Bahais in Iran

Selective Truths Revealed: The Case of Iranian Search Engines

Over the past few years, Iranian officials have championed ‘national’ tech development projects (such as the National Information Network (SHOMA) and Iranian versions of Western services), while eschewing foreign platforms like Viber and WhatsApp.

One of the most recent examples of this dynamic can be found in the February 2015 launch of three Iranian search engines: Parsijoo, Gorgor and Yooz. While this was announced in February, it should be noted that Parsijoo was in fact launched a few years ago, and Yooz was launched in early 2010. It’s unclear why the authorities are presenting them as “new”.

Government officials insist that Iranians can use domestic search engines without any disruption from the filtering system, regardless of what terms they search for. The authorities also maintain that these search engines can compete with Google and other Western alternatives.

{josquote}The results on all of the Iranian search engines were overwhelmingly hostile to Baha’is, with many referring to them as “the misguided Baha’i sect.”{/josquote}

Small Media’s latest report put these claims to the test. We picked six potentially keywords: ‘sex,’ Baha’i,’ ‘Mir Hossein Mousavi,’ ‘BBC Persian,’ ‘Facebook,’ and ‘VPN,’ and searched for them on the search engines mentioned above plus google. Here’s what we found:

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Iran Is Using a Neocon to Hack Its Foes

John Bolton

John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador under George W. Bush, is playing an unexpectedly prominent role in an Iranian cyberspying campaign.

In Iran’s intelligence war against America, the regime has a new weapon: “John R. Bolton.”

{josquote}This is what happened to Kit Bigelow, one of Washington’s leading advocates for the Baha’i...{/josquote}

No, Iran has not turned President Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations into a sleeper agent. Instead, hackers believed to be connected to the Tehran government are posing as Bolton on social media platforms in a scheme to get human rights activists and national security wonks to hand over their passwords and user names.

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Help! Bahais are taking over the gardens!

The latest story in Iran’s government-approved media is that Bahais are up to no good in an extensive park on the Western outskirts of Tehran, on the road to Kharaj, known as the Vardavard gardens. A google search at 17.30 GMT today found 408 media sites expressing their concern at Bahai activities in the area, in identical words. The stories have two different titles: “The Vardavard gardens are a safe place for immoral Bahai activities” [example] and “A place for having sex with girls, on condition of becoming a Bahai.” [example]. With respect to the latter: if Iranian society is full of young men and women who want to have sex with strangers, wouldn’t they simply find one other without needing to become Bahais? And find a nice mullah who will make sex with strangers all right an proper, by giving them a sigheh marriage for an hour or two?

According to the story, the Bahais attract converts through allowing immoral acts with Bahai women and girls, and therefore they are always on the lookout for safe places. In fact they are even attracting homosexuals! They have a big property in the area of the park, with lots of rooms and a pool and sound-proofing, where they have cocktail parties for boys and girls together. One of the sites even has a photograph. The camera doesn’t lie. Not only are there Bahais drinking beer and cocktails, there are women without hejab, the doors to the street are wide open, and there are no crowds of basij and hezbollah on motorcycles. Tehran is not what it used to be.

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Following Pope's Example, Iranian Dissident Kisses Feet of Baha'i Boy

Iranian dissident, Mohammad Nourizad has blogged about kissing the feet of a 4-year-old Baha'i boy whose parents are in jail because of their faith.

On July 15, Mohammad Nourizad, a former hard-line conservative columnist turned dissident, kissed the feet of a 4-year-old Baha'i boy named Artin.

Nourizad posted a photo of the scene on his blog along with an account of the meeting. "I told Artin: 'My little boy, I apologize to you on behalf of all of those who, in these Islamic years, have made you and your [Baha'i] fellows face injustice.'"

Nourizad, who has previously been accused by some of political exhibitionism, suggested that by kissing the boy's feet, he was following the example of Pope Francis, who earlier this year kissed the feet of a young female Muslim prisoner.

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What Does Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s New Reformist Leader, Mean For Baha’is in Iran?

{josquote}It’s likely Iran’s Baha’is will not see any strong action from Rouhani in their favor, but they may see an alleviation of persecution of their communities.{/josquote}

On Saturday, after Iranians turned out en masse to vote in Iran’s presidential elections, the tallied votes were called in favor Hassan Rouhani, a long-time politician, lawyer and cleric. International media have proclaimed Rouhani Iran’s “Reformist candidate”, his politics a “moderate” alternative to the hardline policies of Ahmadinajed. Celebrations in support of the President-elect have flooded have overwhelmed Tehran, according to media reports, and Iran’s liberal voters see Rouhani as a new beginning for Iranian politics.

It will be difficult for the President-elect to institute real change under Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, who commands his own unit of the Revolutionary Guard and will be able to supersede presidential edicts. The problems that perpetuate discrimination and persecution against ethnic and religious minorities in Iran are systematic and will be difficult to overcome for Rouhani, especially as conservatives and hardliners dominate all sectors of government, religious and democratic. Rouhani will have a hard time asserting his “moderate” agenda.

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