sect and Baha’i institutions”.
These moves represent the most intense activities in the thirty-year life of the Islamic Republic and can lead to widespread suppression and catastrophe. Persecution of the Baha’is in the Islamic Republic has a long history—as long as the regime’s life span. The regime’s constitution recognizes a few religions and intentionally omits the Baha’i Faith. Followers of the Baha’i Faith have been deprived of their human rights and even their civil rights as citizens.
They are persecuted; their properties have been confiscated; their children have been prevented from having an education; their job security has been taken away; their pensions are not paid; their homes are violated and occupied; their centres are demolished; hundreds—even thousands—of them have been arrested and tortured; and more than two hundred have been executed. Other than political groups, Baha’is have been persecuted and suppressed more than any other social groups, as a group with ideological characteristics, in the Islamic Republic.
The main motive for anti-Baha’ism in the Islamic Republic is, of course, [that its] ideological and religious system, by definition, rejects other religions. This negation is relative in the case of some religions such as the people of the Book [religions before Islam] or the Sunni sect of Islam. But in the case of other religions [whose principles] are in direct conflict with the ruling religion, it takes on an absolute aspect. A system that has attached its credibility to the Twelfth (absent) Imam of the Shiites cannot tolerate any belief that directly denies or challenges it; therefore, it is not unreasonable that the leaders of this system persecute and execute the Baha’is more than any other social groups.
The ideological motive for persecution of the Baha’is is also directly related to the “degree of the power of those government elements who are Twelfth Emami [believe in the Twelfth Imam’s appearance]” and “not to openness of the political environment”, although these two elements are completely correlated with each other.
In the early years following the revolution, persecution of the Baha’is was carried out by the Hojjatieh Society, which pursued and repressed the Baha’is by establishing [themselves] or infiltrating the government agencies. But they were not the only groups persecuting the Baha’is, and many other groups were participating, too. Many of those who were competing or fighting against the Hojjatieh Society, because of their ideological belief, followed the same politics of oppressing the Baha’is. Figures like Ayatollah Golpayegani and Mr. [Ali] Khamenei, the present leader of the Islamic Republic, issued instructions for the control of the Baha’is, or depriving the Baha’is of education and other civil rights. Only one senior religious leader after three decades of the Islamic Republic has called for protection of the citizenship rights of Baha’is, and he is Ayatollah Montazeri.
Now that fundamentalist messianics [followers of the Imam of the Time] have taken over the government, the anti-Baha’i wave has been revived and various elements and institutions of government have competed with each other in advancing this policy.
Other than ideological motivations, other factors affect the escalation of the anti-Baha’i policies. During the periods when there have been no significant changes in the structure of government, there have often been strengths and weaknesses in the prevailing anti-Baha’i policies; for instance, the present government structure has been stable for more than three years, while the current wave of persecution against the Baha’is has intensified during the recent weeks and months. What factors have caused, on the one hand, during the recent weeks seven leaders of the Baha’is have been arrested and accused of espionage and been put at risk of execution during the [recent] weeks, and on the other hand, the national public prosecutor to have, in effect, issued the order for uprooting the Baha’is? And [what has caused] the governing propaganda apparatus to intensify the waves of Baha’i persecution? Is this not done to cover up a crisis, to divert public opinion from an event, or to heat up the advertising market in favour of groups and factions?
Experience has demonstrated that the corrupt dictatorial governments use tactics such as instigations against the vulnerable minorities during [times of] crisis and instability to divert the public opinion and occupy the attention of the masses. In the ruling religious system [of Iran], the minority group that can be used more than any other group as a scapegoat to fulfill the regime’s motive is Baha’is, who must be the victims [the compromise] of this policy and perhaps pay the price of these tricks with their lives and property.
Mr. Dorri-Najafabadi, who is the attorney general of the ruling Islamic justice system, unequivocally issued the order to oust the Baha’is; the government’s propaganda system immediately blew on the fire that he had kindled. Mr. Najafabadi is not unprecedented in his “humane” and “legal” treatment of the ideological or political opponents of the Islamic Republic. Ten years ago he was the minister of intelligence of the Islamic Republic when his deputies and director generals slaughtered and killed Forouhars, Mokhtari, Pooyandeh and others. He himself was one of the main culprits in the issuing of the order or fatwa for these killings, and was therefore removed from the ministry. It is now not unlikely that he will become the leader of the repression of a vulnerable minority and formally seek their annihilation. He may be the leader of a movement that may seek to compromise the Baha’is with intra-governmental conflicts or cover up the political and social crises. Whatever his motives, there is no doubt that this potential action could be catastrophic—a catastrophe in which government agents, by inciting the religious sentiments of the people, create a wave of fear and panic among the Baha’is and suppress them. Suppressing Baha’is within the religious society of Iran, considering the years of intense propaganda against them, is not a difficult task. To prevent the suppression of the Baha’is and the tragedies that a new wave of Baha’i persecutions can generate, a public effort must be made.
The recent statement ‘We are ashamed!” which has been published abroad with the signatures of more than two hundred Iranian personalities, is an important step in this direction. The comments made some time ago by Mr. [Ayatollah] Montazeri, will also play a valuable role in defending the Baha’i citizenship rights and changing the perspective of the religious people, especially his followers, towards the Baha’is. Inside the country, Mrs. Ebadi and other members of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders have courageously defended the legal rights of imprisoned Baha’is in the face of sabotage.
Furthermore, it is expected that the reformers and modern religious thinkers will also join Ayatollah Montazeri and other activists such as Emadeddin Baghi in defending Baha’is’ civil rights and will not let the current establishment take advantage of this silence in their oppression of the Baha’is. Suppression of Baha’is like suppression of any other vulnerable minority; under any pretext, it is a national tragedy, and the silence of those who can voice their opinions comes with responsibility.