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Baha'i Etudes

Studies baha'ies
A publication of the Une publication de
Association for I'Association
Baha'i Studies d'etudes baha'ies

12/13
..,
Baba'i Etudes
Studies baba'ies
Executive Committee Comite executif

Dwight Allen Willi am Hatcher Dwight Allen William Hatcher


Hossai n Danesh Douglas Martin Hossa in Danesh Douglas Martin
Glen Eyford Peter P. Morgan Glen Eyford Peter P. Morgan
Richard Gagnon Dorothy Ne lson Richard Gagnon Dorothy Ne lson
l ane Nishi Goldstone Nasse r Sabet lane Nishi Goldstone Nasser Sabet

Editorial Board
Christine Zerbini s

Comite de redaction
Christine Zerbinis
THE PERSECUTION OF
/ /

Hossa in Danesh
William Hatcher
Peter P. Morgan
Chri sti ne Zerbinis
Hossain Danesh
William Hatcher
Peter P. Morgan
Christine Zerbinis
THE BAHA'IS OF IRAN,
Among the activities of the Association for Baha ' i Studies
are seminars and lectures held in conjunction w ith the Annual
Les activites de l'Association d'etudes baha ' ies compren-
nent, entre autres , des semina ires et des conferences tenus
1844-1984
Meeting, thu s providing an opportunity for scholars to share dans Ie cadre de I'Assemblee annueJle, donnant ainsi aux
insights and ideas on promising field s of research. BAH A ' I specialistes I'occasion de partager des idees et des points de
STUDIES is primarily a record of these papers and other vue intere ssants dans des domaines de recherche pro met-
scholarly work of a related nature. TIle Association also aims
to deve lop courses, lectureships, and other forma l presenta-
teurs. ETUDES BAHA'IES pn:sente ces travaux de
recherche et d'autres ouvrages du me me ordre. L'Association
Douglas Martin
tions on the subject of the Baha'i Faith at Canad ian institu- a aussi pour but d'etendre Ie champ de ses activites dans les
tions of hi gher learning. institutions canadiennes d'enseignement superieur par des
A cardinal principle of the Baha'i Faith is the independent cours, des conferences et d'autres presentations officielles sur
investigation of truth. While no member of the Baha'i Faith la foi baha 'ie.
would suggest that his, views represent an authoritati ve inter- La recherche independante de la verite etant un principe
pretation of the Teachings of Baha 'u'lIah, an attempt to relate fondamental de la foi baha ' ie, aucun adepte de celle-ci ne se
the truths of Reve lation to'the fruits of a scrupulously scien- permettrait de suggerer que son point de vue puisse repn!-
tific approach to phenomena in any given fi eld of research lies senter une interpretation definitive des enseignements de Published by
at the very core of Baha' i intellectual life. Baha'u'lI ah; cependant. la tentative d'etablir un rapport entre
The opinions and findin gs ~xpressed are sole ly those of the les verites de la Revelation et les resultats d'une etude The Association for Baha'i Studies
authors of the papers and do not necessarily reflect the views rigoureusement sc ientifique dans tout domaine de recherche
of the Association. donne exprime I'essence meme de la vie intellectue lle
A publication of the Association for Baha'i Studies. baha'ie.
Les opinions et les conclusions presentees sont unique-
Copyright © 1984, Association for Baha'i Studies. All ment celles des auteurs des essais et ne refletent pas neces-
rights reserved. Printed in Canada. Copyright laws require sairement Ie point de vue de I'Association.
that anyone wi shing to translate or reproduce, in whole or part Vne publication de I'Association d'etudes baha'ies.
(other than brief quotations), any articles in Bahli' [ Studies
must obtain written permission from the Association. Copyright © 1984 , l'Association d'etudes baha'ies. Tous
Correspondence may be addressed to: The Association for droits reserves. lmprime au Canada. Toute traduction ou
Baha ' i Studies, 34 Copernicus Street, Ottawa, Ontario reproduction, en totalite ou en partie (it I'exception de courtes
Canada KIN 7K4 . citations), de cet ouvrage intitule Etudes balui'fes est inter-
dite sans I'autorisation ecrite de I'Association.
Toute correspondance pourra etre adressee it l'Association
d'etudes baha' ies, 34, rue Copernicus, Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada KIN 7K4.

ISSN: 0708-5052
ISBN: 0-920904-13-0
Contents

PAGE
PREFACE v

INTRODUCTION

I. THE BAHA'is 7
A Brief History
Baha'i Belief
Social Teachings
The Baha' i Community
The Baha'i Community and the Iranian Issue

II. QAJAR RULE, 1844-1925 11


The Initial Persecutions, 1844-1853
Later Attacks, 1853-1925

III. THE PAHLAVI REGIME, 1925-1979 15


Reza Khan's Coup d'Etat
Reza Shah and the Baha'is
Formalization of Discrimination Against Baha'is
Muhammad Reza Shah Installed
The New Pahlavi Shah and the Baha'is
A Quasi-Totalitarian Regime
Campaign to Suppress the Baha'i Faith
Economic Pressure
Fall of the Pahlavi Regime

IV. THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC, 1979- 31


The Anjuman-i-Tablfghat-i-Islami
The Hujjatiyyih and the Revolution
Mehdi Bazargan and the First Islamic Revolution
Foreign Intervention
Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr and the Second Islamic Revolution
Executions Begin
International Protest Grows
Muhammad Beheshtiand the Third Islamic Revolution
A Reign of Terror
United Nations Human Rights Commission Takes Up the Case
Attempt at Justification
Efforts at Concealment
Factional Conflict within the Islamic Leadership
Mahmud Halabi and a Fourth Islamic Revolution?
Deteriorating Position of the Baha'is

iii
V. RESPONSE TO THE PERSECUTION 67
Unintended Effects
International Intervention
The Baha'i Response
Iranian Efforts at Rebuttal
Consolidation of the Baha'i Community Preface
the Baha'is of Iran by the Islamic regime is
VI. THE CASE OF IRANIAN BAHA'is: A STUDY IN RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION 77
T HE PERSECUTION OF
now widely recognized - and protested - by many people and
their governments in the civilized world. What is less well known is
APPENDIX - An Open Letter on the Banning of Baha'i Religious Institutions from
the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran 82 that these attacks are only the most recent chapter in a series of
pogroms which began with the founding of the Baha'i Faith in the
BIBLIOGRAPHY 87 middle of the nineteenth century. A knowledge of Islam and an
understanding of modern Iranian history are central to an understand-
ing of why this phenomenon has repeatedly occurred in a country
whose political, economic, and social structures have otherwise
undergone considerable change.
Both from his training as a historian and on the basis of his current
experience, the author of this study is well qualified to discuss the
subject. In the pages that follow he successfully brings together the
findings of historical scholarship and a thorough coverage of contem-
porary events, to explain why Iran has become the setting for a kind of
religious persecution unparalleled in the modern world. Particular
attention is given to the central role which the Shi ' ih Muslim clergy
have played in events at all stages.
The study will help the reader to understand one of the most
puzzling features of the situation. Islam is a religion which explicitly
preaches religious tolerance, and Islamic states generally accord a
significant measure of protection to Jewish, Christian, and other
minorities. Mr. Martin's analysis of the ideational and political roots of
the problems reveals why Iran's largest religious minority has been
excepted from this policy of toleration.
This unhappy chapter in world history is not over. The persecutions
continue, and the position of the Baha'is in Iran becomes more
perilous with each day. Commentators and students of current events
will find Mr. Martin's work a valuable contribution to worldwide
efforts to develop an intelligent and effective response.

