[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
In the Name of God, the Forgiving, the Compassionate
Respected Governor of the Province of Isfahan
[Brief introduction to the history of the Baha’is in the region of Najafabad, currently includes Najafabad, Vilashahr, Goldasht, Yazdanshahr, Amirabad]
[The Baha’is possessed a land donated to the community by a number of Baha’is.] For a long time (more than 150 years), an average of 400 families have lived in this area. The land, used as a cemetery, was in the northern part of Najafabad in the orchard area, with facilities to meet the needs of a cemetery. …
In 1362 [1983/1984], this land was seized without any prior warning. The cemetery was destroyed violently in a highly immoral act; old and new graves were dug up and newly buried bodies were mingled with pieces of debris which were later taken to a nearby valley and thrown in one pile. The land was subsequently built as what is now known as the Shahis school. … From 1362 [1983/1984] until 1374 [1995/1996], the Baha’is of this region had to transport their dead, against their religious law––which is not to transfer the deceased to another area which is more than one hour distant––while, concurrently, through letters (reference numbers provided), they followed up their request for a new property. At last, in the second half of 1374 [1995/1996], through the intervention of the Information Ministry a piece of land was leased to the Baha’i community, albeit without documentation or a contract. Gradually, as time passed, the details of the land were defined and ownership was confirmed. From 1374 [1995/1996] until the destruction of the new cemetery in 1386 , 100 graves were occupied (95 graves with headstones in the first block and five new graves without headstones). This land was clearly known to the authorities and the general public as the Baha’i cemetery. …
On 4 Mordad 1386 [26 July 2007], two representatives from the community approached the Office of the Governor to obtain permission to build a mortuary at the cemetery. However, not only was this request not responded to, on 16 Shahrivar 1386 [7 September 2007] we were informed that during the night a number of unidentified individuals raided the cemetery and destroyed the existing graves with heavy machinery. The 95 headstones were destroyed and pieces of stone were heaved onto the growing trees. Water-tanks were dug up and pierced by the forks of the heavy loaders. Eight graves, which had been prepared for burial, were filled. Furthermore, the entrances for trucks, which indicated the boundary of the land, were obstructed.
On 17 Shahrivar 1386 [8 September 2007], the representatives of the Baha’i community submitted a complaint to the respected governor general and his deputy and requested immediate action. They were told to return in two days.
On 19 Shahrivar [10 September], the representatives were told by the authorities that the complaint would be sent to the Information Ministry and referred the individuals in that office. During this period, about 240 members of the Baha’i community made official complaints to the judiciary, seeking justice.
On 22 Shahrivar 1986 [13 September], the lawbreakers again raided the cemetery with heavy loaders. This time they transported the rubble to what is suspected to be a municipality garbage dump located between the town and the cemetery.
On 26 Shahrivar [17 September], a group of Baha’is reported the incident and submitted their complaint to the Office of the Friday Prayer Leader in Najafabad. In the letter of complaint, the Baha’is asked for his assistance and intervention in putting an end to the actions of lawbreakers and the possibility of restoring the burial of the dead in the cemetery.
On 29 Shahrivar [20 September], a representative from the Baha’i community went to the Information Ministry in Najafabad and asked that this matter be attended to. The authorities’ response was that since teaching the Baha’i Cause is a personal obligation for us [Baha’is], the public could also take personal action, and the authorities could not do anything about it. Now, this begs the question as to how the public would have access to such heavy machinery to coordinate numerous visits in order to vandalize the cemetery. Furthermore, is this public different than those individuals who openly express their utter disgust at such unlawful and immoral actions? These questions should be considered by the same authorities who suggest that these actions are carried out by the public.
Since the respected authorities in the judiciary, Public Places Police, and the Ministry of Information in Najafabad were not able to produce a straightforward answer as to what, if any, official action will be taken against the intruders, therefore, on 1 Mehr 1386 [23 September 2007], once again we approached the municipality where we, formally and in writing, stated our intention to reopen the cemetery for the purposes of burial. We were advised by the deputy to wait. At the same time, however, the deputy indicated that this matter was not their responsibility and that in fact they were still referring the inquirers to the Public Places Police, from where they were then referred to the Information Ministry in Isfahan.
In response to our questions as to where the deceased should be buried, the authorities suggested that they should be taken to Isfahan.
On 5 Mehr [27 September], the intruders raided the cemetery once more and this time destroyed the concrete blocks around the first block as well as the area that had been paved to be used for gathering and recitation of prayers. This time also they transported the debris to an unknown place.
Furthermore, on 5 Mehr [27 September], the Information Ministry of Najafabad was contacted and the urgency of this matter and the need for reopening the cemetery for burial was discussed at length. The authorities stated that they were looking into the matter, but they could not assign guards in an open space of the cemetery. They further explained that they too were under pressure and that they were responsible for our safety as well. They suggested that this matter be followed up through the Provincial Office of the Information Ministry.
The authorities’ response in justifying these illegal actions, including the writing of slogans at Dr. Homa Agahi’s practice and the homes of the Baha’is, was that these actions were a result of the Baha’i youth teaching their Cause openly and persuasively.
Regrettably no one is able to explain to the authorities that the distribution of the Ayyam special insert, printed by Jame-Jam newspaper on 6 Shahrivar 1386 [28 August 2007] and other undertakings to attack Baha’is is a more effective way to teach the Baha’i Faith than the efforts of a few Baha’i youth. The truth of this statement can be easily verified by asking members of the public a few questions in the market and around town.
The urgent request of the Baha’i community of Najafabad at this point for your respected office is to arrange such that the Baha’is can regain access to the cemetery and be assisted with the preparation of new graves, and, in due time, replace the gravestones. Furthermore, the harassment and intimidation of Baha’is should be stopped. It is our wish to preserve and maintain the respectful and harmonious relations that exist between Baha’is and their Muslim neighbours and colleagues.
The important issue is that, due to our religious laws, it is impossible for us to transport our dead to Isfahan or other cities for burial. In the meantime, should we lose a member of our community, we have no other choice but to leave the corpse in a coffin and, after informing your respected Office, leave the coffin in front of the Governor’s Office and request further instructions. Needless to say, if this request that has been submitted to you in a spirit of sincerity should fail to produce results, we will have to take the matter to the national authorities.]
The Baha’i community of Najafabad