Iran Press Watch
The minds of all Iranians have been introduced to the “Bab’s sedition” and the “mischievous sect of Baha’i” since childhood; whether we like it or not, we have been influenced by it. At the time of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, even though some social safety net and some conveniences were created for the Baha’is of Iran, these still failed to clear the Iranian mind of judgments and prejudices.
Although the basis of authors’ notes and utterances on the subject of Baha’ism has always been founded on universal norms of human rights, we cannot forget our historical brainwashing, the remnants of which can be seen everywhere, even in human rights and intellectual circles in Iran.
The social history of Iran, from the emergence of the “Bab” and the formation of “Baha’ism”, has been intermixed with two types of brainwashing; one concept of this brainwashing has been and still is based on a contrast between the “Muslim” and the “infidel”, which tends to place the Baha’i in a “hostile disbeliever” mode, built around a notion of an infidel who is at war with Shia Muslims. Another dimension of this brainwashing emphasizes the alignment of the Bab and Baha’ism with British imperialism, in order to target nationalistic sentiments and to influence secular Iranians. These two concepts have had great influence on the foundation of the Iranian mindset, which has always been used as the justification of our criminal rulers for historical massacres of Babis and Baha’is.
Although even during the rule of the second Pahlavi Shah we have seen violent attacks against Baha’i Centers (Haziratu’l-Quds (2)), in general, from the declaration of the Bab up to now, that era can be considered to be something of a respite in the lives of Baha’is, when they lived with a higher level of security. This was the case even though devout Muslims’ antipathy and hatred remained the same, nor would anti-colonial secularists relent on the idea that Baha’ism was a product of the colonial policies of Great Britain, and against the national interest of Iranians. Overall, Baha’is remained vulnerable despite the fact that their social status was not comparable with the period preceding the second Pahlavi Shah.
During the era of the second Pahlavi Shah, with this relative security, some historians investigated the roots of the declaration of the Bab and Baha’ism, in an environment free from the pre-judgments that had precipitated the mind of the society, and determined that the group’s tendencies towards modernism and the impact this had in moving Iranians away from prohibitive past traditions was influential. This having been said, they were not successful in radically changing that which had already fully taken shape in the mentality of a large segment of society. The time factor was involved in this inertia and stagnation; and then the Islamic Revolution in Iran closed the path to any continuing enlightenment of the society and to the resulting change in society’s mindset.
Baha’is under the control of the Islamic state which emerged from the Revolution immediately lost their security. In multitudes they were persecuted, their belongings confiscated, and they were sentenced to death by the state judicial institutions of this newly formed regime. The same process continues to this day.
More important, however, is the issue of kidnappings, which on the surface appear to have been carried out by unauthorized agents. Even the bodies of dozens of kidnapped Baha’is, as described by the survivors of the victims, have not yet been found.
Prior to the drafting and adoption of the Islamic Penal Code, groups connected to centers of emerging political power, and based on the fatwas of many Shiite religious leaders, allowed the murder of Baha’is as “enemy infidels” without being held accountable.
After the formulation and adoption of the “Islamic Penal Code”, this murder, slaughter and rampage found the necessary legislative support as well, and killing Baha’is became easier for the Revolutionary Courts and anti-Baha’i groups associated with them.
The entry of the expression “perverse blood” (3) into juridical terms, and the arbitrary and radical definition of this term by revolutionary law enforcement officers and specially appointed judges for murder and destruction of Baha’is, left no legal outlet for their defense, they killed and admitted no guilt, and, proud of their acts, would be rewarded by rewards from the anti-Baha’i population that supported the newly founded regime.
Baha’is have taken the path of emigration. According to Islamic Revolutionary laws, they were forced to return to the Islamic Regime funds that they had received as government salaries and pensions for work at state institutions during the rule of the Shah.
This was separate from the confiscation of the belongings of a large population who had earned their living by working in the private sector, for example confiscating the family home and demanding back pay for salary and death benefits paid to the widow of a simple clerk who had passed away. In some cases, when a woman continually requested the revolutionary courts for resolution, under the name of Islamic compassion they would provide a small room in a low income neighborhood of the town for her to live in.