v
The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran,
1844 -1984
Douglas Martin
1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khalkhali soon became known, left a trail of
O
N FEBRUARY
Khomeini returned in triumph to Iran. suffering and death .4
Within days of his arrival, members of the Sh.'ih In the city of Mahabad, the bloody assizes
Muslim clergy who had been particularly active encountered a temporary setback. There, Kurdish
in bringing him to power assumed authority in leaders had taken the precaution of withdrawing
matters of civil and criminal law. I Some, includ- to the hills, taking with them some 400 suppor-
ing Sheikh Sadeq Khalkhali, 2 a former student of ters of the revolutionary government as hostages.
the Ayatollah, took the lead in conducting purges Rather than lose face by simply retreating from
in which generals and officials of the fallen the city, Khalkhali undertook to try a few com-
regime were machine-gunned on the roof of mon law cases. In one instance, the defendant,
Khomeini's headquarters in Tehran after sum- terrified by the prospect of appearing before so
mary midnight trials. Not even high level French awful a tribunal, had asked a neighbour, another
government efforts to save such individuals as merchant, to testifY as a witness to the accused's
former Prime Minister Hoveida , were of any integrity. Abdu'l Rahman Qasemlu, Secretary
effect. 3 Most outside observers tended to regard General of the Kurdish political movement, later
the killings as an excessive but understandable described to the French journalist, Marc Kravetz
reaction to years of brutality by SAVAK, the (Nouvel Observateur, Liberation), what fol-
Shah's secret police; anxiety about the real nature lowed: 5
of Islamic justice began to develop only when the Khalkhali was visibly bored by the case when
mullahs turned their attention to other segments suddenly he discovered, while examining the
of the population. Proceeding deliberately witness, a detail which could change the
through the towns and villages ofthe Kurds , who whole thing.
had seen the revolution as the signal for their own "So you are a BaM' fI"
liberation from oppression, Judge Blood, as "Yes , " replied the merchant [i.e. , the wit-
I. A helpful study of the revolution is Barry Rubin's, ness] .
Paved with Good Intentions, pp. 190-336. See also John D. "Then, you must convert immediately to the
Stempel, Inside the Iranian Revolution , pp. 165-324; and
true faith of Islam; otherwise you will have to
Michael Ledeen and William Lewis , Debacle: The American
Failure in Iran . For a sympathetic Muslim view, see Moham- pay the court the sum of 500,000 tumans
med Heikal, The Return of the Ayatollah. [approximately $80,000]."
2. For descriptions of Sadeq Khalkhali , see Marc Kra-
"No," replied the merchant.
vetz , Irano Nox , chapters 3 and II ; and V.S. Naipaul, Among
the Believers, chapter 3. Kravetz' book is a particularly "What do you mean, no?"
valuable report on the Islamic regime. "[ cannot pay this sum. Even if [ sold my shop
3. Hoveida, a sophisticated, Western-oriented politi-
cian, enjoyed the personal friendship of leading figures in the 4. Rubin estimates that 300 persons had been killed by
French government and intelligentsia, including then Presi- June 19 , 1979 (Rubin, 1981 , p. 370). Sadeq Khalkhali claimed
dent Giscard d'Estaing and Jean-Paul Sartre. See also p. 13, n. credit for the majority of these executions (Kravetz, p. 69).
42. 5. Kravetz, pp. 242-43.
This study is based on papers given at conferences of the Association for Baha' i Studies and incorporates two articles
subsequently published in Middle East Focus (a bi-monthly journal published by the Canadian Foundation for Peace in the
Middle East, Toronto): "The Baha' is in Iran under the Pahlavi Regime," vol. 4, no. 6, March, 1982, and "The Baha'is in Iran
under the Islamic Republic, " vol. 6, no. 4 , November, 1983.
Baha'i StudieslEtudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 3
2

and my home, I could not possibly realize Initially, outside observers assumed that these
500,000 tumans. " outrages were an aspect of the political upheaval.
"In that case you will simply deny your It has since been generally recognized that politi-
ungodly beliefs, and you will be discharged." cal developments in Iran have little relevance to
"No," replied the merchant. the subject. Independent forums such as the
"You will not say no this time. Your life United Nations Human Rights Commission, the
depends on it. Think the matter over care- national legislatures of several states, the Euro-

~t~~? ~'-tj'~"~J;!~" .
fully. " pean Parliament, and Amnesty International, as
"I do not have the money you want from me well as some of the most internationally
and if I recanted, I would be a liar before God. respected journalists have repeatedly charged
-Xj~r~4~!.31j'~4~ -Xe~~~-"~~~~ You surely cannot force me to do this." that the attacks on the Iranian Baha'is represent a
....... )\.".' ."Y<l' .s'J""" ..... ".V~"'r.'- ::" . ~ " There is no God but God and Muhammad is systematic campaign of religious persecution. 8
.1~;,p . "":1'" j'1'4. """'-,:I; , ••p:t'lk' ~
~. 'p . ~", -~ 4) <jif,o ,. ""w,,;' ~"" '11 : His Prophet. Make up your mind. Quickly. " Indeed, the efforts which the Iranian authorities
.oN":' ~JT .)U1 ...... .)' ~J"'" J '-'+'- ~.'''~
'<I'"';' I,j,~ .)Ji
.;,:-101<" .')' Lt' ",I., ri'''''.J " No," the merchant obstinately replied, "I are making to conceal the condition of the Baha' i
f ""~ • ~~...Jt ~.LL.. ~'- '-- • -.;,~~.I.' .r cannot deny my faith." community, in contrast to their handling of politi-
'p!f ';'>1.0 ....... , .sJJ~ .;; • ~ , .,,)'1' ' ' ' -
,sJ-'j'''''-"A. CJ?" \fO>.J ju.~ A J ~..-. " May God forgive you. I sentence you to cal questions, serves to distinguish further the
...:. ,,:.:c.. U ,J!~ ...... .,.)1,., .,,}\ii' .s'r'\'>
~ .;~j~L.. ~~ ::} , ..;~ 4.f - <.:7t - \ death. " Baha'i issue from other contemporary develop-
'~w J u=-...>J.f.:.l:J.-. J .:..~Lc. .i l ~J-' ..s.;Ul."..
.;.'* ,I.; ~ 6 ,:...,ii"- .;,t.;1.. .:-. j" h j ,..::.... The witness was taken out and shot. ments in that country. 9
.)~ J-}t J J""" j ··.JH
4 W v"\
~ .;"~ J..,.} J
~l~..i-"" ,,!'. . il u:;L..~j ,,:,:li\~ : ,)tGl 't~ ~ ,j.J..f. Since the execution of Bahar Vujdani, Chairman Nevertheless, the impression persists that the
~ - •.;: o::.-<'r J j:::S'Y' ..:,.:::;..1;;.\3IJ ~J ' ~~' i ~ .uu- J
~\."".;\ .;'lr,- ...;} ' ..JI.;I..I-~ -I.,..- ~yl ~ At-. • JUit.; of the Baha'i Assembly of Mahabad, described persecution is a recent phenomenon. In part, this
J\.c. ~.. :J.J , ,)'cu.. ~ j.,.,.J" "! "-r, r 'p·.sf above, 170 other elected or appointed officials of impression arises from the sheer violence of the
"+.-!')' .s' 01.;! .1...~ ;I ~ .;;'; • J..\..3.~J j~L:;-- jJ
.!L, ." I" ",:iI r::> ,;'
q.? • .~ •...:.:5 -" .~ the Baha'i community of Iran have met similar current wave of attacks and the relative ignorance
J.~ j ' '':-''; ~' \.Jj J -*' ~ .JcG C.,» ,;.).z5.r . .jLc.
.",,1'; r~ , .... , "!, .... =~ fates. 6 Independent testimony indicates that tens of Western observers regarding the events taking
(?"! ~ ~ .J.i)) .,),.)~ ~ ~,· _of
~r U .....00; ) .... l,-l.,'.? ';'~"" j'JIoi "'1\" ... of thousands of other Iranian Baha'is have lost place in Iran behind the fa\ade of an Islamic
~.l:L ..;...t,.-"',;JlJl.... 1 "''<-'W"J I Q";; ''''_~
".;.<. , ~ JI ,,1.)1.. ..,J~ JJ"'JU,?I J U'I" J":"" , homes , jobs, pensions, savings, and businesses , Revolution. In large part, however, the idea that
.)J'- • ~ .,:.,\f JU; J v H.. - J;'-'. uel1;.; ~ ~
.;L...~ ~ tJ,)~ ~.i ' oJ,.> Ju.;_~- J~ ( ~'.r.\
.;oJ have seen their shrines and cemeteries desecrated attacks on the Iranian Baha'is are an aspect of the
.r.s",.;,.S 4 " Ll./j! ~ 'J') , . "'~ ,I(;.
' f'I~i.~ ~ -.I.!. ~G:- ~~ J y ..:'- UJ tS"~~ rt(;,. and their children expelled from school. The revolutionary upheaval has been encouraged by
....... rJ·" -'.
JW o},)',... fJ':": ~ I .x.;.) vo-'....... "I,.....:._Y' entire Baha'i community of over 300,000 per- the Islamic regime's effort to identify the Baha'i
,:,_........,.n J.,s::;;' • -roo; j ..... t".... .sloj.J. os'~J
sons, the largest religious minority in Iran, live as community with the ruling order under the
.:..~ 141; ~ ~J.p.Jr .,)L..r-: .).> ..JI..L... ~Ij,,,:i..;;l,,
J.+': .l\:..." ..:..leu;':; \ .:-...i jJ ~l..i • ~I J ..;l.jl..o Pahlavi shahs. The argument is that the Baha' is
.;,I£u.. J "-,,..r..,ti ""~, .sl.o,.y ~ , ~l:L u4
outcasts in their own country, not knowing from
.;.,W "'- j., .>j,S ..:.,)W , ~'" eA". 10;1 <SJJ ' moment to moment when revolutionary guards were in some way political allies of the Pahlavis,
,<~J<1f ~"'-" ,J.,i .,;"W .:....Jp ,.y or" ,
.Co • ';'~,j l.. .,t.;.., ..
1 , ':'oJ ~ ..r.I",,,,, J? j l will burst into their houses , when news of the or, at the very least, a kind of favoured elite who
",j~/" J . ; : - J,:- ,. ..jJ,,;;..o .r ~ .. ., .;;.it.
.4.i~~ J~..t ' ~\.O.t;,~ ~ ' J~'~ "''-"• execution of another friend or relative will be benefitted from the former regime at the expense
.... " ~ ......... .4I.t
. ,;,.• •i:;l-.>"'''''' '''''-"J..:-:tl:'.H'
.' ........~-li..,:.s"~• . ; announced on television and radio, or when some of their hapless Muslim fellow citizens. 10 We are
new regulation will be devised in the unremitting told that, even if it is granted that Baha' is are
campaign to force them to recant their faith. 7 currently the victims of severe attacks , this is
6. The great majority of the persons executed have been 8. The texts of the resolutions passed by the organiza-
Newspaper article (Kayhcm. Tehran, No. ll577, May 3, 1982) reporting the verdict of the revolutionary members of the elected local and national governing bodies tions mentioned, together with a representative selection of
of the Baha' i community, the Spiritual Assemblies. The other some of the articles referred to, are contained in Bahti· is in
court in Mashhad, condemning a Baha'i, Aziz Gulshani, to death. The eight counts of the verdict all victims were principally persons who held high rank in Iran and its several updates.
refer explicitly to Baha'i activities. The article concludes: "Therefore, Mr. Gulshani is a murtad teaching institutions of the faith or who were otherwise 9. An illustration of the regime's efforts to conceal its
[apostate], is an infamous example of the corrupt on earth, and is sentenced to death." prominent in its service. treatment of the Baha'i community can be appreciated in a
7. The Baha'i International Community continues to series of statements made by the Ayatollah Ardibili, presi-
supply the United Nations Human Rights Commission with a dent of Iran's Revolutionary Supreme Court, on the subject of
growing mass of documentation showing that not only death the killings of fifteen prominent Baha'is in December 1981 ,
sentences , but also a wide range of economic persecutions and January 1982. See p. 26 , n. 79.
are used to pressure Baha'is to renounce their religion: The 10. See, for example, a public statement issued by the
BaM' [s in Iran. A Report on the Persecution of a Religious Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington ,
Minority. (See illustrations facing and following pages.) D .C., October 17 , 1979 .
Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 5
4

