[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]

 

 

[Newspaper:] Iran Times

[Date:] February 1980

 

With regards to the non-Muslim religious minorities in Iran, with the exception of Sunni Muslims, no compromise or flexibility can be observed.

The Armenian, Assyrian, Baha’i, Jewish and Zoroastrian minorities feel alienated in their homeland.

 

Iran’s Religious Minorities Fear Bias [1].

 

Ayatollah Ruhollah[2] Khomeini this week signalled willingness to allow the Sunni Moslems minority rights in their regional strongholds, but no such conciliatory gestures was forth-coming for Iran’s smaller, non-Moslem religious communities.

 

Constituting perhaps 3 percent of the population, Iran’s Armenians, Assyrians, Bahais[3], Jews and Zoroastrians are being made to feel they are foreigners in their own land despite official insistence that all citizens are equal regardless of their faith.

 

Minorities’ fears of intolerance and fanaticism have gained momentum as often overzealous Shiite Islamic clergy have taken the led in denying government work to non-Moslems or making it difficult for them to carry out their jobs.

 

Worst off are the Bahais, the biggest of the religious minorities. Under Khomeini’s new hand-tailored constitution they are not considered one of Iran’s four "official" religions -- Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Nor are they allowed to act as a political group.

 

Juse before Christmas all Bahais serving in the armed forces were told to choose between recanting their faith or dismissal. Retired Bahai military personnel lost their pensions unless they too embraced one of the four "official" religions. Some 700 Bahais were serving as officers and an undisclosed number as enlisted men.

 

Considered heretics by Shiite Islam for the syncretic, universalist nature of their faith, the Bahais claim 500,000 followers in Iran and many more abroad.

 

The Bahais are no stranges to persecution. Conceived by the 19th century Iranian divine Mirza Hussein Ali, Bahaism teaches the fundamental unity of mankind and that all great religions, despite their differences, reveal an identical truth.

 

Like the other religious minorities in Iran, the Bahais were both favored and used as unthreatening interlocutors by deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and few participated in the Islamic revolution which swept him from power a year ago.

 

In the shah’s final months, his secret police, SAVAK, instigated anti-Bahai programs in the apparent hope of deflecting criticism from the government.

 

Such is the latent anti-Bahai sentiment that rumors that former prime minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda and former SAVAK[4] chief Nematollah Nassiri were Bahais was considered proof of their guilt.

 

Both were executed by revolutionary court order. Bahais claim neither man in fact was -- although Hoveyda’s father and grandfather had been -- in keeping with Bahai precepts banning members from any active political role.

 

In the prerevolutionary violence four Bahais were killed, millions of dollars of Bahai property lost and 700 believers made homeless.

 

Since the February revolution, discrimination has grown apace. All Bahai religious centers were confiscated. The shrine of the founding prophet was badly damaged in Shiraz.

 

That first phase of what Bahais describe as administrative strangulation was followed by a phase of economic pressure.A Bahai community welfare society and a hospital were taken over and Bahai sources now estimate more than 2,000 pieces of real estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been sequestered.

 

The treatment of the Bahai servicemen has prompted fears that the current phase of social discrimination may involve firing all Bahai civil servants.

 

Some 35 percent of the Bahai labor force, centered principally in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz and Mashad, besides a sprinkling of all-Bahai villages, are believed engaged in government work.

 

The Bahai community in Iran has set up special funds to help Bahai families whose breadwinners have been forced out of jobs or deprived of retirement benefits.

 

Since the summer at least two Bahais have been executed under peculiar circumstances. A Bahai Army colonel was arrested in Isfahan soon after the revolution, tried by a revolutionary tribunal and sentenced to death. a

 

But his friends were able to show the court he could not possibly have committed the crime with which he was charged.

 

He was executed anyhow, according to unimpeachable sources. They said that the court claimed he had been lynched by a mob while in fact he was shot by a firing squad.

 

Bahar Vojani, a merchant in the Kurdish city of Mahabad, was executed last summer by order of Skeikh Sadegh Khalkhali, head of the revolutionary tribunal. Called as a witness in another case while Khalkhali was dealing with armed Kurdish opponents of the Khomeini regime, the merchant was given the choice of death or recanting his faith.

 

All the minorities prospered under the shah, largely because they took advantage of educational opportunities, worked hard and served as useful intermediaries for the regime.

 

Many were middle class and, like their middle-class Shiite Moslem contemporaries, many have fled revolutionary Iran.

 

For some, the reasons have been economic and financial. For instance many Jewish carpet merchants complain they are prevented from selling abroad while their Moslem colleagues suffer from no such ban.

 

Other members of religious minorities fear the implications of the constitutional cause which guarantees religious freedom for religious minorities but only within the framework of Islamic law. Thus, mixed schools -- and bathing -- are now banned as indeed is alcohol used in Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian religious services.

 

"If we are not a party, we should be considered a religion," a Bahai source said. "There should be a place under the sun for us."

 

 

 

 

 

[1] [https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1980/01/24/irans-religious-minorities-fear-bias/eb9386b3-1da2-4da3-ae3b-99ed2b249da8/?utm_term=.8f8fdfd6f2a1]

[2] [Rouhollah]

[3] [Baha’is]

[4] [Acronym: “National Intelligence and Information Agency”, The intelligence Agency in Pahlavi regime]