[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
In these days, when the regime of the Islamic Republic has been established and the government has focused its energies on creating a new Constitution, the rights of the Baha’i community are not mentioned in its suggested draft, and many of the civic and social rights of this minority in various aspects of everyday life have been withheld. Therefore, with utmost truthfulness and purity of motive, this community has decided to publish this open letter and briefly explain its situation and present it to the public for judgement, requesting their attention to its contents with eyes of justice and free from any favour or prejudice. We hope it will be accepted.
The believers in the Baha’i Faith have been living in the sacred country of Iran for 136 years, and are considered the largest religious minority in this country. Today, they live all over the planet in 96,000 cities and villages and have more than 25,000 Local Spiritual Assemblies. The Baha’i Faith has spread among 1,640 races and tribes; its books and scriptures have been translated into 685 languages, and it has been accepted as a non-political and non-governmental organization at the United Nations.
Baha’is believe in the oneness of God, profess the righteousness of all prophets and messengers, and believe in the immortality of the soul and affirms the truth of the sacred scriptures of all divine religions. Based on their faith, they obey the government and the regulations and laws of the government, endeavour to ensure the interests of their homeland through cultural, social, and developmental service, and are duty bound and obligated to engage in constructive activities. Based on the teachings of their religion, they are followers of the principles of oneness, friendship, unity, and collaboration with all of humanity, and consider any type of extremist racial, political, or economic prejudice to be unacceptable and harmful to the interests of society. During the course of their 136-year history, from the beginning until now, they have continuously been subjected to a variety of persecutions, torment, killings, and murders. A great number, namely over 20,000, of the followers of this religion have so far been martyred in the path of their faith and have lost their sweet lives. They have continually faced a variety of pressures and atrocities and have endured every oppression and pressure. As reflected in the existing evidence and documents, contrary to the principles of religion and the law, they have been, and continue to be, perpetually subjected to unwarranted discrimination and various types of injustice.
Any time political and social changes have come about in this country, a new scheme has been devised against this religious minority and their basic rights have somehow been withheld, as recorded in history. Among them are the killing and massacre of the Baha’is after the shooting that wounded Naser al-Din Shah and the atrocities brought upon them during the public drinking fountain incident. Among them is the closing of all of the schools and learning centres of the Baha’is throughout the country of Iran early in the reign of Reza Shah, which caused a large number of Baha’i pupils to be deprived of education, one of the most basic rights of the children of this land.
Among them is the incident of Ramadan 1334 [April/May 1955], which originated on Tehran Radio and led to the killing, pillaging, injury, assault, and various types of other torment and disrespect heaped upon a large number of Baha’is in Iran.
Prior to the establishment of the Revolution, a few members of the National Consultative Assembly began to hurl insults and slanders against the Baha’i community and decided to use this method to show their patriotism and―in their imagination―gain social reputation and honour. Those cruel actions led to the incidents on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 23, 24, and 25 Azar, 1357 [14, 15, and 16 December 1978] in Shiraz. These events had begun in Khormoj, Neyriz, Sarvestan, and Marvdasht, and after they pillaged the homes of the Baha’is in the aforementioned cities and made them into wanderers and refugees, they turned their attention to Shiraz. In order to take this community hostage, an armed group attacked and raided their homes and shops, [using] lumber and other means of igniting fires. All kinds of insults, threats, intimidations, injury, harm, loss, and killing of people, looting of property, and burning down of homes and even desecrations of Baha’i burial sites were carried out. In this manner, they caused millions of tomans in losses to this community. And because the authorities in charge did not pay any attention whatsoever to the repeated complaints and, on the contrary, increasingly subjected the Baha’is to oppression and persecution, this fact emboldened the ill-wishers in such provinces as Azerbaijan, Hamadan, Mazandaran, Gorgan, Khorasan, Yazd, Kermanshah, and a few other cities. As a result, more than 700 homes and shops were destroyed or set on fire after they had looted the property inside them, and several people were killed.