merely another instance of excessive revolution- it was bound to attract hostility. II The history of
ary zeal, the understandable reaction of a suffer- the Baha'i community's experience in Iran not
ing people bent on purging their homeland from only fails to support this thesis , but also contra-
a corrupt social order. Since the Baha'i com- dicts it in almost every significant detail.
munity is alleged to have been a part of this order,

II. See, for example, a public statement issued by the


Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, September 26, 1979:
On the 17th of Shahrivar, the first anniversary of Black
Friday, the day on which many Iranians died [in riots
against the Pahlavi regime], faithful Muslims were
mourning the whole country. In Shiniz, the mourners
Order from the Department of Justice under the Islamic Republic (#2208, January 1981) to the Registr;
began to destroy the birthplace of Ali Mohamed, the
of Deeds and Properties, Miyanduab, warning that any commercial dealing with "members of t1 Bab, and the security forces and the guards of the
depraved Baha'i sect" is forbidden. house were not able to stop them doing so, as this
could have resulted in the martyrdom of many Muslim
champions of Shiraz.
In fact, the house was demolished and eventually razed in a
series of attacks through September and October, led by
mullahs and government officials. The regime is currently
constructing a public roadway across the former site, an act
which involves the destruction of a portion of the old city of
Shfraz, one of the historical treasures of Iran.
I.
The Baha'is
N EXAMINING THE PERSECUTION experienced A Brief History
I by the Baha' is of Iran, it will be helpful to HE NEW FAITH came into existence through
have an understanding of the beliefs they profess.
Iranian Baha' is come from the same Persian and
T the teachings of two successive founders.
The first, a young Persian merchant known to
Azerbaijani ethnic backgrounds as do the rest of history as the Bab, announced in Shiraz, in May
the population of their country. They represent, as 1844, that he was the bearer of a message from
well, a cross-section of Iran's social classes. Only God, whom the Shi'ih branch of Islam had long
their adherence to their religious beliefs dis- expected under the title " the Twelfth Imam . "14
tinguishes them from their fellow countrymen, Central to the Bab's teaching was the mission of
and it is these beliefs which have aroused most of preparing mankind for the advent of " Him
the hostility vented on them by fanatical ele- Whom God Shall Make Manifest, " the universal
ments among their Muslim fellow citizens. divine messenger anticipated in the scriptures of
The Baha'i Faith is the most recent of the all the major religions. 15 During the course of
world's independent religions. 12 From obscure widespread attacks on his followers, incited by
beginnings in Persia during the second half of the the Muslim clergy, the Bab was executed in the
nineteenth century, it is now spread throughout city of Tabriz, in 1850. 16 In 1863, however, one
the world, embracing believers from most of the of his leading disciples who had survived the
races, nations , and cultures on earth. Based pogroms, a . Persian nobleman nam~d
entirely on the teachings of its founders, the Baha'u'llah, announced that he was the meS-
Baha' i Faith is a distinct religion rather than a senger for whom the Bab had come to prepare the
sect or reform movement within one of the earlier way. Partly because of the force of his own person
traditions. At the same time, it represents an and teaching, an~ part y because of unusual
original creation: it did not arise out of a syn- marks of distinctiop conferred upon him by the
cretistic movement to form a new religion out of Bab, Baha'u'llah.quiCikly attracted the allegiance
beliefs and institutions selected from existing of virtually all the Babis and began a thirty-year
systems. In the words of Arnold Toynbee, an mission which brought into existence the wofld-
authority on world religions: wide religion and community that today bea~ his
Baha'ism is an independent religion on a par name. 17 His teachings are contained in a vast
with Islam, Christianity, and the other recog-
nized world religions. Baha'ism is not a sect of 14. The Bab (lit., "Door" or " Gate", i.e., of the
expected universal revelation) was born Mimi 'Ali-Muham-
some other religion; it is a separate religion, it mad, in Shiraz on October 20, 1819.
has the same status as the other recognized 15. Baha' is , nevertheless, regard the Bab as an inde-
religions. 13 pendent manifestation of God.
16. For accounts of the lives of the founders of the Babi
and Baha'i Faiths , see H .M . Balyuzi , The Bab and
12. For a survey of the Baha' i Faith 's history and Bahli' u' llah .
teachings see John Huddleston, The Earth is but One Coun- 17 . Baha'u'liah (lit. , " Glory of God" ) was born Mirza
try. Husayn 'Ali, a member of a noble family, in Tehran on
13 . In a letter to a Turkish lawyer, Dr. N. Kunter, August November 12, 1817. It was the Bab who first formally
12 , 1959, published in the Bahli' [ Journal (London: addressed Mirza Husayn 'Ali as "Baha'u'lIah." Subse-
November, 1959, no. 141 , p. 4). The letter was apparently quently, in a celebrated passage in his writings , the Bab
written in support of the Turkish Baha'i community's appeal instructed those that believed in him: " Well is it with him who
against the application to Baha' is of regulations adopted by fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Baha 'u'liah and rendereth
Turkish civil authorities to control extremist Muslim factions. thanks to his Lord, for He will assuredly be made manifest. "
8 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 9

