Bahais in Iran

Iranian Baha'i told "Your education has been terminated"

Goldasht Valley

Like thousands of other hopeful young Iranians Ameed Saadat sat Iran’s 2008 national university entrance examination. He passed was accepted to study hotel management at Goldasht College in Kelardasht, Mazandaran, and began his studies.

Sadly, though, Mr Saadat suffers from a severe disability as far as the Iranian authorities are concerned. He is a Baha’i - and he says so publicly. The college’s registration form requires students to identify their religion. Ameed, being honest (as Baha’is should be) had identified himself as a Baha’i.

Deny that you’re a Baha’i or else…

In the following weeks he was told several times by the college authorities to change the information on the form about his religion. He refused to do.

You can’t sit our exams

The day before his first-term examinations were to begin the college director told Ameed that he was being expelled and would therefore not be allowed to sit the examinations.

“Morality issues”

When Ameed’s fellow students found out that he was being excluded from the exams, they were outraged. They demanded to know why the college had done this.

A college official told them that he’d been dismissed on account of “morality issues”.

Ameed asked the official what precisely his “moral problem” was.

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Remembering the Baha'i of Iran

The Bahai temple in Haifa, Israel

 Published in Payvand Iran News on Nov. 28, 2008. 

FULL ARTICLE HERE. Reported and Photographed from New York, London and Iran by Deena Guzder.

On November 28, 2008 the Bahá’í community will commemorate one of its holiest days, the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, with an evening of scriptures, prayers, music and festivities. Today, the Bahá’í community consists of five million members who live in 189 countries and 46 territories. The one place where Bahá’ís remain deeply unwelcome is Iran, the incubator of their faith. There are 350,000 Persian Bahá’ís and they constitute the largest religious minority in Iran but Iran’s constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism as legitimate religions. Bahá’ís are considered heretics by Iran’s clergy because Bahá’u'lláh denied that Muhammad was the last prophet by claiming that he himself was the latest prophet of God. “The idea of a new prophet after Mohammed is heretical under Islamic theology,” said Mohammad Fadel, a professor at the University of Toronto Law School who teaches “Religion and the Liberal State: The Case of Islam.”

{josquote}I think a lot of Iranians are interested in the Bahá’ís as an alternative to the theocracy because it shows we can be morally conservative but socially progressive{/josquote}

Erfan Sabeti, a Persian Bahá’í and Ph. D. candidate in Religious Studies at Lancaster University England, is proud of his faith although he’s suffered for his outspokenness. “One day, I was slapped by a teacher four times in front of my classmates and called an impure infidel who would pollute the Koran,” said Sabeti. Bahá’ís like Sabeti who openly declare their faith are denied university entrance in Iran. “The Iranian government restricts education to dumb down and under-develop our community in hopes of preventing the transmission of culture, leaders and heritage,” said Sina Mossayeb, who is a History Ph. D. candidate at Columbia University and is writing his doctoral thesis on religious minority groups in Iran. In May of 2006 the authorities arrested 54 Baha’i youth who were teaching English, math, and other non-religious subjects to underprivileged children in the southern city of Shiraz, according to Human Rights Watch. None of the Baha’i youth were charged with a crime.

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New wave of arrests in Iran

Recently, Human Rights Activists in Iran published several troubling reports on Baha’is from several cities across Iran being incarcerated. On the 14th of November, the following report was published:

The Incarceration of the Baha’is continues

As the seven leaders of the Bahá’í community in Tehran, three Bahá’í youth in Shiraz and others are still incarcerated, a new wave of arrests has commenced. According the report on 10/18/2008, two Baha’is from Behshahr (province of Mazandaran) with names of Tarazullah (Ziyaullah) Verdi and Ms. Sonia Tebyanihan have been arrested under the charge of propagation against Islam and connection with the House of Justice. They are still held under suspicious circumstances in Sari.

Also Mr. Siyamak Ebrahimi from Tonekabon who was arrested and released on bail two years ago was illegally apprehended on November 4th and sentenced to 6 month in prison and 2 years of exile to Zabol.

Also it has been reported that three Baha’is have been arrested in Yasooj whose identities are not known.

It was followed by this report two days later:

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Document Vindicating Baha'i Youth Prisoners in Shiraz

[On Thursday, 23 October 2008, the prestigious organization Human Rights Activists of Iran published a report vindicating the position of the Baha’i youth presently incarcerated solely for providing educational and socio-economic assistance to the underprivileged children of Shiraz. A translation of this report follows. It should be noted that in this discouraging time, when there are so many clerics and members of government in Iran who are glad to lie about the activities of Baha’is, Vali Rustami is worthy of praise for the seemingly simple fact that he is telling the undistorted truth. Ahang Rabbani.]

Our organization has gained access to the attached two-page document belonging to the office of the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. According to this document discovered in relation to the humanitarian activities of the 54 Baha’is in Shiraz arrested on August 2007 [N.b. correct date is 19 May 2006] on the charge of “participating in activities against state security”, these individuals are indeed innocent.

{josquote}From the beginning of their activities until now, these individuals regularly conducted these charitable and humanitarian classes once a week for junior youth and youth. Most of these classes have focused on writing, drawing, teaching hygiene and moral values, and there was no mention of religious or political matters. There was never any mention or any statement regarding Bahaism.{/josquote}

It is necessary to note that three of these individuals, namely, Raha Sabet, Haleh Rouhi and Sasan Taqva, have by now completed 10 months of their four-year sentence and continue to be incarcerated in the prison facility of the Ministry of Intelligence (known as Pelak 100), which is reserved only for interrogations and temporary arrests.

The remaining 51 individuals were sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence, which according to Ali-Reza Jamshidi, the spokesperson for the Judiciary, requires them to attend classes given by the national Ministry for Teaching Islam.

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For some, persecution lurks in every corner

“See the oppression inherent in the system! I’m being repressed!” Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I’m a compassionate person, but there are times I find persecution funny.

Not the kind where people are denied their legal rights, forbidden to practice their faith, beaten up for being gay or shot for challenging the government. What I find funny are the people who claim the perks of persecution — the aura of martyrdom, the heroism of battling overwhelming odds — without actually suffering.

A recent letter in the Daily News from a local “offended Christian,” for instance asserted that “For many years now, our children have not been permitted to pray in school.” This myth — that secular, Christian-hating, God-hating schools, backed by evil liberals in government, the courts and the ACLU are persecuting Christians and denying their right to pray — ranks with the religious right as an article of faith on a par with the Nicene Creed.

{josquote}Thus, Christians who believe they’re entitled to a government that endorses their faith, and schools that force all kids to pray to their God feel oppressed when the courts and schools tell them they have the same rights as Buddhist monks and Muslim imams — and that’s all.{/josquote}

It’s also a load of codswallop. Christians (and all other faiths) have the right to pray, say grace at lunch and read the Bible during recess, and courts have repeatedly overruled school districts that think otherwise. The ACLU has defended the rights of students to hand out religious literature in schools and sing religious songs in a school talent show.

What isn’t allowed is teachers pushing students to pray, schools mandating prayer or pushing for everyone to pray publicly at school events. And far from discriminating against Christians, that also applies to Buddhists, Wiccans, Jews, Baha’i, Muslims and Taoists.

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