Early in the dawn of the regime of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the representatives of this community first expressed their obedience and loyalty to the authorities in charge and progressively proved their faithfulness and service in both word and deed. However, unfortunately, we saw that the noose of the siege continued to tighten daily and the pressures upon this oppressed community continued to increase minute by minute. Despite the limitations placed on our ability to publish, this [community] repeatedly and continually published statements that tried to refute―honestly and based on solid reasoning―the allegations and baseless accusations that were made with the sole aim of slandering this minority, through open letters and newspapers and radio and television.
The community met with media owners and sent frequent appeals and entreaties, exceeding one hundred letters and telegrams, to the authorities in charge and governmental entities. It endeavoured to meet with them and clear up any misunderstandings. Unfortunately, no attention was paid to their oppression, nor to the truth of their pleas. [Those authorities] did not care in the least about these poor people who have no protector except the One God and nowhere to turn except to the authorities in charge. Many of them who were working in government offices were dismissed according to the existing law, and no matter how much they complained against injustice, they were ignored.
In the villages, and even in some cities, [authorities] raided the homes of the Baha’is and with intimidation, threats to their honour, assaults, and attacks compelled them to recant their beliefs. In some localities they dug up the bodies of the dead Baha’is, and they did not even take pity on the cattle belonging to the Baha’is and burned them alive, or, in many areas, stole them away. Many students were deprived of education because of being Baha’is, and innocent people were summoned to trial and were confined and imprisoned.
In Kata and Boyer-Ahmad, 2,000 Baha’is were driven out of their ancestral villages and lands. Armed individuals in various parts of the country raided the offices, establishments, and centres belonging to this community and took with them all of the documents, papers, archives, books, and special publications of this minority. After inflicting all of these mistreatment and persecution upon this oppressed community, the places associated with this minority―which are exempt from paying taxes all over the world and include holy and historic sites, gathering places, and cemeteries―were confiscated without any questions asked, or based on any alleged infraction, and without trial. Even a hospital that belonged to this community, and has served all sectors of the people of this country without regard to their faith and religion for the entire thirty years of its existence, and treated injured people free of charge both before and after the Revolution and provided blood for them, and has always been a source of charitable actions, is among the confiscated properties. According to the aforementioned order, not only the rights of the living Baha’is but also the rights of their dead have been denied. It is unclear where the physical bodies of the Baha’is who leave this mortal world for the eternal realm should be buried.
Dear countrymen, is it seemly for a new injustice to be inflicted upon this obedient and oppressed minority every day and for them to be treated in this way? Is it seemly to conjure up false accusations and baseless slanders every moment and hurl them at a group which has no permission or right to respond through the mass media—slanders that are entirely baseless and absolute lies? Is it right for their most basic human rights, and their freedom of belief, writing, and speech be taken from them? Is it right that in the process of creating the new Constitution for the country there are no rights given to a minority that, according to existing documents and statistics, comprises the largest minority in the country?
Respected authorities in charge, and dear and esteemed countrymen, humanity, justice, and fairness dictates that you should accept that, truly, the injustices inflicted upon the people of this community are beyond human ability to remain patient and to bear and withstand them. Therefore, this community, after reliance upon the One God, has the duty to extend its hand for help to the respected authorities in charge and the protectors of the people and all classes in society and all people who love their own kind and stand with truth, freedom, and justice, and insistently request and beseech that you come to the aid of these oppressed ones and not avert your eyes from so much deprivation and injustice being inflicted upon this truthful and trustworthy group, and convey, in any way possible, the appeals of the Baha’is to the respected souls who are sources of influence and consequence in this country and ask that the injustices against this religious minority be alleviated. As God says in the sacred Quran: “Be just! That is closer to righteousness.”
With expressions of respect
The Baha’i Community of Iran
1 Tir 1358 [22 June 1979]