body of writings in both Persian and Arabic, cited above, has been echoed, albeit in a rather Social Teachings Although Baha'is are forbidden by the scrip-
regarded by Baha' is as the source of authority in different spirit, by official spokesmen for Islamic tures of their faith to involve themselves in any
their faith. IS
One of the earliest Western scholars to become
institutions. As early as 1924, a Sunni appellate
court in Egypt concluded, in a test case submitted
T HE CONCEPT of the oneness of mankind is
the pivotal theme of Baha'u'llah 's writings: form of partisan political activity, they are
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his encouraged to give all possible support to efforts
interested in Babi and Baha'i history was Edward to it for judgement, that: "The Baha' i Faith is a own country, but rather for him who loveth the for the creation of world government. 26 Some of
Granville Browne, the Cambridge orientalist. new religion, entirely independent [i.e., of whole world. The earth is but one country, and Baha'u'llah's most important writings call upon
Encountering it first in the late nineteenth cen- Islam] . ... No Baha'i, therefore, can be mankind its citizens. " 2 3 Most of Baha'u'llah's the rulers of the world to create an "International
tury, in the writings of the French scholar, Joseph regarded a Muslim or vice-versa, even as no other social teachings are auxiliary to this princi- Tribunal" to which nations will surrender what-
Arthur Comte de Gobineau, who had visited Buddhist, Brahmin, or Christian can be regarded ple, since their application would serve chiefly to ever degree of sovereignty is necessary for the
Persia and studied the Babi movement shortly a Muslim or vice-versa. "20 reduce conflict between groups and individuals establishment of world peace and disarmament,
after the Bab's deat~, Browne conceived the idea and thus create a climate favourable to the estab- and to accept the formation of an international
that the young faith represented the beginnings of lishment of unity. He places strong emphasis, for police force powerful enough to assure that the
a new, independent world religion. He saw it as
Baha'i Belief
AHA'u'LLAH TEACHES that all truth, includ- example, on the abolition of prejudices of all judgements of the tribunal are carried out. An
offering a unique opportunity for scholars to
examine this rare phenomenon at first hand:
B ing revelation, is relative. God, the essence
of truth, is so far beyond his creation that,
kinds, warmly encouraging not only close asso-
ciation, but also intermarriage among his fol-
auxiliary international language, an international
system of weights and measures, and agencies
.. . for here he [the student of religion] may throughout all eternity, men will never be able to lowers from diverse ethnic and cultural back- which will assure a progressively more equitable
contemplate such personalities as, by lapse of form any image of God nor attain to anything but grounds. distribution of the world's wealth are all subjects
time, pass into heroes and demi-gods still a steadily deepening appreciation of God's By insisting that it is the responsibility of each which come within the scope of the writings of
unobscured by myth and fable; he may exam- qualities or attributes. These qualities are pre- individual to investigate truth for himself, the founder of the Baha'i Faith. There is hardly a
ine by the light of concurrent and independent eminently manifested, from age to age, through a Baha'u'llah seeks to break down the power of tenet of this credo which is not sharply in conflict
testimony one of those strange outbursts of succession of prophets or messengers who reveal religious tradition and attachment to ideologies. with some doctrine of Shi'ih Islam, the domi-
enthusiasm, faith, fervent devotion, and God's purpose for humanity. Although these Further, since truth is one, it is not possible for nant religion of Iran.
indomitable heroism or fanaticism , if you will, divine messengers have been viewed throughout something to be scientifically false yet
which we are accustomed to associate with the history as independent and even exclusive man- religiously true; if religious dogma is found to be
earlier history of the human race; he may ifestations of God, Baha'is regard them as the contrary to scientific evidence, it has no place in The Baha'i Community
witness, in a word, the birth of a faith which the spiritual life of a rational being. EFORE EXAMINING this conflict, brief refer-
may not impossibly win a place amidst the
agents of a single, progressively unfolding divine
process. Thus, Baha'is pay equal reverence to Closely related to these concerns is the obliga- B ence should be made to the system of
great religions of the world. 19 Abraham, Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus tion of Baha'is to educate their children and the institutions established by the founder of the
The history of the ninety years since Browne took Christ, and Muhammad who, for Baha'is, are assertion of Baha'u'llah that it is the respon- Baha'i Faith for the governing of the Baha'i
up his study has vindicated his initial judgement. exponents of one universal faith and, only inci- sibility of society to make certain that the means community. These also represent a sharp contrast
Slowly but certainly, a new and independent dentally, are founders of separate religious tradi- for universal education are provided. Women and to the ecclesiastical system of Shi'ih Islam.
religious system has taken shape and become tions. 21 Through the civilizing influence of the men are equal in the sight of God and must, Neither clergy nor rituals are needed in the new
established in virtually every part of the world, a successive revelations of God, man's moral, spir- therefore, have complete equality of opportunity "age of man's maturity," Baha'u'llah says,
system entirely separate from the Islamic milieu itual, and intellectual capacities are released. 22 and respect. Indeed, should the necessity arise, because universal education will make it possi-
out of which it emerged. The opinion of Toynbee, Baha' i parents are enjoined to give priority to the ble for virtually every individual to understand
education of girls, as mothers are the educators for himself or herself the spiritual requirements
Selections from the Writings of the Bab. He indicated to 20. Judgement of the Appellate Court of Beba, Egypt, of the succeeding generation.24 Justice is said by of human existence. The central principle of the
several of his followers that they would recognize and serve cited in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 365. Baha'u'llah to be "the best beloved of all things" age is the process of consultation, which He
"Him Whom God Will make Manifest," all of whom were 21. Baha'is do not accept the doctrine that God incar-
subsequently among those who accepted Baha'u'llah as the nates Himself in his messengers. Although the prophets are
in the sight of God, and considerable attention is states is the key to well-being for both the indi-
one referred to in these promises. considered to occupy a unique station above that of human- given in the Baha'i writings to the responsibility vidual and society. The affairs of the Baha'i
18. One of Baha'u'lhih's most important works, Kitab- kind, their relationship to God is that of perfect manifesta- of society to assure economic justice among its community are administered by "Spiritual
i-Iqan (Book of Certitude), is available in an English transla- tions of God's attributes.
tions of English translations from BaM 'u'lJah 's writings are
various component groups. 25 Assemblies" of nine persons, democratically
22. "Whatever duty Thou [God] hast prescribed unto
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahli' u'liah and Tablets of Thy servants ... is but a token of Thy grace unto them, that 23. Ibid., p. 250.
elected each year at both local and national
Bahli' u'liah . they may be enabled to ascend unto the station conferred upon 24. For a compilation of BaM' f writings on the subject,
19. E.G . Browne, Introduction to A Traveller's Nar- their own inmost being, the station of the knowledge of their see Bahli' f Education : A Compilation.
rative, by 'Abdu'l-Baha, trans. from the original Persian, p. 26. Baha'is regard the League of Nations and the
own selves. " Baha 'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of 25. "The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity
viii . United Nations Organization as initial stages in the gradual
Bahli'u'lllih, pp. 4-5 . among people. " Baha'u'lliih, Bahli'( World Faith , p. 182 . establishment of world government.
10 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha'ies ~ Vol. 12/13

