[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
Respected Director of the Ettelaat Newspaper,
“Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair.”
We begin this letter with a verse from the sacred Quran, with the hope that the respect inspired by this noble verse might bring our words to your favourable attention.
On the front page of the Ettelaat Newspaper number 17069/, dated 6 Mordad 1362 [28 July 1983], there was a headline followed by a story on page 2 in connection with the Baha’i administration. In view of the story’s inaccuracy, we are compelled to explain and clarify the matter.
The aforementioned news, as printed in the Ettelaat Newspaper, differs from the piece published on the same day in the Kayhan Newspaper. This shows that the story has not quoted reliable and official government sources, and, apparently, has been published in a provocative manner in order to tarnish the general public’s opinion with greater enmity and ill-will toward the Baha’i community.
Mr. Azizollah Dehghani, who has recently been arrested and imprisoned, appears to have been the executive director of a company engaged in importing auto parts. In view of his religious beliefs, the story about his arrest and confessions appears completely false, and it is unclear what has caused this distortion of reality, which has provided an excuse to people of ill will to make a mountain out of a molehill and make up fake stories and inflict baseless slanders on the Baha’i administration in the name of the aforementioned individual’s confessions.
Setting aside the contradictions between the contents of the two newspapers—including the number of products that were hidden in fifty trucks in the parking area of his house and the auto parts hidden under his bed, which have no connection to the objections raised by this community, and vindicating the truth about them is the responsibility of the aforementioned individual and the company authorities—if the embezzlement charge is true, in the view of this community, punishment of the perpetrator is recommended and affirmed regardless of his religious beliefs.
What has been stated regarding the Baha’i Faith, in the name of Mr. Dehghani’s confession, the veracity of which is in doubt, includes the use of such phrases as the Baha’i spy network and the Baha’i sect’s administration, which are among the phrases used in the parlance of adversaries of the Baha’i Faith, including politicians.
Even if we consider the impossible scenario that, under the special conditions of prison, Mr. Dehghani has lost his endurance and has parroted or written down the words dictated to him, what is certain is that the Baha’i Faith is not political. Rather, it is an independent religion with a holy book, teachings, spiritual principles and standards that have been accepted by various communities in the world and have been given official recognition. There might be many people who are not able to persevere against torrents of calamities and will shiver when faced with tests and hardships; [they] will prefer the physical world to everlasting life and will recant their beliefs. Even then, the adversaries will say whatever they want and there is no credibility in such confessions.
The Baha’is have been libelled by several allegations in this report, and such things as “the Baha’i spy network, putting pressure on the regime of the Islamic Republic and toppling it, heretical administration of Baha’ism, anti-revolutionary and espionage administration” have been attributed to them. This requires that we present Your Highness with the following brief explanation for your information with the hope that the esteemed writer and other seekers of the truth might be enlightened:
- With regards to the “Baha’i spy network” this is a phrase made up by the people who imagine that the Baha’i Faith is a political institution, and their prejudiced and hateful minds do not allow them to investigate and think about the subject. They continually listen to the one-sided allegations of the adversaries, and possibly read anti-Baha’i articles and do not remember that all religions have had adversaries and enemies who have written objections and refutations about them.
In addition, the Baha’is are currently defenceless in Iran and are deprived of the right to respond to false allegations and slanders. The letters written in their defence are not published, and we also do not imagine that this response will be published in your respected newspaper. From among the many news [items] and incidents that happen to them and the vast amounts of cruelty, injustice, murder, and plunder that are inflicted upon this community, only that news is published that is in opposition and is aimed at hostility and enmity and can be published in large typeface in a sensationalized manner in the form of a provocative slander.
Perhaps the respected writer of the article considers Baha’i writings and books to be perverse, and their possession and reading not allowable; however, what is important for journalists is to investigate the truth and try to discover the reality of the matter. So long as they are not familiar with the principles of the Baha’i beliefs, they will not be able to state the truth and write any accurate news about the Baha’i Faith in the newspaper. They do not know that the Baha’is, namely the same individuals who are being constantly executed in the field of sacrifice by the order of the religious authorities because of their beliefs and refusal to recant their faith, believe in staying out of politics as a fundamental religious principle. Being a spy and engaging in espionage are key aspects of politics, which is appalling to the Baha’is and something they fully avoid and abhor. The condition for being a Baha’i is non-interference in political affairs. Most of the countries in the world are aware of this Baha’i belief and, despite the abundance of propaganda, even the Iranians are aware of the falsity and imaginary nature of this allegation.
