- Elika Mahony’s music: Persecution – Dedicated to the Baha’is in Iran
- The Greatest Sin: Being a Bahai in Iran
- Arab Times: Iran slaps 20-year jail terms on 7 Bahai
- 31 Eminent Indians Call on the Iranian Government for Immediate Release of the seven Baha’i leaders (II)
- “Where is the Justice? stories from behind closed doors,” by Rosa Vasseghi
- Only Democracy For Iran calls the International Criminal Court to action.
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 07:01 PM PDT
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 11:41 AM PDT
by Fariba Amini
In 1952, an emissary went to Ayatollah Boroujerdi (the highest ranking Shi’a cleric) to ask him to tell members of the Fedayeen-e Islam not to engage in disruptive and violent acts. Boroujerdi did not relent. After all, he and Ayatollah Kashani were the spiritual leaders of the Fedayeen. Since long before and during the 1950’s, members of the cult were engaged in acts of violence including the murder of historian Ahmad Kasravi, journalist Mohammad Masoud, PM Razmara, and members of the Bahai faith. That emissary was my father who had been given the task by Mohammad Mosaddeq.
Even though many Bahais had supported Reza Shah , he had chosen to close down their main schools, Tarbyiat. Historians interpret this move differently, some arguing that in his decision to close the Bahai schools the Shah was motivated less by anti-Bahai sentiments than by a suspicion of anything beyond his control. Bahais at times suffered discrimination, but they also grew in number under his rule, encountering less violence than under the Qajars.
Nearly four decades later, a General, who had broken down Mosaddeq's house door and was involved in the coup against his government, was given clemency by the newly established Islamic regime. Under Mohammad Reza Shah, he was given the task of desecrating Hazirat ol -Qods, the main shrine  of the Bahais. The General's name was Nader Batmanglidj. After the fall of the Shah, as a number of generals were executed, his life was spared because of his role in the destruction of the shrine.
Recently I came across an informative but disturbing article , "The stabbing of Dr. Berjis," from the hand of Nasser Mohajer, published in Baran, Spring/Summer 1387/2008, regarding the killing of a Bahai doctor in Kashan. This happened in 1942. Dr. Sulayman Berjis, whose ancestors had come from Hamadan, had moved to the city of Kashan with his family. He was a physician doing good deeds for the community and saving lives in his practice. He had a pharmacy where poor people could get free medicine and treatment. He was also the head of the Bahai community in a city where Bahais once thrived. He had acquired a good name because of his compassionate work. One day, a few young men entered his practice, asking him to come and help a sick person. He left his patients and went with them to a location where he was met by another man. They threatened him that if he didn't abandon his faith, they would kill him. Realizing that he was trapped, he tried to escape to a nearby house. But the four killers went after him with knives. They caught him, threw him down and viciously stabbed him to death. Rasoul Zadeh, their leader, (In June 1988, Kayhan published Haj Rasoul Zadeh's obituary as having been a devout Muslim and a true follower of Navab Safavi, who had engaged in the heroic act of killing a Zionist element in Kashan!) then cut his throat. Blood was everywhere. Dr. Berjis had done nothing wrong. In fact, he was an exemplary citizen and a dedicated doctor in a place where his services were much needed. He had saved lives and was in the prime of his life (he was only 54 when he died) but he lost his own life because he was a Bahai.
The murderers went to the police and confessed to the killing. They were proud of their action and had no remorse. After all, the killing was done according to a Fatwa (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Gharavi , the local Grand Mojtahed ( highest cleric in town). A trial took place and after 8 months of investigation, upon the orders from Tehran, all four (and an additional four more who were co-conspirators in the crime) were acquitted. All the young men, ages 17 and 18, barely having grown a beard, had been members of the Fedayeen-e Islam. Kashani and Boroujerdi (the latter being a staunch anti-Bahai ) had intervened on their behalf and had asked that they be set free. Their request had been granted. The killers went free while an innocent doctor had been given the death sentence. His family never got any form of justice. They had quietly buried him in a cemetery designated for Bahais. (See article that details the entire episode and the trial).