levels. Nominations and electioneering are for- of others is prohibited in the faith's scriptures, the
bidden, and the elected members are determined community makes vigorous efforts to bring its II.
by simple plurality vote, both men and women
being eligible. Other institutions, with mem-
teachings to the public throughout the world,
using films, radio stations, audio and visual
Qajar Rule, 1844-1925
berships appointed for specific terms, provide cassettes, conferences, university courses, pub-
counselling to both assemblies and individual licity in the regular media, pamphlet literature, RIOR TO THE RECENT ISLAMIC REVOLUTION,
believers, but there is no Baha'i institution
endowed with the sacerdotal or interpretative
home study groups, and correspondence
courses. 29
P a deep-seated prejUdice against the Baha' is
and their religion characterized not only Iran's
community, the largest religious minority of all.
Coupled with this, the public mind has been
subjected, for decades , to abusive propaganda
functions associated with an ecclesiastical order. Islamic clergy and the illiterate masses, but also from Shi'ih Muslim clergy, in which the role of
Once every five years, the members of the many among the country's educated elite and the Baha'i community in Iran, its size, its beliefs,
national spiritual assemblies of the Baha'i world
The Baha'i Community and middle class. The prejudice was instinctive and and its objectives have been misrepresented.
elect a nine-member "Universal House of Jus- the Iranian Issue communicated itself to many Western observers.
RANIAN BAHA'is have played an energetic
tice," the governing body which has supreme
legislative and administrative powers in the inter- I part in this worldwide expansion, but, through
that very process, have become a steadily smaller
Michael Fischer, a generally sympathetic com-
mentator on the Iranian revolution, notes, for
The Initial Persecutions,
1844-1853
national Baha'i community,27 example, that: even the exercise of routine civil
minority within the Baha'i community. Today, OTH THE IGNORANCE and the prejudice orig-
When Baha'u'llah died in 1892, the com-
munity of his followers consisted of fewer than a they represent perhaps one tenth of the faith's
functions by Baha'is was seen as proof of a
"Baha' i conspiracy. "31 Richard W. Cottam, B inated in the tragic events that surrounded
hundred thousand believers living more or less membership, their numbers being far exceeded author of Nationalism in Iran , pointed out the the beginning of the Babi and Baha'i faiths in
on sufferance in Iran and neighbouring Islamic by the community in India and being rapidly problem of even discussing the subject of the nineteenth century Persia, to which reference has
states, with isolated groups in other countries of gained upon by others in Africa and South Amer- Baha'i Faith in a country in which the word already been made. To the Shi'ih Muslim clergy,
the Orient. Today, the Baha'i Faith has become ica. Though fewer in number than the Iranian "Babi" has long been freely used as an epithet, the claims made by the Bab (and later by
one of the world's most rapidly growing believers, the North American Baha'is have along with such words as "infidel, " to describe Baha'u'llah) were not merely heretical, but a
religions , embracing some three million played as important a role in recent years, anyone to whom the speaker is strongly threat to the foundations of Islam. Orthodox
adherents from almost every racial, cultural, and because of a special mission to promote the opposed. 32 This prejudice is probably the first Islam holds that Muhammad was the" Seal of the
national origin on earth, and carrying out a broad Baha'i teachings conferred upon them by important point to grasp for any Westerner wish- Prophets" and thus the bearer of God;s final
range of activities in over 350 sovereign states 'Abdu'l-Baha, the son and appointed successor ing to understand the situation of the Baha'is in revelation to mankind. Certain other faiths , prin-
and major territories. An integrated admin- of Baha'u'llah. 3o modern Iran. cipally Judaism and Christianity, are considered
istrative system has evolved at toclil, national, Baha'is the world over form a single com- The second point is that, in the land of the to be valid but defective religious systems
and international levels , and in most instances munity held together by adherence to a.common Baha'i Faith's origin, the prejudice is, paradox- founded in earlier revelations which were later
has won formal recognition from civil body of belief and submission to a unified system ically, combined with an almost universal igno- corrupted by their followers. 33 Only Islam has
authorities. At the United Nations, the Baha'i of institutions. Consequently, it is these several rance of this faith's nature, teachings, and history. remained pure and undiminished because its
International Community, the agency serving as million people from many races and nations who For the past century a curtain of silence has repository, the Qur'an, represents the authentic
the faith's international spokesman, is accredited have felt themselves outraged and threatened by surrounded the subject. The Baha'i community words of the prophet. From this baseline, Muslim
as a member of the body of Non-Governmental what is today occurring in Iran. What has been has at all times been denied the use of the usual theology has gone on to assert that Islam contains
Organizations, with consultative status in the regarded by the Shi'ih clergy as the suppression means of communication with the general pub- all that mankind will ever require until the Day of
Economic and Social Council. 28 of heresy has been experienced by the Baha'is of lic: radio, television, newspapers , films , free Judgement and that no further revelation of the
Baha'u'llah's writings and those of the Bab the world as a campaign of religious genocide of distribution of literature, or public lectures. The
have been translated and published in over 700 which all of them are, to one extent or another, academic community in Iran has entirely ignored
33. Muslims use the term "People ofthe Book" to refer
languages. Houses of worship, schools , admin- the victims. It is this circumstance, little appreci- the existence of the faith founded there; the to communities like the Christians and Jews who have
istrative headquarters , and community centres ated by Iran's Islamic rulers, which has generated subject is not treated in university courses or religions founded on specific revelations from God. Recog-
have been erected throughout the world, and the widespread outcry now attracting the atten- textbooks. Indeed, census figures which provided nized revelations, however, are only those explicitly men-
tion of governments , media, and populations tioned in the Qur'an. Consequently such belief systems as
properties for future developments acquired. statistics on all of the other religious and ethnic Buddhism and Hinduism would not qualil'y for this status.
Although proselytism which invades the privacy throughout the world. minorities in Iran were omitted for the Baha'i Strictly speaking, Zoroastrians would also be excluded but
they have been given a kind of special dispensation in Shi ' ih
27. The most recent election of the House of Justice 29 . Details may be found in ibid.
Iran, partly because their small community (an estimated
took place in April 1983. 30. The mandate to the two North American Baha' i
31. Michael M .l. Fischer, Iran : From Religious Dis- 20,000 members) has never attracted converts from Islam and
28. Current statistics of the Baha'i community are communities is contained in a series of letters published
pute to Revolution, p: 281, n.8. partly because of their close association with the great ages of
provided in The Seven Year Plan , 1979-1986. under the title Tablets of the Divine Plan .
32. Richard W. Cottam, Nationalism in Iran, p. 88 . Persia's past.
12 Baha'f Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 13

divine purpose can or will occur. 34 Conversion which resulted in humiliating defeats for the feet, soak the wounds in boiling oil, shoe the society.41 Perhaps no Baha'i teaching was so
from Islam to any other faith is apostasy and government troopS. 36 Once the Babi garrisons foot like the hoof of a horse, and compel the deeply offensive to Shi'ih orthodoxy as that
deserving of death. had finally been overcome, the mullahs began a victim to run. . . . Give him the coup de which asserted the equality of the sexes. The
The Bab's declaration of his mission con- determined campaign to root out the heretical grace! Put him out of his pain! No! The Qur'an was explicit in declaring woman's status
stituted, therefore, a challenge to the central teachings. The Bab himself was executed in 1850 executioner swings the whip, and -1 mysel f to be inferior. 42 Although the use of the chador
pillar of this theological system. For Shf'ism, the after a trial by an ecclesiastical court. This action have had to witness it - the unhappy victim of or veil long antedated Islam, it had become an
dominant branch of Islam in Persia, the chal- precipitated an attack on the Qajar ruler, hundred-fold tortures runs! .. . I saw corpses article of faith for all Muslims and an enduring
lenge was especially acute. Shf'ism is dis- Nasiri 'd-Dfn Shah, by a deranged Babi armed tom by nearly 150 bullets. The more fortunate symbol of female inferiority.
tinguished from the larger Sunnf branch of with a pistol, an outrage which removed the last suffered strangulation, stoning or suffocation: Beyond these issues of belief and propriety, the
Islam, which predominates in much of the Arab restraints on the part of the imperial authorities. they were bound before the muzzle of a mortar, 'ulama were alarmed by the threat which the new
world, by its insis.tence that Muhammad The horror of those days , little more than a cut down with swords , or killed with dagger religion posed to their own position in society
appointed the line of his male descendants as century ago, has left its scar on the Iranian thrusts, or blows from hammers and sticks. 38 and the economy. While generous in his praise of
imams or successors. The last of these, the psyche. 37 The circumstances may be appreciated the contributions which the clergy of all faiths
Twelfth Imam, who is believed to have vanished in the following account by the then Austrian had made to the advancement of the race in ages
from sight in the ninth century, is identified by military attache in Tehran, who resigned his post Later Attacks, 1853-1925 past, Baha'u'llah asserted that mankind was now
brought the
T
in protest: HE ADVENT OF BAHA'u ' LLAH
Shf'ihs with the redeemer whose advent all Islam moving beyond the need for assistance of this
awaits on the Day of Judgement. 35 Over the elaboration of the body of social teachings kind. The point had a particularly direct applica-
But follow me my friend, you who lay claim to
centuries, Shf ' ih dogma has accorded unlimited already discussed. Expressed in a steady stream tion to the role of the Shi'ih clergy. The main-
a heart and European ethics , follow me to the
authority over all human affairs to the person of of essays, books, and letters , and argued in a spring of Shf'ism is the doctrine of taqlid or
unhappy ones who, with gouged-out eyes,
the Twelfth or Hidden Imam . Indeed, it has been vigorous, lucid style that moved easily from imitation. The average man, dependent for salva-
must eat, on the scene of the deed, without any
argued that the shahs themselves reign as merely contemporary events to quranic exegesis to the tion on right action but lacking the time or
sauce, their own amputated ears; or whose
the Imam's trustees and will, on his appearance, works of the great Sufi poets, Baha'u'llah's capacity for the necessary study of quranic law,
teeth are tom out with inhuman violence by
be called upon to surrender the throne of Persia to social message was as challenging to Islamic stands in dire need of spiritual guidance. He fills
the hand of the executioner; or whose bare
the Iman. This theological construct made it orthodoxy as was the new faith 's theology.39 The this need by finding a spiritual guide to imitate,
skulls are simply crushed by blows from a
relatively easy for the 'ulama, the Shi'ih clergy, call for an international government created by one whose life and learning demonstrate the
hammer; or where the hauir is illuminated
to persuade the Qajar rulers that not only eccle- the nation states of the world, most of them necessary level of attainment. It is the clergy who
with unhappy victims, because on right and
siastical but also political authority could be at infidel in Muslim eyes, directly challenged a perform this role for the masses and who are
left the people dig deep holes in their breasts
issue in the Bab's claim to fulfil the prophecy of religious tradition which saw itself as possessing themselves followers of still more perfect men-
and shoulders and insert burning wicks in the
the Imam's advent. the one prescription for the political as well as the tors in the hierarchy of mujtahids and ayatollahs
wounds. I saw some dragged in chains through
Throughout Persia, the followers of the new spiritual destiny of mankind.4o Similarly, a sys- above them .43 If, however, imitation of others is
the hauir, preceded by a military band, in
faith were denounced by the clergy as enemies of tem of universal education which would subordi- no longer the path to spiritual progress, the entire
whom these wicks had burned so deep that
God. When the resulting mob attacks failed to nate the curriculum of the seminaries to "West- ecclesiastical structure and the vast system of
now the fat flickered convulsively in the
halt the rapid spread of the Bab's message, the ern" sciences (if, indeed, it would leave any place
wound like a newly-extinguished lamp.
government moved with armed force against the at all for some traditional ecclesiastical studies),
Not seldom it happens that the unwearying 41. The madraseh is the Muslim theological school. Its
principal centres of Babi influence. The Bab had, seemed to threaten the moral fabric of Persian curriculum gives priority to theology, philosophy, canon law,
ingenuity of the Orientals leads to fresh tor-
by this time, been imprisoned in a remote fortress scriptural exegesis, and similar concerns.
tures. They will skin the soles of the Babfs'
42 . Testimony of a woman, for example, has on ly half
in the northwestern comer of Persia and his the weight of testimony by a man under quranic law. One of
38 . The BabE and Baha'i Religions, 1844-1944 ,
followers, acting on the Islamic moral traditions 36. Such defense was an entirely acceptable action in account by Captain Alfred von Gumoens, p. 133. the anti-Islamic acts charged against Muhammad Reza Shah
in which they had been raised, vigorously Islamic belief. The Qur'an permits Muslims to defend them- 39. Muslim opponents continued to use the term Babf by the Shf ' ih clergy was his insistence in 1962 , on giving
selves but requires that, if the attacking party seeks peace, the to refer to the members of the faith although the latter began women the franchise (Heikal, p. 86).
defended themselves in a series of engagements
defenders must accept it and not seek vengeance. In both of designating themselves Baha' fs when they accepted 43 . So, for example, there are today in Iran five" grand
the two principal sieges, the leaders of the government forces Baha'u'llah. ayatollahs" as the apex of the structure, each of whom has
sought truces and gave the Babfs assurances of peace written 40. Islam does not make the sharp distinction between established his right to serve as a supreme maria' i-taqlfd or
34. Muslims do not, of course, accept the Baha' f idea on copies of the Qur'an. As soon as the garrisons surrendered, the secular and the spiritual which is characteristic of Chris- source of imitation. On occasion in the past one grand
that revelation is a progressive unfolding of the divine Will. however, they were massacred because the ' ulama declared tianity. All existence is the field of operation of God's Will. ayatollah has been regarded as having attained such distinc-
35. None of the imams after the first one, Muhammad's promises to heretics to be null and void. See Shoghi Effendi, Muhammad's assumption of the government of the city of tion that he has been acclaimed the ultimate source of
son-in-law, 'Ali , was ever able to establish his authority in the God Passes By, pp. 41-42. Medina effectively established the Muslim State, and exten- imitation. Despite his political power, Ayatollah Khomeini
Muslim world, and most were murdered. They are the chief 37. See F. Kazemzadeh, "For Baha'fs in Iran, A Threat sive passages of the Qur'an relate to matters of social admin- has not been regarded by his colleagues as meriting this
saints and martyrs of Shf'ih tradition. of Extinction," New York Times, op. ed., August 6, 1981. istration. theological position.
14 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13

