The Bahá'í minority in Iran has long been under pressure, and it seems the situation has become worse. Iranian authorities recently accused seven leaders of the Bahá'í faith of espionage. The Bahá'í themselves say they are being persecuted because of their religion.
A group of academics, writers, artists, journalists and Iranian activists throughout the world last month wrote an open letter to the Bahá'í religious community saying: we are ashamed of a century and a half of oppression!
Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran blog has published the Bahá'í International Community's letter to Iran's chief prosecutor:
“While the harassment and ill-treatment of Baha'is continued uninterrupted during this period, they have been taken to new levels of intensity in recent years as certain elements that have historically been bent on the destruction of the Baha'i community have assumed growing influence in the affairs of the country,” says the Baha'i International Community in the communication.
It notes that it was only in response to that persecution that small ad hoc groups were set up to “tend to the spiritual and social needs” of Iran's 300,000 Baha'is – and that for more than 20 years the government has worked with those structures.”
MidEast Youth introduces us to a timeline that documents violations perpetrated against Bahá'ís in the past 30 years, from executions, to arrests, expulsions and desecration. It's a “reminder of the heavy toll of silence in the face of grave human rights abuses.”
PejvakZedanyan shares the story [fa] of a talented Bahai Student, Mr. Shayan Moghymi who was banned from university after one year of study just because of his religion.
Another young Bahá'í student who was banned from studying in university shares [fa] his/her feeling about exclusion. The blogger writes:
به راستی این اقدام پایان داستان تحصیل من است ؟ یک جوان ایرانی بهائی بدون امکان ادامه تحصیل مثل هزاران جوان بهائی دیگر ؟ … چون اعتقاد من متفاوت است نمی توانم از حق ادامه تحصیل در کشور خود برخوردار شوم ؟
This is a personal story that took place in 1981 when I was the Director of the Foreign Press Department at Iran’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance.
I was in my office when a member of the Revolutionary Corps whom I had never met before came in and informed me that I did not have to pay my rent where I lived!
A. Mr. Sadegh, you don’t have to pay your rent.
(How he knew I was paying rent, I did not ask.)
A. Because your landlord is a Baha’i.
B. I don’t think so. He is a Zoroastrian.
A. No, he is a Baha’i and so you don’t to pay rent to him.
B. Listen, I have known him for several years now. I have no complaints against him. He is a very nice person. In addition, our place on the first floor – he lived on the third floor alone but his wife and his daughter lived in Chicago – has six rooms and in addition we are the only ones who have access to the huge and beautiful backyard. No Muslim would have rented that place to me for 3,000 Tomans only – about $300 U.S. dollars. I will pay my rent.
Several weeks later the landlord disappeared and we were deeply concerned that something might have happened to him. Finally his brother informed us that he had fortunately left the country.
Not long afterwards, I received a letter indicating that the Revolutionary Court had taken possession of the building and that I would have to pay the rent to their representative at an address in north of Tehran near the Shah’s palaces and about ten kilometer from the center of the city where we lived.
Interestingly enough, our previous wonderful landlord, a lady, and this was during the Shah regime was also a Baha’i about which I was initially unaware of as well.
Regarding the Baha’i faith, for years I have been using two of the tenets of the faith in my own discussions and writings about religion because for me they are analogous in their importance in regard to humanity to that of Einstein’s inspired discovery now at the foundation of the physical laws of the universe that Energy = Mass x Square of the Speed of Light.
One of the tenets is that “Man and woman are the wings of humanity.”This metaphor – reflecting the absolute necessity for the wings of an eagle, for example, to work in total cooperation, coordination, and equality in order for it to be able to soar to its highest height – can resolve the most contentious dilemma in human history in regard to the relationship between a man and woman – in spirit man and woman are equal.
This concept needs to be universally accepted in order to free half of humanity from the chains of servitude so that each woman can also have the opportunity to achieve its fullest God given potential.
The second tenet is that “Science and religion are the wings of humanity.” This inspired tenet of the Baha’i faith is another metaphor that can help resolve another major issue in our history. Science at its best increase human knowledge and religion at its best can point to the path most beneficial to humanity.
Poor Galileo Galilei who spoke the truth about the Solar System but had to spend the last years of his life under house arrest by the order of the Roman Inquisition instead of being honored as one of the world greatest scientists.
The Baha’i faith also emphasizes the unity of humanity and advocates the creation of a universal language to bring humanity closer together.
In addition, non-violence is at the core of the faith.
So, why are they being unjustly persecuted?
The most important factor affecting the present regime in Iran is that the founder of the Baha’i faith considered himself the expected Mahdi/the Messiah representing all existing faiths – a belief that completely undermines the existence of present regime and Islam as it now exists. But then even moderate Muslims are not free to be themselves in Iran.
What is interesting regarding Iran is that there was greater individual freedom during the dictatorship of the Shah regime. Baha’is were protected and honored by the regime. And all other religious minorities also lived in peace. Regarding the Muslims themselves, my mother, for example, would willingly cover herself from head to toe and my nieces could by contrast be walking on Hollywood Boulevard without attracting undue attention.
I believe in a Supreme Being but in reality there are as many God’s as there are human beings because no two individuals are ever identical in regard to their understanding of the universe. For instance regarding the interpretation of how Islam should manifest itself there is a wide gap between the present President of Iran and Mr. Khatami who aspires to become the president again.
What is significant regarding Islam is that according to the Qur’an and the story of Adam and Eve – that in my view should be interpreted metaphorically – all the angels bowed to Adam in obedience to God Almighty’s command except Satan who refused to do so. Did God ordered Satan to be persecuted? No, far from that. Satan was a given a free reign to do as it wishes till eternity, for in my opinion the Creator of the Universe is not and cannot be afraid of Its own creatures exercising independent judgment and freedom of expression because without freedom of choice that each individual is blessed with, we would not be any different than the other instinct driven creatures on Earth.
What is needed is for every nation to include in its supreme law of the land what I consider the most sacred of all writings in human history – the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that has made it possible for more than 300 million human beings representing every conceivable faith to coexist.
Thank you so much Global Voices for reporting about the human rights violation regarding the Bahá’ís in Iran.