[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:] Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
[Date:] 21 Aban 1397 [12 November 2018]
Hojjatieh Society, Baha’ism and Falsafi
Tehran - IRNA – Mehdi Abaei Khorasani, a political activist, is one of the fighters against the shah’s regime and one of the participants in the meetings of the Hojjatieh Society. He says, “After hearing Sheikh Mahmoud Halabi [speak] about the imam’s movement, I left this Society forever.”
It was about 1344-1345 [1965-1966] and I was 15 or 16 years old. They gathered some of us, the high school kids, [and we were told] “Mr. Engineer ... one of the professors of the Hojjatieh Society, wants to teach you some lessons.” These meetings were held in different places, including our own home where Mr. .... taught us. I still have some of his class notes. He used to read, and we used to write.
He was telling us the biographies of Seyyed Muhammad Ali, the Bab, Seyyed Kazem Rashti, what the Baha’is are, where their thoughts came from and what happened to them. He also quoted some famous sentences from the book of Seyyed Mohammad Ali, the Bab. A month or two later, he taught us the arguments against Baha’is and what to answer when a Baha’i says this or that. In these classes, the words of Baha’is were uttered, and with reasoning we would reject them.
They had also a large budget. At that time, the City of Boshruyeh, around Mashhad, was one of the places that had Baha’is. For this reason, students of the theological school from this city used to come to the Society’s classes to learn how to debate with the Baha’is there.
The teachers of the Society taught and told these students of seminaries to go to the meetings of the Baha’is in Boshruyeh, anonymously, and [show] interest and say these things. At the time, the Air Force pilots were strongly inclined towards the Baha’is. Hoveyda had just taken office and it was said that the number of Baha’is in the Air Force had increased. The Society members were saying that we should infiltrate their meetings by all means and find out what they were saying.
IRNA: Of course, it seems that no document was found later to show that Hoveyda was a Baha’i.
Abaei Khorasani: Yes. they say Hoveyda was not a Baha’i. But the clergy of that time―for example, Mr. Falsafi―regularly preached that the Haziratu’l-Quds of Tehran had been built with Hoveyda’s budget and people attacked and destroyed it. In any case, Mr. Hoveyda was accused of being a Baha’i. But after the revolution, he himself denied it and it became clear that he did not belong to any religion…
IRNA: It is said that the Society also had influence in some governing bodies.
Abaei Khorasani: Yes. Some SAVAK members, who were traditional religious people, also promoted the Hojjatieh Society in SAVAK itself. People in this group of SAVAK were saying that the Baha’is were uprooting the country and are against a country where the majority of its people are Shiites. These people [from SAVAK] were supporters of the Hojjatieh Society. Some fighters, whose problem was directed to SAVAK, had also encountered such interrogators and the interrogators had advised them that if they would like to serve the country, they should go and fight the Baha’is…
One of the Baha’i strongholds of our country at that time was Sangsar in Semnan, and after the revolution, its name was changed to Mehdishahr.
A famous Baha’i like Hojabr Yazdani was a citizen from there. Parviz Sabeti, SAVAK’s deputy director of internal security, was also accused of being a Baha’i.
IRNA: Of course, Sabeti himself denies this in his memoirs. He says that he did not believe in any religion from a young age.
Abaei Khorasani: Yes. Because he did not believe in a religion, the clergy and the common people recognized him as a Baha’i. They did not say he was irreligious; they said he was a Baha’i.
Hojjatieh sent preachers to Mehdishahr, Bushehr and the northern cities of the country and fought against Baha’ism…
We have come to the conclusion that although Baha’ism is dangerous, it is rooted in the existence of the shah’s regime. This is the government of the shah, who is anti-religious, anti-Islamic and anti-Shiite, and if he is removed, the Baha’is will also perish. Therefore, our propaganda against the shah stated that the Hojjatieh Society is a movement that has not understood the way to fight against the Baha’is. If one wants to oppose the Baha’is, one must fight the shah’s regime, because this is a government that fosters Baha’is…
IRNA: They say that the students and preachers of this Society had a very decent appearance and were wearing stylish clothes.
Abaei Khorasani: Yes. They said that, for example, if we had to face a pilot and prevent him from becoming a Baha’i, we had to wear decent and good clothes. ... These were the things that made Sheikh Mahmoud think to finance his students so that they could live a relatively prosperous life and not be attracted to the Baha’is because of poverty.... Some of them had gone abroad to preach. For example, Sheikh Mahmoud had also sent a preacher to Australia. It was said that some Muslims there had become Baha’is. Some of our friends who had graduated abroad said that the Society had told them to stay there and preach against Baha’ism.
Interview By: Naser Ghazanfari