endowments , benefices, and fees which sustains tion against the Baha'is. Unlike the Jews, Chris-
it no longer have a reason for existence. These tians , and Zoroastrians whom they far outnum- III.
practical implications, together with Baha'i
theological and social principles, were seen by
bered, the Baha' is were denied any form of
recognition in the constitution and its attendant
The Pahlavi Regime, 1925 - 1979
the 'ulama as leading to the dismantling of the acts, with the result that they were legally "non-
familiar world they dominated and in which they persons" in Persian public life. 46 Baha' i mar-
were totally invested. riages were not recognized, Baha'is could not W ITH THE RISE of the Pahlavis in 1925, a
number of important developments
when the triumph of the Ataturk regime resulted
in the abolition not merely of the Ottoman mon-
During the remaining decades of the rule of count on redress in the courts, they were refused occurred which were to have major repercussions archy but of the Caliphate itself and the dises-
the Qajar shahs, therefore, the Baha'i community the right to operate schools, their literature was on the welfare of the Baha'i community. It is tablishment of the Sunnf Muslim clergy in Tur-
intermittently experienced attacks instigated by proscribed, their religious observances were at difficult to remember today, as the Shf ' ih clergy key.49 The lesson was not lost on the Shf ' ih
mullahs, seconded from time to time by local or the mercy of capricious local officials, and they seek to obliterate every vestige of the Pahlavi hierarchy in Persia. Widespread public opposi-
provincial authorities. Under pressure from were exposed to whatever abuse their Muslim regime, that 'ulama were themselves among the tion to the idea of a republic was generated, and
European governments, however, the later Qajar neighbours might wish to visit upon them . From principal allies of both Reza Shah and his son, Reza Khan was given to understand that a
shahs refrained from further direct involvement time to time, a particularly hostile mullah would Muhammad Reza Shah, during critical periods repUblican form of government was contrary to
in the pogroms and were even induced, on occa- incite open violence against the Baha'is in a town of their respective reigns. Indeed, it is impossible the Islamic faith.
sion, to restrain some of the worst excesses. or village, with only minimal interference from to conceive of the Pahlavis having seized and With the cynicism and political sagacity which
During that time the Baha'is were a proscribed the civil authorities. Typical was an outbreak in maintained control of Iran for fifty-five years were to characterize his regime, Reza Khan
minority which survived only by keeping a low the city of Yazd in 1903, described by a British without the implicit and sometimes vigorously expressed his submission to this principle of
profile and by respecting Baha'u'llah's prohibi- medical missionary, Dr. Henry White: explicit, support of the Shf ' ih establishment. Shi'ih theology and hastened to Qom to seek the
tion against violence, even in self-defense.44 No doubt you will have read in your papers of counsel of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The latter
Because of the leading role which Muslim clerics the terrible massacres among the sect called Reza Khan's Coup d'Etat advised that the best course would be for Reza
took on both the royalist and constitutionalist 1921,
sides of the political struggles of the late nine-
teenth century, the BaM' is were persecuted
Babis in Persia. We in Yezd have been in the
midst of the worst of it. . . . B y FOLLOWING THE UPHEAVALS of the
First World War, Iran appeared to be sinking
Khan simply to depose the Qajar ruler and
assume the crown himself. This was accom-
The most heartrending details are coming to into anarchy. It was relatively easy for a Cossack plished on December 5, 1925; Reza Khan drove
regardless of which faction was temporarily in light. One of my wife's friends, a young newly- officer, Reza Khan, with the support of his to the meeting of the Constituent Assembly in a
the ascendant. In the words of Hamid Algar, a married woman, has lost husband, father, and troops, the assistance of certain Persian politi- glass covered coach drawn by six horses and was
Shi'ih scholar who is essentially hostile to the father-in-law. Others have lost sons, brothers, cians, and the complaisance of the British gov- formally recognized as Shah. Prominent
Baha' is, the latter and fathers. Many are absolutely ruined, and ernment, to march on Tehran and carry out a ayatollahs participated in the ceremony and pre-
came to occupy something of a position we must render what assistance we can. coup d' etat.48 Within a few months Reza Khan sented a holy relic of the Imam Husayn to the new
between the State and the ulama, not one A friend of mine, a large landowner, who lived had ousted his political allies and made himself monarch in token of their recognition of the Shah
enabling them to balance the two sides, but in a town forty miles from Yezd, with whom I Prime Minister. Temporarily, Ahmad Shah, last as not merely head of State but regent for the
rather exposing them to blows which each side have stayed, was killed with all his male rela- of the Qajar rulers, was maintained on the throne Hidden Imam. Very shortly after, the name of the
aimed at the other. The government, interested tives, eight persons in all. as a figurehead monarch, but it was apparent to new Shah was duly introduced into the sacred
in maintaining order, would resist the persecu- We could do comparatively little to help the all observers that Reza Khan's intent was the formula for the khutbih , the daily prayers and
tion of the Baha'is by the ulama, but would sufferers, as by international law we are bound dissolution of the monarchy and the establish- sermon in all of the mosques.
equally, when occasion demanded, permit not to interfere in matters of internal politics, ment of an Iranian republic modelled on that of As had happened to most of the earlier
action against the Baha'is.45 and at Ispahan, where there was a small out- his hero, the Turkish reformer, Kamal Ataturk. In alliances between various Qajar shahs and the
The establishment of the 1906 constitution, break, the Russian Consul was ordered to tum preparation for the realization of this objective, 'ulama, this new partnership began to break
which theoretically brought a new era of liberty out a number of Babis who had taken refuge the army was expanded and resistance by various down shortly after it was formed. Reza Shah's
to Persia, in fact assured continuing discrimina- with him . It was with difficulty that those of us ethnic minorities and opposition groups was program of modernization threatened virtually
who had Babi servants were able to protect ruthlessly suppressed. every aspect of the clergy's dominant position:
them. 47 The plan was called into question in 1924 plans for a secular school system, the introduc-
44. Baha'u'll;ih taught that, "It is better to be killed than
to kill. " Baha'is are forbidden to bear arms except in service tion of the provisions of the Code Napoleon, new
to a duly constituted government and then only when denied 46. This exclusion is made even more explicit in the 48 . A brief survey of the rise to power of Reza Khan can modes of dress, the introduction of the solar
assignment to noncombatant duties. new Islamic Constitution. in which the " tolerated minor- be found in Wilfrid Knapp, "1921-1941: The Period of Reza calendar, and a special endowments law aimed at
45 . Hamid Algar, Religion and State in Iran: ities" are named in the constitution itself. Shah," Twentieth Century Iran . eds., H . Amirsadeghi and
1785-1906. p. 151. 47. Momen, pp. 389-90. R .W. Ferrier, pp. 23-27. 49 . Ibid.
16 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 17