However, with the existence of enough laws tending to the annihilation of Baha’is, and with Article 167 of Iran’s constitution, the Constitution of the IRI has left the courts’ perfectly able to cite the authority of the Fatwas of any religious leaders for any verdicts of the courts. In some cases, though, such as charges related to cooperation with imperialism, it was not possible to claim, and it was not possible to destroy Baha’is with charges of their ancestors’ contact with the embassies of Great Britain, so they resorted to the historical fact that the Baha’i world-wide holy places are located in Haifa, Israel, and that the Baha’i faithful send their charity contributions there, and have for long time been visiting these places in Israel.
Baha’i holy sites in Haifa essentially pre-date the establishment of the Israeli government. The lack of physical and financial security in Iran (the birthplace of the Baha’i faith) was responsible for this outcome. Nevertheless, they have used this historic event as a perpetual excuse (just as Othman’s shirt was used in history for anti-Shi’ite actions by Sunnis), and every time a Baha’i has any documents indicating travel to Israel, they are accused of cooperation with the Zionist regime with the intention to topple Islamic rule in Iran. This is a dangerous accusation, and the accused is incapable of defending against it, so after an unfair court proceeding, they may well be headed towards execution. In these cases, the dates of the travel or connection with the Baha’i institutions are not the issue, and even those who have traveled to their holy places in Haifa before the revolution are subjected to this kind of treatment.
Therefore, with the current government of Iran’s sensitivity about relations with Israel, and although a large number of Baha’is have emigrated abroad, inasmuch as Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran, if unfavorable developments take place in Iran and the denial of human rights and abandonment of international commitments become more pronounced than they are today, and the two signature covenants of “social and political rights” and “cultural and economic rights” are ignored even more, they will face serious danger ˗ the way the regime deals with them may take the shape of “genocide”, as defined by today’s international definitions.
The concerns and worries about a future that may be even bloodier than the past is prompting human rights activists to make the international community aware of the possible risks, and to demand accountability of the Iranian government.
Currently, those Baha’is who are imprisoned are facing such a difficult situation that it is not in accordance with the rights of prisoners as designated by the Iranian prison regulations Act approved in 2005.
On the other hand, in the cities of Iran, anti-Baha’i groups who are not far from the centers of political power attack the homes of known Baha’is in small towns and cities, and exert force and violence against their lives and property.
Up to now, It has not been heard that the Iranian government has demonstrated any accountability in response to human rights organizations, or shown any commitment to maintaining their safety. This degree of irresponsibility towards and denial of human rights is a warning that if radical Islamic forces take over control due to some political event, the entire Iranian Baha’i population would be in danger.
But the sufferings and deprivations of Iranian Baha’is does not end with imprisonment, murder and confiscation. Cultural repression of the Baha’is of Iran is also underway. One example of this rampage is the denial and exclusion of Baha’i youth from attending universities.
IRI (the Islamic Republic of Iran) calls Baha’i youth to mandatory military service, but will not allow them into universities. It even has blocked access to cyber education, and those Baha’i educators who have attempted to establish some educational opportunities for young Baha’is have been jailed. Consequently, through systematic action, the regime has forced Baha’i youth to leave their country. Only those seniors who have a dim presence stay; after they pass away, their legacy will become extinct in Iran.
Looking at the situation of our Baha’i citizens from any angle is disturbing and worrisome. Moreover, changes in the government and their claims about civil rights and reforms in Iranian society so far have not resulted in any benefit for the Baha’is of Iran, and has not reduced their suffering.
The fact that the current president of Iran continuously emphasizes that in Iran there are no class rankings, and all citizens enjoy the same rights, while at the same time they are not letting Baha’i youth into universities, is filled with contradictions. This is especially true because the speaker of these fine words does not clarify why the denial of Baha’i youth from a university education continues, even though the Ministry of Higher Education is under the chairmanship of the President, who is in charge of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution. So why, then, is it that he is not fulfilling his role in implementing equal rights for all Iranian citizens, at least only in this single area which is under his authority. Why?