In 1979, shortly after the Iranian Revolution, the Bahai cemetery in Shiraz, one of the largest in Iran, was desecrated by extreme elements. Bahais were rounded up and beaten. Many were arrested. Families were dispersed. Many were not able to attend universities as a few students who were working at a grocery store in the Washington area and had left Iran through Turkey told me. They said they had wanted to stay and continue with their education in their hometown of Shiraz if they had been allowed. But they were denied their basic right as citizens to get an education. "Compared to other religious minorities in Iran, the Bahais lived under much harsher conditions, for they were the only religious minority that was neither officially recognized nor given freedom of worship." (The Forgotten Schools: The Baha'is and Modern Education in Iran, 1899-1934, Soli Shahvar).
The Islamic Republic is merciless when it comes to members of the Bahai faith. It is the greatest sin to be a Bahai because in the eyes of Islam the idea of divine revelation after the death of the Prophet Mohammad—the Seal of the Prophets— is unacceptable. The regime’s Shi’a leaders consider the Bahai faith dangerous; to them it is the highest form of apostasy. The Bahais are also branded as Zionists. One reason for this is that Mirza Hossein Ali Nouri, aka Bahaollah, who was forced to leave Iran, ended up in Ottoman Iraq and by way of Istanbul went to Palestine where he died in 1892 in the city of Akko, now in Israel. Following an anachronistic reading of history, the clergy see him and the Bahais as brothers –in- arms of the Jewish state and its potential ally.
According to a brochure published in 2009 by the International Federation of Human Rights Communities (FIDH) on the history of execution in Iran, there are about 300,000 Bahais in Iran( It is inherently difficult to establish an accurate number). “Not only they are denied their civil rights but the number of executions has been higher than any other religious minority.” The same report states that between 1979-1980, more than 200 Bahais had been executed or murdered. Fifteen others had disappeared most likely killed. In 1984, in Shiraz alone, 10 Bahai women were executed after disobeying orders giving up their faith for Islam. One was Mona Mahmoud Nejad, who at the time of her arrest was 16 years old. She was seventeen when she was executed in Adel Abad prison in Shiraz. Another 15 year old boy, Peyman Sobhany, was beaten and then stoned to death.
In recent times, a number of Bahai leaders and community members have been arrested and incarcerated. It is now a repeat of what took place almost three decades ago. Bahais are not just targeted by extreme elements of the Islamic regime. The sad part is that even a Khatami official told me once that Bahais are not to be supported even if they are imprisoned. I shook my head in disbelief and my reply was (I know I am not alone in this respect as many Iranians and Iranian Americans have expressed their outrage): "They are no different from you and I." They should not be singled out for their faith or way of life, especially if they have committed no crime, are honorable citizens and love and worry about Iran as much as the next person.
I remember talking with those young men while they were packing bags of grocery. They were two brothers and their cousin. I saw sadness in their eyes. They had lost a few years waiting in Turkey for their papers in order to travel to the US. One of them said to me, I wish I could go back and live again in the city of Shiraz where I grew up and had my roots. "I loved Shiraz," he said.
Hafez and Sa’adi of Shiraz, who wrote about beauty, wine and their love for mankind, are now turning in their graves at the thought of what is happening to Iran. Wouldn’t you?
 The Baha’is, in accordance with direct teaching of the Baha’i Faith, obey the ruling government of the land in which they live. As much as this practice can be interpreted as “supporting” the ruling government, that is not case. In a worldview of dichotomies where people “have positions” or “take sides” or “support” or “reject”, are “pro” or “anti” one thing or another in the frenzy of debates and clashes, it is very difficult to fully understand this particular aspect of the Baha’i teachings.
 “Hazirat ol -Qods” (Haziratu’l-Quds), is an Arabic term that is used to refer to Baha’i House of Worship (see Wikipedia here). However, the structure that the author refers to here was a Baha’i Centre for gatherings and meetings of the Baha’i community in Tehran.
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 11:22 AM PDT
(Arab Times) PARIS, Aug 9, (AFP): Iran has sentenced seven leading members of its Bahai reli- gious minority to 20-year jail terms, a spokeswoman for the French members of the faith told AFP on Monday.
Source: Arab Times, p. 9, Tuesday, August 10, 2010, see an image of the page 9 here: Arbatimes Bahai
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 10:59 AM PDT
We, add our voices to the vast and growing numbers of individuals, agencies and governments the world over who out of a sense of outrage and distress have spoken up in defense of the seven innocent Iranian Bahá’í leaders who have been sentenced to twenty years imprisonment by the Government of Iran on patently false and unjustifiable charges.