bringing the clergy's vast economic preserves to intervene, it was the victims rather than the
under the control of the State. 50 perpetrators of the attack on whom the Shah
vented his disapproval. Chick reported in lune
Reza Shah and the Baha'is that:
ANY OF THE MULLAHS continued to accept
M posts and honours under the Shah, but
resentment began to rise among the more funda-
' ... His Majesty the Shah has had sent to all
postal and telegraph offices orders not to
accept petitions or complaints from Bahais.
mentalist Muslims. Significantly, one of the epi- No one has been suitably punished for the
thets which this growing opposition used against massacre of the Bahais at lahrum on April 7th;
the regime was the all-purpose term "Babi" the Seyyids [sic] arrested have been
which was indiscriminately applied to reformist released. ' 53
tendencies. It was no doubt the new Shah's
Once his regime was more firmly settled, Reza
appreciation of the power of this prevailing preju-
Shah 1;Jegan to give indications that he might be
dice that was responsible for his collusion in the
prepared to extend a limited measure of tolerance
first major anti-Baha'i outbreak of his regime. In
and protection to his Baha'i subjects. By that
April' of 1926, only a few months after Reza
time, more than half a century had passed since
Shah's coronation, a massacre of Baha'is of the
the pogroms of the early Babi period, and hos-
town of lahrum was incited by a local mullah,
tility to the community was slowly diminishing,
Siyyid Alf-i-Pishnamaz. The British consul in
even though the general prejudice remained. As
Shiraz, Herbert Chick, described the attack in a
the Shah's modernization program gathered
report to his superiors on April 12:
momentum, certain principles with which the
It seems that for several days previous to the Baha'is were identified came to enjoy a vogue
7th instant, this son [mullah] who has appar- among the educated classes. The Baha'i com-
ently inherited his father's fanaticism,51 and munity began to hope that a new and more liberal
certain other sayyids of the Soulet connection era had dawned and that they might be able to
had hurled abuse and invective from the playa part in it.
pulpits against the Bahais. To what extent, if From Reza Shah's perspective, the Baha'i
any, the Bahais riposted or remonstrated my minority appeared to have a high potential for
informants were silent. But this obviously usefulness. Apart from their progressive social
inspired campaign culminated on the 7th in teachings, the Baha'is held to two religious ten-
thirteen adult Bahais and one babe of fifteen ets which would have commended them to any
months being bludgeoned and stabbed and regime in a period of crisis: loyalty to civil
hacked to death in their houses and the government and avoidance of all involvement in
streets. 52
partisan political agitation. Further, they were
Thanks to the energy of the local military gover- without either foreign protectors or any indepen-
nor, Amir Lashgar, the mullahs and seminarians dent means of redress in the Iranian social order.
who had carried out the murders were arrested, During the early years of his reign, Reza Shah
and instructions were sought from the central appointed a number of Baha'is to important Order from Deputy Minister of Education under Reza Shah (December 1934), formally closing the
authorities in Tehran. To the dismay of French positions in the civil administration, particularly Tarbiat High School, a Baha'i institution, because of its observance of Baha'i holy days.
and American diplomatic observers who sought those branches of government related to
finance. 54 Although, as a salve to the mullahs,
50. Ibid., pp. 27-51 and Amin Banani, The Moderniza-
tion of Iran , passim. laws were passed restricting the general employ-
51. Earlier dispatches had indicated that the father of ment of Baha'is in the civil service, minor
this siyyid, a leading Islamic mujtahid, had earlier been
responsible for the massacres of Baha'is in Nayriz and other
centres. 53 . Ibid., p. 470.
52. Momen, p. 465. 54. Banani, pp. 25-27.
18 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 19

improvements in the pOSItIOn of the Baha' is Baha' i wntmgs forbid the kissing of hands, An article describing the Muslim clergy's role in
began to appear. Baha'is could count on a limited Baha' i army officers and civil officials would the closing of Baha'i schools during the reign of
degree of protection from persecution and were bend low over the Shah's hand, but would refrain Reza Shah. The article was published in the
eventually permitted to open schools. As these from touching it with their lips, as protocol Tehran newspaper, Nabard'i' Millet, August 6,
schools rapidly gained a reputation for excel- expected them to do. 1979, as part of a review of the history of the
lence, the monarch was moved to enrol his own Formalization of Pahlavi regime.
children. 55 It seemed possible that, given time,
Discrimination against Baha'is
the restrictive laws might be lifted and the
was that the government began
T
HE RESULT
miasma of prejudice and hostility eventually dis-
to formalize a policy of discrimination
sipate.
which was to characterize the treatment of the
A number of factors prevented this from occur-
Baha'i community for the next five decades. The
ring. The most important was the success of the .
Baha' is became, in effect, a safety valve for the
clergy in using the charge of "Babism" as the
regime. Baha'is were the one target against
one safe weapon in criticizing the regime. The
whom the clergy were permitted to vent their
word still carried so deep a taint in the minds of
mounting frustration with the restrictions under
Persians that not even as powerful a ruler as Reza
which even the 'ulama had to live. Beginning in
Shah could associate himself with " Babism"
1933, the publication of Baha'i literature was
without running a risk of losing the loyalty of
banned; Baha'i marriage was deemed con-
segments of the population. At the same time,
cubinage, and prison sentences were set for those
Reza Shah was showing himself adept at the
who admitted to marrying according to Baha'i
"divide and rule" philosophy which was to play
law; a number of Baha'i cemeteries were expro-
an important part in the ·perpetuation of the
priated; Baha'is in the public service were
Pahlavi regime. The more exposed and vulnera-
demoted or fired; attacks in the press were freely
ble the Baha'i community was, the more depen-
permitted; and eventually the Baha'i schools
dent it presumably would be upon the ruler's
were closed. 56 Once again, the community sank
good will and all the greater was the temptation
to its former status as a proscribed and hated
to abuse the community when 'interests of State
minority.
dictated.
The annual report prepared by the newly-
This attitude was strengthened by a hostility
elected National Spiritual Assembly of the
which the Shah himself appears to have gradu-
Baha'is of Iran, for the period 1935-1936, for
ally developed towards the Baha'i community.
example, provides a bleak picture of the life of
For him, the monarchy had become the focal
Iranian Baha'is under the first of the Pahlavis: the
point of Iranian life, the fulcrum on which he
closing of Baha'i meetings, the confiscation of
could lift the nation into the twentieth century.
Baha'i literature and even calendars, the dis-
Reza Shah demanded that those who served him
missal of public employees who had been found
place the monarchy first in their loyalties. He
to be Baha'is, the seizure by the postal
became aware, however, that the loyalty of his
authorities of correspondence and records, the
Baha'i subjects was a derived one. Since loyalty
expulsion of Baha'i children from their schools,
to civil authority was one of the tenets of their
the refusal by telegraph offices to transmit
faith , it was conditioned by that faith. Baha'i
appeals from injured members of the faith , the
concepts and laws affected the members' rela-
imprisonment of believers on religious grounds,
tionship to the monarch in both large questions
and attacks on the minority religion from the
and small. Highly competent believers would
pulpits of mosques in the presence of civil and
serve readily in the civil service, but refused
military officials. The incidents involved Tehran,
absolutely to accept political posts. Since the
56. Ibid., p. 97 . (See illustrations previous and facing
55 . Ibid., p. 96. pages.)
Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'fs of Iran, 1844-1984 21
20

