[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]


[Adapted from website:] BBC Persian

[Date:] 2 Mehr 1392 - 24 September 2013


Baha’is and The Eight-Year War; Sharing the Sufferings yet deprived of the Joys

Journalist: Sepehr Atefi

31 Shahrivar 1359 [22 September 1980] [was] the beginning of a bitter chapter in the history of Iran, a period that lasted eight years. The eight-year Iran-Iraq war brought casualties and sufferings that even after more than twenty years, are not yet over and for some may never end.

Throughout these years, many different funds have been paid to the victims, the commanders and perpetrators. But in the media frenzy that has always supported the official position of the Islamic Republic, one which sanctified the war and its victims, there seems no mention has been made of minorities who, for various reasons such as fighting, being killed or captured, have not been reflected in any documentary, series, film or book.

For example, in post-revolutionary Iran, the daily life of Baha’is has been marked by discrimination and threats. But looking at the experiences of the last 34 years, it can be concluded that when the government was involved in its internal and external crises, the pressure on Baha’is increased significantly.


The Situation of the Baha’is During the War

In the early years after the Islamic Revolution, before differences between the various revolutionary groups became apparent, the followers of the Baha’i Faith were persecuted under various pretexts. For example, on 30 Mordad 1359 [21 August 1980], a month before the start of the war, eleven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were abducted and their fate is still unknown.

Fereydoun Vahman, author of ‘One Hundred and Sixty Years of Fight Against the Baha’i Faith’, said, “The eight-year war, which had started [at] the beginning of the revolution, has provided a golden opportunity for those opposing the Baha’i Faith, to continue to persecute, execute and kill the Baha’is. During this time, any kind of lawlessness was justified under the pretext of war with Saddam, aside from the continuing persecution of the Bahai’s. Throughout the war, there was no authority that could respond to the suffering of the Baha’i compatriots.”

Referring to the statistics of Baha’i casualties during the eight-year war, he pointed out that the exact number of Baha’is killed and captured during the war years is not clear. …

In addition to the prosecution and execution of Baha’is during this period, Baha’is were removed from government offices and universities, Baha’i marriage was outlawed, and their children were viewed as illegitimates.


The Baha’is and the War

According to Baha’i teachings, we do not want to take up arms, and because of these teachings, Baha’i soldiers wanted to serve in the frontline service department or civilian sections.

Gholam-Reza Alaei, a Baha’i citizen, made such a request to his commander. His brother Zeinol-Abedin Alaei said that he had told his family, “It is true that we are against the war, but maybe if they find out that I am a Baha’i, they will not take me to the frontline.”

Mr. Alaei continues, “But exactly the opposite happened. When they realized he was a Baha’i, they said “you should go to the front, which is the frontline.” Four months after he was sent to the frontline and having just turned 20, he was killed by a mortar shell. …


Baha’i Captives, Anxiety and No News

Jamshid joined the army when he was 19 years old. Six months later, on 17 Shahrivar 1359 [8 September 1959], a few days before the official start of the war, the Iraqi forces captured him at the “Khan Lily” checkpoint on the Iranian-Iraqi border. He was released 10 years after the end of the war.

Jamshid said, “I wrote on military forms that I was a Baha’i, but after my capture, no one asked me if I was a Baha’i, and the Iraqi forces were not concerned about it. He continued, “During the 10 years of captivity, I had no information about the situation in Iran. The letters I sent to the family were delayed for almost a year and were censored by Iraqis and Iranians.”

He [said] that after the arrival of the new Hezbollah prisoners, the atmosphere at the sanatorium became religious. There were between 70 and 100 individuals in each sanatorium, and everyone could only occupy a space of one and a half mosaic tiles, which was about 40 square centimetres and no more. Two people, who tried to escape from the sanatorium at the instigation of Hezbollah prisoners, were caught under the barbed wire. After this, the situation became more difficult for all the prisoners. They sealed two large windows on either side that opened outwards, such that day and night became the same to us and after a year or two, they unsealed only one side. These were the problems caused by a group of Iranians. No one was able to confront them, and if anyone wanted to stand up to them, they would ensure that he was unable to speak to anyone in the prison.”

These were the conditions, the same for all prisoners. But for Jamshid, being a Baha’i in such an atmosphere, could have been the source of greater discrimination.

How was the Baha’i and non-Muslim prisoners experience [for Jamshid]? “No one knew me there. I also tried to take the middle ground and be mindless. I had nothing to do with Hezbollah prisoners, nor did I befriend the Iraqi guards and soldiers.” …


Discrimination, Captives and Non-Native Martyrs

Zeinol-Abedin Alaei says that after his brother was killed, the Martyr Foundation filed his case but the person responsible for investigating the file, called the Baha’is a perverse sect and misguided.

“They questioned his file, saying, it was not known if he had been martyred or if he had committed suicide.”

… Mr. Alaei goes on to say that their situation was different to other families who had lost their children or spouses, but he and his family worked as hard as they could to secure their rights.

“After my repeated appeals during the probate trial, the judge said that he was upset by what had occurred, and he showed me a document with a top-secret seal stating that any written response to members of the perverse Baha’i sect should be avoided, because any written response means some kind of recognition of them.”

… The Army constantly asked the office of the Supreme Leader what should be done with these people. The last fatwa they received from the Supreme Leader was to reinstate the pensions of the Baha’is who were killed on the frontline.”

Mr. Alaei says that after 10 years of pursuing this fatwa, finally his mother’s pension was restored. …

… Discrimination towards the survivors of the martyrs and prisoners of war was not limited to the followers of the Baha’i Faith. All were the victims of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, either because they were forced to fight or because they did not consider this war the way Ayatollah Khomeini called it, a war between right and wrong.