[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

 

[Magazine:] Payam-e Baha’i

[Date:] August and September 2010

[Issue No.:] 369-370

[Pages:] 100-102

 

A Shameful Affair

The sad story of the Baha’is of Ivel, Mazandaran

Ivel is a village near Kiasar, one of the counties of Sari, which is located on the road between Sari and Semnan. Like other old villages in Iran, most of the residents have family relations with each other, or have ancestral friendships. In the early days of the Baha’i Faith, some of its residents became Baha’is, but this did not alter the friendly relationships and socialization patterns among them.

In 1362 [1983], following rising incitements against this religious community, initially twenty Baha’i families who were farmers and residents of this village were imprisoned in Husayniiyyih [1] to force them to recant their Faith. After a few days of resistance, given that threats and encouragements did not bear fruit, they were forced out of their village because of their steadfastness in their religious beliefs. Since that time, they had been allowed to return to their homes in the village annually to pick their crops with the permission of the police station and the Justice Administration. The efforts of these villagers for 26 years to go back to their birthplace, including their complaint to the Governor’s Office in Mazandaran and the Village of Kiasar and the national authorities in charge, did not bring any results.

In Ordibehesht 1388 (May 2009), the Baha’i cemetery of the Baha’is of Ivel was placed on the auction block. The auction was advertised in two large-circulation newspapers, Hamshahri and Iran, from 26 Ordibehesht 1388 to 3 Khordad 1388 [16 to 23 May 2009]. The name of the seller of this cemetery was listed as the “Department of Properties and Documents of the Setad.” The Ivel cemetery is 941 square metres and the minimum bid for it in the auction was set at 250,000,000 rials (with conditions for payments in cash and instalments). This cemetery was 100 years old and the Baha’is of Ivel had their deceased relatives buried there.

In the beginning of 1389 [April 2010] rumours began to circulate regarding the potential destruction of the houses belonging to the Baha’is of Ivel. The Baha’is of Ivel complained about this matter to the gendarmerie [police] station in Kiasar and the Justice Administration of Sari, but they were ignored. In the early days of Tir 1389 [June 2010] they began to destroy and set fire to the homes of 50 Baha’is, using four bulldozers they had brought into the village, and they razed some of them to the ground.

Radio Farda has conducted an interview with one of the Baha’is who has detailed information about the destruction of these homes. We convey its contents as expressed by the HRANA News Headquarters (organization of supporters of human rights).

[Mr.] Derakhshan: The village of Ivel is a county in Sari, located near Kiasar. According to them, approximately 50 homes belonging to the Baha’is were destroyed and set on fire using four bulldozers, with prior planning. 

[Radio Farda:] What do you mean by “them”?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] According to the locals there, they do these things according to the planning they have done. The story is that in the past there were some mutterings about destroying the homes. They used to say that there were plans to destroy this village and set the homes of the Baha’is on fire. But we would not believe such things. In all cases, we went to the mayor, governor, and county offices and asked them, “Gentlemen, they are saying such things; is this even possible?”

They said, “Such a thing is not possible. Don’t be worried at all.” So, we were heartened. However, it so happened that Mr. Mahmoud Piri and his family were going toward Ivel, and as soon as his car entered the area, they subjected him to severe attacks and insults and asked him, “Why have you come here?”  He then noticed at the same time that they were destroying his house.

[Radio Farda:] Who were the individuals who attacked him?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] The locals there. They immediately led him away from there and told him that he had no right to return to the area for 48 hours. Unfortunately, I must tell you that they destroyed 50 homes with four bulldozers and with the help of the area residents. It is truly astonishing that they would destroy and set fire to 50 homes all at once.

[Radio Farda:] Mr. Derakhshan, what is the situation of the residents of these 50 homes?  What happened to their furniture and what is their own situation?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] Any home we go to, the people are crying. Of course, I must mention that our friends were not residents of that area. They had driven these friends out of the area in the early years of the Revolution, namely on 7 Tir 1362 [28 June 1983]. They came and said, “You must become Muslims.” They made threats. They assaulted them with axes and shovels and imprisoned them in the mosque, and then kicked them out.

Since then, these people would go back every year for two or three days to pick their crops. They would get permission from the gendarmerie [police] station and Administration of Justice to be able go there and stay at their homes, at least for the duration of these two or three days, and be able to work their land, although most of their land had been taken. …

[Radio Farda:] Mr. Derakhshan, do you mean to say that the owners of these homes and farms had to get a letter of permission every time they wanted to go back to their own property?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] Exactly. Any time or any year they wanted to go there they would get a letter from the Administration of Justice to be able to stay at their homes for a few days. We contacted many entities regarding this issue. Anywhere we went we were met with a dismissive and unkind attitude. When we went to the county office and told them that they were destroying our homes, they objected to us and told us that the complaint we had submitted was actually against the regime. They even threatened to arrest us and said, “We will arrest you, too.” We said, “Our homes are being destroyed as we speak. We are Baha’is and your fellow countrymen. We are not aliens. We are not Israeli, British, American. We swear to God we are Iranians. What are we supposed to do? Please come to our rescue. God knows we don’t know what to do.”

[Radio Farda:] Mr. Derakhshan, the individuals who treat you this way, are they mostly from the government or are they the local residents?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] What do you think? Do you think it is possible for 50 homes with barns and woodsheds to be destroyed without collusion? We informed the authorities both before and during the destruction.  How do you think it should be? In addition, our friends informed them. But unfortunately, they did nothing to stop it.

[Radio Farda:] Are the bulldozers that were brought in also possibly from the mayor’s or governor’s office?

[Mr. Derakhshan:] We don’t know and could not say who is responsible. Regrettably, whoever it has been, now the destruction has been done. Interestingly, a couple of days earlier we had gone to the governor and told the deputy governor that there was a possibility of such an event. The answer that the deputy governor gave is cause for great sadness. He said, “The governor is like the physician of a society. If he feels that there is a harmful tumour in the body, he can take it out.” Now I ask you, “Are the Baha’i farmers of the Ivel village that harmful tumour in society?”  

 

 

[1] [Husayniiyyih:  Place of congregation for Shia ritual ceremonies especially remembrance of the Martyrdom of Imam Husayn]