- Regarding the statement, “The profits obtained from the sale of these products have been used to put pressure on and topple the Islamic Republic regime,” in addition to refuting this baseless allegation, [it is important to mention that] the company in question is a private enterprise with Baha’i and non-Baha’i partners, and has no responsibilities vis a vis the Baha’i community. The allegation of intent to topple [the government] is so grossly baseless and vacuous that there is no need to defend against it. These oppressed ones have repeatedly stated, and shown by their actions, that they are obedient to the government and follow the laws and regulations. They have no enmity or fight with any group, not even with their enemies; for example, during the past five years of the government of the Islamic Republic there has not been the least action that would represent any opposition or lack of obedience. It is perhaps this very surrender and acquiescence that encourages armed individuals to attack them, claiming to be agents of the police, and to send them to prison or hang for being Baha’is.
What is certain is that the weapon of the adversary has always been slander, libel, and lies, and at a sensitive time in our country such slanderous statements, in themselves, can provoke people and incite enmity. Fortunately, the authorities in charge know the Baha’is well and the honourable people of our country are also fully informed about their actions and behaviours because of having connections with them through family, marriage, and friendship.
These allegations are so very similar to the revelations made regarding the Episcopal ring in Isfahan in Dey of 1359 [December 1980/January 1981], when―with great sound and fury and interviews on radio and television and propaganda and setting forth English language documents with the C.I.A’s emblem and their publication in the newspapers―they announced that the American government had sent five hundred million dollars in cash and some explosive materials to the Episcopal ring in Isfahan to distribute among the Baha’is, anti-revolutionaries, and army commanders, to be used to support their conspiracy against the government. Even the curious and clever reporters did not think to ask how such a vast amount of money had come into the country; why it had reached the Episcopal ring of Isfahan, and why it had been distributed among the Baha’is, who do not carry arms. In any case, seven pure and innocent Baha’is were executed based on this announcement in the City of Yazd, and sometime later, the prosecutor general of the Revolution unequivocally announced the fraudulent nature of those documents and clarified this deceitful conspiracy. But what is the use? The oppressed Baha’is were executed, their possessions were confiscated as their share of the imaginary dollars, and their families were left without a breadwinner. The association of the Baha’i community with such allegations now, in connection with the news of the embezzlement of auto parts, is exactly like the news of the Episcopal ring in Isfahan. The adversaries wish to catch fish from muddy waters. The ethical and spiritual responsibility for such incidents is ultimately on the shoulders of the reporters and writers who are either of the same opinion as they, based on their exceeding prejudice, or are accusing an oppressed and innocent community, owing to a lack of investigation and inquiry.
- Regarding the phrase “the heretical administration of Baha’ism and anti-revolutionary [activity],” which has been used in the text of the article, regrettably, the respected author has no familiarity with the Baha’i administration; he has possibly used the term “heresy” to gain the reward that he expects from slandering the Baha’is and has tried to use any sentence that would be the most vulgar and crude; therefore, for your information, we briefly explain the following.
In the Baha’i Faith, owing to the absence of a clergy class, religious ceremonies, from burial of the dead to wedding ceremonies, to the education of children, and so on, and all of the other affairs that are carried out in other faiths by the clerical leaders, take place collectively by the people in the community. These committees are elected once a year in a free and public manner, without electioneering, and their members have no privilege or preference above the other individuals in the community. Their services are for God and unpaid, and they are responsible to the Exalted Lord and to their own conscience. Given that there is no personal guide in the Baha’i Faith, the phrase, “administration,” is associated with politics for people who are not familiar with it. Yet, the spiritual and administrative affairs of the Baha’i Faith are not separate or distinct from one another, and they have no similarity or equivalence to political and governmental organizations. The term “heresy” cannot be applied to these worshippers of God, since the Baha’i belief is based on the worship and adoration of the One God and affirmation of the truth of all great Messengers and pure Imams and the acceptance of divine books and belief in the next world, and reward and punishment in the eternal realm. The slanders of the adversaries in this regard are pure lies.
Pursuant to the above explanations, and with expressions of respect for the press authorities, it is necessary to share a point regarding their important, awesome, and ethical duties, since the press and its journalists have a valuable role and a great moral responsibility in guiding the society toward advancement and progress, and enlightening the minds of the people. The fundamental condition for carrying out this role is complete objectivity in all matters and having a pure motive to serve the society with hearts free from prejudice and hatred. In this way, they will become the confidants of the people and beloved by them. Their news will be accepted as reality and their writings will be considered pure truth and looked upon with praise and respect.
Given that advanced people of the world consider the media to be the protectors and supporters of the oppressed, we request that you publish the above-mentioned explanations in your respected newspaper in view of what we have presented and in accordance with the Press Law.
With expressions of respect,
The Baha’i Community of Iran
Copies: 1- Prime Minister, 2- Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, 3- Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 4- The Revolutionary Public Prosecutor, 5- The Central Revolutionary Public Prosecutor, 6- Ayatollah Montazeri, 7- Pars News Agency, 8- Kayhan Newspaper, 9- The newspaper of the Islamic Republic, 10- Sobh-e Azadegan Newspaper, 11- Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Agency…