Bahais in Iran

Baha'is Need Justice! (Part 2)

Dr. Majid Naficy

From 1964 to 1981, occasionally I associated with Baha’is, and heard good things about them from my friends.  For example, I heard about Bahram Sadeq, a renowned storywriter from Najafabad who was a Baha’i.

However, it was on September 17, 1981, when I felt I had the same destiny as Baha’is. It was over two years since the revolution in Iran.  The government was based on a new footing.  Fundamentalist militant rulers were violently persecuting and executing members of the Iranian National Front and Communist Parties.  These groups were the ones that had played a crucial role in uprooting the Pahlavi regime and bringing the Khomeini regime to power.

On September 16, my wife and colleague, Izzat Tabaian, left the house.  That night, she phoned a friend and hurriedly told him that while being chased by the Islamic Militia, she had fallen and broken her pelvic bone. My wife asked him to contact me and tell me to quickly destroy all incriminating evidence in the house.  The next day, the same friend asked if I had a safe place to spend the night, knowing that our home would not be spared from attacks.  When I replied that I had nowhere to go, he suggested a large house on Lashkar square that belonged to his old aunt. I knew his aunt was a Baha’i, and her house would not be a safe place either. However, after knocking at the doors of a few acquaintances, we had no choice but to go to his aunt’s house. A deft servant opened the door and led us in.  The old aunt told us how Islamic forces had arrested the last members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Tehran.  She was worried about her own safety as well.

{josquote}In my opinion, a democratic Iranian Baha’i must not only defend the rights of all heterodox thinkers in Iran, but must first and foremost defend the rights of the followers of Azal who call themselves by the name Bayani.{/josquote}

That night, I had the strange feeling that Tahirih, the courageous Babi Poetess, was talking to me from the edge of the well into which she had been thrown after being strangled, 150 years before.  I was seeing a connection between Tahirih and the painful fate of my wife in the claws of her tormentors. A few years later on September 18, 1986, I wrote a poem, printed in the compilation Raftam Golat Bechinam [I went to take your flower] in memory of my wife Izzat, and the old Baha’i woman who offered me her home as refuge:

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Trial of Iranian Baha'i Leaders: A No Win Situation for the Islamic Republic

Bijan Masumian

The news coming out of Iran indicates that at some time in the future, the Islamic Republic government intends to put the seven leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community on trial. The group, which includes two women, has been in “temporary” custody for over ten months. The official charges are:

  1. Espionage for the state of Israel: a sentence that could carry the death penalty
  2. Activities against the Islamic regime
  3. Insulting government authorities
{josquote}[The government has] never bothered to explain to an inquiring world what kind of “spy” was an eighty-five-year-old man like ‘Abdu’l-Vahab Kazemi of Yazd who had never set foot outside his village.{/josquote}

More than likely, the trial will be conducted behind closed doors, so neutral observers will not be able to watch the Iranian judicial system make a mockery of justice.  Ironically, the cost of taking the Baha’i leaders through a show trial would be quite high for the government.  Global coverage of news having to do with the persecution of Baha’is has been on a steady rise in the past few years.  In the process, increasing numbers of Iranian groups and media outlets have risen to the defense of Iran’s largest religious minority.  The highly publicized open letter of apology recently issued by a group of Iranian professionals that included political activists, poets, musicians, actors, and others was a clear indication of the increasing cost the regime will have to incur if it continues to disregard public opinion and carry on repressive measures against its largest religious minority.  Even inside Iran, certain members of the clerical establishment as well as Iranian students and university professors have demanded justice for the Bahá’ís in public seminars.

While the likely scenario of a closed-door trial for the Baha’i leaders has its cost, the alternative would come at a much higher cost: allowing the internationally known and respected Noble Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, to publicly grill the Islamic Revolutionary Court and an Islamic judge who has little to no experience in contemporary legal proceedings, who would thus prove no match for Ebadi’s expert defense.

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Baha'u'llah's Words on Billboards in Isfahan

In Isfahan, a couple of billboards now display the words of Baha’u’llah, Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, from the “Hidden Words”. On one it says, “In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love” and the other says, “Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee”. The billboards are placed on the main city circle  by Sazman Farhang Tahrifi Shahrdari Isfahan (Isfahan’s municipality’s Organization for spread of culture).

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Parliament Ready to Approve Budget Item to Combat Baha'is

Iran's Parliament

Ayandeh Rouchan news agency is the mouthpiece of orthodoxy and fanaticism in Qom. On Sunday, March 8, 2009, it reported that Iran’s Parliament had finally passed the administration’s budget request for the next fiscal year by a vote of 148 Members of Parliament out of a total of 237.

According to the same report, on the recommendation of the Social Committee, a sum of 30 billion Rials [equivalent to $3.1 million] has been allocated for “promotion of teaching and dispatch of teachers to combat Satan-worshippers, Sufis and Baha’is.”

{josquote}You’ve got to love Iran’s fiscal responsibility!{/josquote}

The same report indicates that this sum will be deducted from the budget of the Executive branch and added to Qom’s budget for seminary schools.

You’ve got to love Iran’s fiscal responsibility!

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"Debunking the Myths" on Baha'is

Conspiracy theories are popular in this region for a good reason: they allow us to perceive ourselves as powerless victims and blame our shortcomings and insecurities on others. For decades, Baha’is have been painted as the enemy within, plotting and conspiring to harm their nations and act against its interests.

In order to confront these allegations, 18 year old Adib Masumian wrote a book titled, “Debunking the Myths” in which he analyzes and refutes the accusations made against the Baha’i Faith. Adib kindly consented to an interview on the claims made against Baha’is, and how he addresses them in his book.

What sparked you into writing “Debunking the Myths”?

I had been noticing an increasing number of Muslims on the Internet stating that the Bahá’í Faith was a creation of the Russians and, more than anything else, that we were Zionists. This was about a year ago and I hadn’t done research on this subject, but I still knew that these claims were totally false. I wanted to refute those errors with evidence because the idea that we were a secretly Israeli or Russian movement came across as absolutely ridiculous to me.

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