[Newspaper:] Leeds Student

[Date:] 26 March 1982



The threat facing the Baha'is in Iran   


An estimated 170 Baha'is have been 'officially' executed or lynched by mobs in the past few months alone. Many others have simply disappeared. Baha'is have been dragged to the mosques for enforced mass conversion to Islam. Those who refuse are driven from their homes, some have been covered with petrol and burnt to death.

Certainly, martyrdom is not new for the Baha'is. Since its conception in Iran in 1844 the Baha'is have been the most frequently persecuted group in that country. In the mid-19th century over 20,000 early believers were the victims of massacres, and the Iranian Baha'i community has subsequently suffered continued persecution at the hands of successive governments. During the Pahlavi (Shah) regime (1921-79) outbreaks of physical violence against the Baha'is were fairly sporadic. However, whereas before the persecution was mainly on religious grounds, now the political vilification is a new and more explosive development.

The Baha'i Faith is an independant world religion, it has a relationship with Islam similar to that between Christianity and Judaism. A significant difference, however, is that the Baha'i Faith is now world embracing with over 112,000 locations where Baha'is reside and with literature published into 637 languages. They believe in the essential oneness of all the great world religions, and thus they still honour the Quran and Mohammed accordingly, but they follow the teachings of Baha'u'llah ('Glory of God') who claimed to be the Promised One of all religions.

The Baha'is are obvious targets and scapegoats. The mullahs (Muslim clergy) have singled them out for “elimination” (“naboudi”) because the Baha'is have no priests or fixed rituals. They offend deep-rooted prejudices by advocating fully equality for the sexes. And they arouse nationalist suspicions because they consider world government to be ideal and are forbidden to take part in politics, although pledging total and absolute loyalty to whatever government happens to be in power. They are accused of being "agents of Zionism and the CIA" and of "warring against God" – a charge that arises from an accident of history. Baha'u'llah was exiled from Iran (1853), then imprisoned in Palestine (1868), where he died, and thus the world centre of the Baha'is is on Mount Carmel in Israel.

Although Iran's 400,000 Baha'is are indigenous Iranians and constitute the largest religious minority in the country, they are denied recognition in the new Constitution which recognises the smaller Christian (200,000), Jewish (60,000) and Zoroastrian (20,000) minorities, and thus they are placed outside the protection of the law. In this way, Dr Samandari was recently executed for "the promotion of prostitution", the evidence for which was his signature as a witness on a Baha'i marriage certificate which is no longer legally recognised.

A prime reason for this history of repression is that the Baha'is are considered as heretics since they believe that Baha'u'llah was a Manifestation of God who is fulfilling the Islamic prophecies (amongst other religions) which is not acceptable in the light of some Quranic interpretations. Thus as Ayatollah Mousavi Tabrizi has declared, "The Quran recognises only the People of the Book as religious communities. Others are pagan. Pagans must be eliminated".

There are now very evident attempts to isolate and pinpoint Baha'is not only in Iran but throughout the world. A circular has been issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all their representatives abroad imposing upon them the duty of careful preparation and dispatch of the names of all Baha'is residing in their jurisdiction. They have also been instructed to refrain from renewing and extending the passports of Baha'is. This merely confirms the suspicions of British Baha'is as to the aim of the enemies of the Faith to persecute them abroad as well as in the land of its birth.

In Leeds, this has led to the harassment of the Iranian Baha'i students with anti-Baha'i literature exported from Iran and the attempted infiltration of the Baha'i community in order to destroy them from within. Most recently, a few of the Leeds Baha'i students have been approached and questioned in detail about their personal lives by Iranian "friends". The persecution has also permeated our colleges – one university Baha'i society in Britain was forcibly dissolved owing to serious disruptions of their meetings and the destruction of their exhibitions. This steady and relentless system of harassment and economic strangulation of Baha'i students in Britain has resulted in extreme hardship for all and destitution for some.

Baha'is in Britain now believe that only an outraged international reaction will adequately protect their brethren in Iran. The Baha'is in Leeds have contacted their local M.P.'s to support the Early Day Motion tabled by Dr. Maurice Miller (M.P.) and Lord McNair (M.P.) this coming week. Many leading politicians have already supported the Baha'is, in Parliament and elsewhere; among them being the Rt. Hon. Denis Healey, Stanley Clinton Davis, and the Rt. Hon. Julian Amery. On 8th July '81 a unanimous resolution was passed by the House of Commons, condemning "the relentless persecution in Iran of members of the Baha'i Faith and calls on humanitarian governments,...to bring pressure to bear on the government of Iran to see reason and to cease this appalling harassment of, and attempts to humiliate, members of the Baha'i Faith...".

International concern is growing. In September of this year both the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, and the European Parliament in Strasbourg (6th April '81) passed unanimous resolutions condemning the systematic persecutions. Universities and colleges have been slow in moving to support the Baha'is, perhaps because of their ignorance of the situation. In isolated cases, however, colleges are also beginning to become aware of the facts. This summer, Warwick University and the Oxford Dons of Trinity College (June '81) and Balliol College (July '81) signed petitions of their accord and sent them to Dr. Weildheim in New York (Secretary-General of the U.N.). The media responded much more quickly by publishing several lengthy articles in all the national newspapers and giving television coverage of events (e.g. Credo 15th Nov).

In the face of over 2 years in which Baha'i cemeteries have been desecrated, Holy places raised to the ground, centres confiscated, assets turned over to the “Foundation for the Dispossessed”, and the purging of Baha'is from their jobs, the experts on Iran believe that international pressures will not be enough to prevent the extermination of the Baha'is. Regardless of the knowledge that Baha'is are obliged, as an article of their Faith, to show loyalty and obedience to the government of the country in which they reside, and to abstain from participation in politics or subversive activities, the Iranian Government continues to pursue a campaign openly aimed at the total destruction of the Baha'i community in Iran. These same principles leave the Baha'is open to accusations of collaborating with previous governments, conveniently neglecting that the Baha'is also suffered under those regimes. The argument is strengthened by pointing to a few Baha'is who have held respected posts in government owing to the Baha'i emphasis on trustworthiness and a striving for a high standard of education.

The killings have risen exponentially, both in numbers and in their degree of savagery. Several reports speak of the bodies of Baha'is being hacked to pieces and thrown to dessert jackels. In Semnan, three nurses were killed with hatchets – and people came to touch the hands of the assassins to be blessed.

The peril of the Baha'is in Iran is as great as was that of the Jews in Germany after Hitler's anti-semetic Nuremberg Laws were introduced in 1935. They are more alone in Iran than were the Jews in Nazi Germany. Both mullahs and politicians unite in boasting of the actions taken against them.

Iran's other minorities have said nothing, probably out of prudence. The plight of the Baha'is in Iran is clear – Genocide.



























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