[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[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:] Committee of Human Rights Reporters

[Date:] 8 Aban 1388 [30 October 2009]

 

A Minority That Does Not Have the Right to Bury Its Deceased: A Chronological Report on History of the Destruction of the Baha’i Cemeteries of Vilashahr and Najafabad of Isfahan

Committee of Human Rights Reporters – The destruction of cemeteries and the assaults on the corpses of Baha’is have been major violations of the rights of this religious minority over the past 30 years.

According to the Baha’i religious teachings, they must bury the bodies of their deceased loved ones near the place of death; therefore, they must have a cemetery for burial of their deceased in any city in Iran where the followers of this religion live. According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest one’s religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Despite the existence of this Article and similar cases in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the need to implement it, the government has always denied the religious minorities, especially Baha’is, the freedom of religion and the right to observe their religious ceremonies.

The following report is a chronological document describing the history of the destruction and attack on the Baha’i cemeteries in the cities of Vilashahr and Najafabad, known as “Golestan Javid [Eternal Garden]”. It should be noted that each case of assault and destruction has been numbered.

In the winter of 1374 [1975]: The Baha’is of Vilashahr and Najafabad had selected a piece of land in the vicinity of the City of Isfahan to bury their deceased, and after preparing a map of the site, by referring to the District Intelligence Office, they applied for a written licence to bury the deceased. The city official gave verbal consent but refused to give written permission.

It is worth mentioning that the previous Baha’i cemetery in this area was completely destroyed in 1363 [1984/1985].

The first body was buried in this cemetery on 16 Ordibehesht 1375 [5 May 1996]. This cemetery is located fifteen kilometres from Najafabad. The number of graves in this cemetery is 119 (95 in the first plot and 24 in the second plot). In the picture below, you can see the geographical location of the land of this cemetery.

1. In Mehr of 1375 [September/October 1996], the body of the late Batool Moradi was removed from the burial site by unidentified individuals.

The pictures below show the condition of the cemetery in Aban 1382 [October/November 2003]. During this period, the planting of trees, installation of water tanks for the irrigation of trees, the labelling of graves and placement of the gravestones was implemented. Gravestones have been engraved and full details of the deceased have been written on the stones.

2. Azar 1383 [November/December 2004]: The trees planted around the first block were cut down by unidentified individuals.

3. At the end of 1383 [March 2005]: The sanitary water tank was destroyed by unidentified individuals.

On 7 Khordad 1384 [28 May 2005], a written request was submitted to the Najafabad Municipality and the City Council for permission to dig a well and build a bathhouse [in the cemetery], which was refused. Also, on 22 Mordad 1386 [13 August 2007], this request was submitted for the second time, but again, it did not receive a proper response.

4. 6 Farvardin 1385 [26 March 2006]: Grave number 4, belonging to the late Rezvan Shoghi, was destroyed and the grave was dug to the place of the coffin. 

5. 6 Shahrivar 1386 [28 August 2007]: Grave number 2, row 1 of plot 1 of the cemetery, belonging to the late Naser Golshani, was destroyed. After the destruction of Naser Golshani’s grave, on 11 Shahrivar 1386 [2 September 2007], his relatives filed a complaint with the Najafabad Justice Administration. The case was referred to the Intelligence and Security Police, who attended the scene and filmed the destroyed grave. Only four days after the filming, all the graves were destroyed.

6. 15 Shahrivar 1386 [6 September 2007]: All the graves were destroyed; tombstones were piled on top of each other and the trees under the stones were destroyed. See the related pictures below. After this incident, with regard to this large-scale attack on the cemetery, the Baha’is of the region filed a written complaint with the governor’s office.

7. 21 Shahrivar 1386 [12 September 2007]: All intact stones and broken graves were transported by a truck to an unknown location and the entrances to the cemetery (embankment ways) were blocked.

Also, all the 10 graves dug and ready for burial in plot 2 were filled.

After these incidents, until mid-Mehr 1386 [October 2007], the Baha’is of the region submitted written complaints and grievances to the provincial intelligence office, the governor’s office, the governor general’s office, the prosecutor’s office, and the office of the Friday prayer leader.

On 30 Mehr 1386 [21 October 2007], at the time of the burial of a Baha’i, the Intelligence and Security Forces came to the place and verbally banned the burial of the corpses at the site.

At midnight of 1 Aban 1386 [23 October 2007], shabnameh[1] containing threats and insults against Baha’is and Baha’i corpses, signed by [a group called] Religious and Zealous Youth, were installed in the public squares of Vilashahr and dropped at the homes of a number of Baha’is. In the picture below, you can see the mentioned shabnameh.

8. Aban 1386 [October/November 2007]: The embankment around the cemetery and the embankment at the western entrance were destroyed by a bulldozer.

9. Aban 1386 [October/November 2007]: Two graves dug and ready for burial were filled in by unidentified individuals.

10. 28 Aban 1386 [19 November 2007]: A green signboard was placed at the cemetery containing the text: “Any seizure and burial of a body in the national lands without obtaining a permit is prohibited and anyone who does so will be prosecuted.” This sign was installed in one of the graves that was empty and ready for burial, under the name of Isfahan Natural Resources Department and Najafabad Natural Resources Department. You can see the pictures below in this context.

11. Azar 1386 [November/December 2007]: An empty grave was filled with soil, and in the second plot, the grave mounds which were created for the demarcation of a number of graves for the recently deceased were leveled. It should be noted that, after the repeated destruction of the cemetery and the lack of tombstones, the Baha’is were forced to identify and mark the graves of their loved ones with soil mounds.