The legal process that was followed to arrive at this appalling judgment has been found to be riddled with the most glaring anomalies. These seven honest and law-abiding individuals were first arrested in 2008 and were held for nine months before the charges against them were announced. They were given no more than an hour's access to their lawyers before their trial began. Throughout this period, they were denied bail and were held under conditions of great physical and psychological hardship. This catalogue of abuses and illegal actions reached its crescendo with the announcement of the prison sentence. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Laureate whose Defenders of Human Rights Center represented these seven Bahá’ís said in a television interview on the day they were sentenced, “I have read their case file page by page and did not find anything proving the accusations, nor did I find any document that could prove the claims of the prosecutor."
The truth is that the only crime that these seven individuals – two women and five men, the oldest among them being 77 years old – have committed is that they are Bahá’ís. They are peace – loving and obedient to the law of their land and have worked for the betterment of Iranian society.
The Iranian Bahá’í community has been the object of persecution from the time of its inception in 1844. Ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, these persecutions have intensified. Bahá’ís have been expelled from jobs in public institutions, they have been deprived of higher education, their marriages are not recognized, their shrines and sacred places have been destroyed, their graves have been vandalized, their institutions and literature have been banned and they have been denied any means to express their beliefs or defend themselves. In speaking up for these seven Bahá'í leaders we are therefore also standing up for the 3,00,000 Iranian Bahá’ís, who constitute that country's largest religious minority, whose lives have been blighted and whose progress has been crippled by the injustices that have so systematically and remorselessly been visited upon them.
As citizens of India, a country that has rightfully prided itself in exemplifying for the world the spirit of coexistence and tolerance, we feel impelled to voice our strong condemnation of this travesty of justice. We also express our deep concern for the imprisoned Bahá'ís and their families.
We call upon all those who are committed to peace and justice in India to join us in petitioning the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release these and other Bahá'ís who have been unjustly imprisoned in Iran.
India and Iran have had historic ties of language, poetry, architecture, music and religion. In the name of these ancient ties that bind our two nations, we call on the Government of Iran to act according to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it has ratified. These provisions mandate the upholding of the principles of justice and freedom-principles cherished by all great religions of the world and all nations.
We remind the Government and leadership of Iran that they must honour their own historic action of 1948 in supporting and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Both Iran and India were prominent among the countries that voted for this landmark declaration — which confers upon all its signatories the obligation – and the privilege — to uphold, honour and defend human rights without distinction of any kind.
We call on the Indian Government to use its good offices with Iran to ensure that the seven detainees are immediately released and given a fair hearing in accordance with the international standards of jurisprudence.
JUDICIARY AND OFFICIAL AGENCIES
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India
MEDIA AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 10:48 AM PDT
Inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, in face of bitter and most horrible injustice, the Baha’is of Iran focus their creative energies in bringing about awareness and positive transformation to the World.
Rosa Vasseghi, faithful to her belief in nobility of humanity and absolutely convinced by the truth of the core teaching of the Baha’i Faith on oneness of mankind, sets out to “tell” the world, in her book Where is the Justice: stories from behind closed doors, about her life in her homeland Iran, and the life of her dear sister, Rozita, who is at this moment in prison in Iran for her belief in same truth that motivates millions of Baha’is around the world to dedicate themselves at the hour of down of every day to the dual character of their purpose in life: to achieve a personal transformation, and to effect a social transformation to help bring about an ever advancing civilization.
Some excerpts from Rosa’s interview at Treasures of Wonderment:
Please read the full article here: http://www.treasuresofwonderment.com/story/2010-06-19/i-came-tell-you
Posted: 14 Sep 2010 10:11 AM PDT
Only Democracy For Iran published an article in which it discusses the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and its role in brining about charges of crime against humanity to the political leaders currently in power in Iran. Iran Press Watch of course, being inspired by the Baha’i principals of non-political involvement, does not endorse the ideas one way or the other, however, the mention of the Baha’i persecution in the article is accurate and of interest to us:
You can read the full article here: http://www.onlydemocracy4iran.com/2010/07/19/secular-democracy-it-all-starts-with-the-arrest-warrant-for-khamenei-and-ahmadinejad/
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Iran Press Watch: The Baha'i Community Part 1
Iran Press Watch: The Baha'i Community Part 1
Iran Press Watch: The Baha'i Community Part 1
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