CHICAGO TRIBUNE SATURDAY, May 9, 1981
THE PLIGHT OF IRANIAN BAHA’IS
Baha’is in the United States are at last going public with their complaints against the persecution of Baha’is in Iran. They are doing this only after prolonged and extreme provocation. They do it reluctantly, for it is more the Baha’i style to deal quietly and directly with the Iranian government than to make public appeals for allies in protest. But they have given up hope of any constructive voluntary response from the revolutionary fanatics who control the Iranian government. Baha’is sole, slim hope for the survival of their co-religionists in Iran is that outside pressure in their behalf may make some impression.
Iran is the country of origin of the Baha’i faith-a preponderantly Islamic country that has never had much tolerance for what its ayatollahs condemn as heresy. Despite the hardships visited upon them, Iranian Baha’is have become the largest religious minority in the country. But the government of Iran recognizes (with some implied rights to free existence) only Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism among non-Islamic religions.
Iranians Baha’is have been hounded out of government employment, their marriages declared void; their businesses confiscated. Members of their National Assembly have been arrested and have disappeared. A substantial number of Baha’is have been killed. In March, two Baha’is were executed after their death sentence had been upheld by the High Court of Justice. The verdict against them included charges that they had been “active in creating discord and disunity amongst Moslems to Baha’is,” and were therefore “corrupt and corrupting.” Loyalty to the Baha’i religion has become a capital offense in revolutionary Iran.
The genocidal killers in Iran accuse Baha’is of having been agents of the hated late shah, of ties with the detested governments of Israel and the United States. In fact, Baha’is are on principle unpolitical and nonviolent. Their essential offense, in the eyes of fanatical, bloodthirsty Moslems, is that they are not fanatical, bloodthirsty Moslems. The outer world has other grievances with the zealots who misgovern Iran. But it can have a few if any more acute ones than what the Iranian government is doing to Iranian Baha’is.