After the death of one of the Baha’is in early Azar 1386 [November/December 2007] and his burial, on 11 Azar 1386 [2 December 2007], a number of Baha’is in the area―Farhad Ferdowsian, Mojdeh Eghterafi and Houshmand Talebi―were summoned to the Intelligence and Security Forces. After appearing before the Intelligence Forces, they were sent to court and then arrested. It should be noted that Mojdeh Eghterafi had her several-month-old baby with her. A few days after their arrest, these three were released.

On 18 Azar 1386 [9 December 2007], two other Baha’is in the area, Shamim Rouhi and Mehran Zeini, were summoned to the office of the Intelligence Forces and interrogated. On the same date, the five [mentioned individuals] were taken to court where they were verbally informed by the Provincial Security Council that burial in the cemetery was prohibited.

From this date until Bahman 1386 [January/February 2008], the Baha’is of the region continued to plead for justice and complained to various authorities, including the Office of the President, the Ministry of Interior, and the Court of Administrative Justice. Several times, in a letter, they demanded the allocation by the government of a piece of land to bury their dead.

On 20 Ordibehesht 1387 [9 May 2008], the Baha’is’ complaint against the district intelligence service was rejected by the Administrative Court of Justice.

12. 6 Farvardin 1387 [25 March2008]: A number of new tombstone signs containing the details of the deceased that had just been installed on the graves, were broken and destroyed.

13.12 Ordibehesht 1387 [1 May 2008]: All newly installed graves and gravestones were destroyed, and a large number of worn out car tires were set on fire on the site of plot 1. The pictures below are related to this incident.

Following the death and burial of a Baha’i on 22 Ordibehesht 1387 [11 May 2008], Farhad Ferdowsian, Masoud Behshad, Vajihollah Ferdowsian, and a few days later Nahid Hatamikia, Houshmand Talebi, and Mehran Zeini, were summoned to the office of the Intelligence and Security Forces and interrogated.

On 4 Khordad 1387 [24 May 2008] they were summoned to the court. Three of them were sentenced to detention. The three who were transferred to Dastgerd Prison were Farhad Ferdowsian, Houshmand Talebi and Mehran Zeini.

On 7 Khordad 1387 [27 May 2008], the three were released on bail pending trial.

On 3 Mordad 1387 [24 July 2008], the court verdict was announced to these three people. They were sentenced to pay monetary fines and the burial of corpses was banned in the mentioned cemetery. From this date on, the Baha’is’ widespread appeals to various authorities to obtain burial permits, as well as to protest the ruling, were unsuccessful and, as in the past, were met with a negative response from the authorities.

14. Bahman 1387 [January/February 2009]: One of the water tanks in the cemetery area, which was previously separated from the installation site and was slightly damaged, was stolen.

On 26 Bahman 1387 [14 February 2009], the Court of Appeal announced the acquittal of the three detainees. The verdict also made reference to the veracity of the three defendants’ claim that the cemetery had been handed over to them for burial in 1374 [1995/1996] and that they had no evil intentions. Despite the ruling, as you will see below, the destruction of the cemetery continued. You see the ruling of the relevant court.

15. On 25 Esfand 1387 [15 March 2009]: The mounds which were created on all graves for their identification were leveled by unknown individuals with manual tools.

16. 30 Ordibehesht 1388 [20 May 2009]: A large signboard was installed in the cemetery area stating that the land had been transferred by the Natural Resources to the Municipality and that the burial of the dead was prohibited. You can see the picture of the board below.

After referring to the deputy of the Urban Development office, the deputy of municipal services, as well as the mayor of Najafabad, and the officials’ lack of information, the said sign was removed from the place by unknown individuals.

17. Mordad 1388 [July/August 2009]: A large volume of soil, nearly one metre high, was dumped on the entire surface of plot 1 as well as an area of plot 2, which included new graves.

On 1 Mordad 1388 [23 July 2009], after the death of a Baha’i, two officers from Najafabad Municipal Security Department arrived at the scene in a municipal vehicle during the burial ceremony and protested against the burial of the bodies. Then, three officers from the Intelligence Forces arrived at the scene in a private car. After observing the verdict of the Appeal Court, they stated that they were unaware of the matter. Meanwhile, the Intelligence Service Department called the home of a Baha’i and threatened to [respond] severely if deceased corpses were buried in the cemetery.

18. Mid-Shahrivar 1388 [September 2009]: The entire surface of the first plot and a part of the second plot were excavated and turned into deep holes and hills two or three metres high. The soil of some parts was removed to a depth of one metre; in addition, soil was brought from another place and heaped in other areas. In some places, the height of long mounds of hills reached three metres. The parking area on the north side of the cemetery and also on the south side, up to a distance of ten metres from the grave sites, were excavated and large pits and mounds of soil were created. It should be noted that tracks of bulldozers and dump trucks were visible throughout and around the area. Besides, the remains of a destroyed toilet building and water tanks that had been damaged in previous attacks were collected from the site. The pictures below are related to this incident.

On 24 Shahrivar 1388 [15 September 2009], after the passing of the late Azizollah Sobhi, the delivery of his body to his relatives was prevented. On 29 Shahrivar 1388 [20 September 2009], police officers arrived at the cemetery and prevented Baha’is from entering the cemetery.

On 5 Mehr 1388 [27 September 2009], Azizollah Sobhi’s body was transferred from Montazeri Hospital in Najafabad by municipal ambulance, 13 days after his death, to the Baha’i Cemetery in Isfahan in Sejzi, with the presence of Intelligence agents, and was buried without washing, shrouding and performance of the Baha’i religious rites.

Since then, the municipal officials have been present at the cemetery to prevent burials.

 

[1] [Shabnameh:  Flyers normally distributed secretly at night to spread opposition, literally “night letters”]