most of the provincial capitals, and scores of Baha'f community experienced attacks from series of events. The British and Russian govern- Responding to clerical influence, the State
towns and villages. both sides in the dispute, the energies which ments saw Iran as a vital "back door" route began retreating from the restrictive policies of
Although all of these incidents were docu- might have gone into a more concentrated effort through which British supplies could reach the the ousted Reza Shah. The ban on publicly-held
mented in increasingly urgent petitions to the to suppress the Baha'f Faith had instead been battered Soviet forces. When Reza Shah refused passion plays was repealed; the use of the veil in
central authorities for redress, such appeals met diverted to the political arena where the Baha'f to cooperate in this plan and when his well- the city streets was again permitted and even
with no response. On the contrary, it soon question was essentially irrelevant. 58 known Nazi sympathies appeared to pose a threat encouraged; public officials who had been iden-
became apparent that Reza Shah, himself, was Very different was the experience of the Ira- to British control over the Near East, the two tified with secular attitudes were demoted; vari-
the moving spirit behind many ofthe abuses. The nian Baha'is under the first of the Pahlavis. A nations acted swiftly to resolve the problem . ous prohibitions associated with Ramadan and
Shah took a personal hand in the campaign to quasi-totalitarian state had begun to take tenta- Russian troops entered Azerbaijan from the north other Muslim holy periods were applied in gov-
force army officers and civil servants to recant tive shape in Iran, and its treatment of its Baha' f to seize the vital rail communications, while ernment offices; and official sanction was again
their faith. When these.pressures failed to achieve minority, like all other matters of public polity, their British allies moved into southern Iran, given for Iranian Muslims to undertake the pil-
their end, Reza Shah ordered the acting Chief of was characterized by the application of system. deposed Reza Shah, and sent him into exile. In grimage to Mecca. The importance of the
Staff, General Zarghami, to issue a general order Attacks on the Baha'f community by the State his place, the British installed his twenty-one year clergy's political influence was demonstrated in
stating that " the religion with which the Baha' i focussed on its institutional life and only inciden- old son, Muhammad Reza Shah, who was the events related to both the rise to power of
community identifies itself has no official status" tally on its individual members. Motivated by a expected by all concerned to serve as a compliant Muhammad Mossadeq in 1951 and his overthrow
and " that the word 'Baha' I' should on no determination to subordinate all other loyalties to puppet. 59 two years later. Ayatollah Kashanf, who had
account be permitted to appear in identification allegiance to his person, Reza Shah sought to These developments once again created the secured election as Speaker of the Majlis, played
forms": break down the integrity of the Baha' f com- impression that the country was entering a new a leading part in both developments. 6 1
munity and harness the energies of its most era of social freedom . Political parties were set Accordingly, when Muhammad Reza Shah
Officers who in their identification forms or
capable members to the purposes of the State, up, and power shifted from the throne to the recovered his throne after a brief period of exile in
elsewhere describe themselves as Baha'is
through a program of discriminatory legislation, Majlis or parliament. The Baha'fs began to hope 1953 , he sought another of the accommodations
must if they are conscripts be deprived of their
the judicious use of physical violence and eco- that the restrictions on their community might with the clergy which had intermittently been
rank and finish their term of service as pri-
nomic exploitation, and the manipulation of the also, in time, be lifted. The political resurgence of important to the stability of earlier reigns. The
vates, and if they belong to the regular army
Shf'ih clergy's bigotry. The effect was to the Shf'ih clergy quickly disabused them of this nature of this unwritten agreement has been
they must after being deprived of their rank be
reawaken and institutionalize the anti-Baha'f notion. No group took more enthusiastic advan- described by a number of scholars. 62 Essentially,
imprisoned until they reimburse the Govern-
prejudice which had weakened with the passing tage of the new order than did the ' ulama . it involved a willingness on the part of the
ment for their education. His Majesty has
of eight decades since the upheavals of the 1850s. Although, for the most part, they did not assume ecclesiastical establishment to leave political
especially decreed that leaving the religions
While the full structure of a totalitarian regime government posts or involve themselves in party matters in the hands of the State, in return for
column blank in itself constitutes a sort of
did not take shape until much later, several of the membership, prominent mujtahids became the concessions by the latter in fields which were of
avowal of faith and this too should not be
elements had already emerged during Reza ideological leaders of much of the political particular importance to the clergy.
accepted. 57
Shah's period, and the Baha'f community gradu- development which took place. This was entirely The press began to give wide publicity to the
The difference between the kind of persecution ally became aware of the threat to its welfare natural, given the theory developed by Shf'ih activities of the leading mujtahids; the govern-
which the Iranian Baha'is experienced under which this systematization of persecution repre- Islam that all political authority belongs to the ment agreed to ban the manufacture and sale of
Reza Shah and that which they had endured sented. Hidden Imam. Since worldly authority is merely alcohol (largely a pro forma submission in Iran);
during the earlier decades will already have a trusteeship and necessarily imperfect, the and the Shah himself took every opportunity to
suggested itself. Under the largely incompetent Shf'ih theoreticians who had led the Constitu- make an ostentatious display of his religious
rule of the Qajars , the persecution of the B aha' is Muhammad Reza Shah tionalist movement called for the creation of a orthodoxy. But the area in which, once again,
had been a spasmodic affair, limited by whatever Installed Majlis , or general assembly, to limit the power of State and 'ulama found it easiest to make a
whim or passing interests of state might motivate ITH THE OUTBREAK of World War II in
the ruler of the day. By the end of Nasiri 'd-Din
Shah's reign, the State had become distracted by
W 1939, the possibility of relief for the
Baha'i community came from an unexpected
the ruler, and to implement principles enunciated
in the Qur'an. To make certain that the Majlis ,
common cause was the treatment of the Baha'f
" Iran," Encyclopaedia of Islam , pp. 163-67.
once established, would not stray beyond its 61. The Mossadeq period and the events related to the
the assaults of the Constitutionalist movement limits , Shf' ih scholars were to serve as its restoration of the Pahlavi regime have been examined by a
which had assumed the dimensions of a revolu- 58. For a discussion of this period, see N .R. Keddie, number of writers. See, for example, Keddie, pp. 113-41,
guides. 6D
Roots of Revolution, chapters 3 and 4. Keddie distinguishes Graham , pp. 67-72 , and Rubin, The American Experience
tionary upheaval. While, as we have noted, the
the Baha' is , who " eschewed direct political activity" ~nd 59 . Robert Graham provides an interesting analysis of and Iran, pp. 54-90. Kermit Roosevelt, who coordinated the
" declared their neutrality," from the small Azali sect of the the formative influences on the mind of Muhammad Reza overthrow of the Mossadeq regime, has provided an interest-
57. For the full text of the report, see BaM' [World, vol. former Babi Faith, members of which took an active role in Shah in his book Iran: The ILLusion of Power, pp. 57-72. ing personal memoir: Countercoup.
6, 1934-1936 , pp. 94-\08 . the constitutional revolution of 1905-1911. 60. For a discussion of this subject, see Hamid Algar, 62. Akhavi , see n. 63.
Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 'lhe Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 23
22

community. Shahrough Akhavi, in Religion and vandalism. 67 At the same time, the government foreign support and approval, the regime was in consequences for the Baha'i community.
announced that it had ordered the suppression of no position to resist this pressure, regardless of The main features of the new regime are
Politics in Contemporary Iran, 63 speculates that
all activities by "the Baha'i sect." At once, a the domestic political price which surrender familiar to students of modem Iranian history.71
"some elements in the ulema were feeling a
wave of anti-Baha'i violence swept the country: would entail. By 1957, the agency known by its initials as
newly-acquired self-confidence and therefore
murders, rapes, and robberies were reported in Akhavi's study of the resulting confrontation SAVAK, the National Information and Security
'wanted to make a horse deal' between them-
many areas. The house of the Bab in Shiraz, the between the spokesmen of the Shah and the Organization, had been set up as the chief organ
selves and the Shah. "64 For its part, the govern-
foremost Baha'i shrine in Iran, was pillaged and representatives of the clerical establishment of state control. Various agencies of this central
ment was in urgent need of an issue which would
severely damaged, Baha'i cemeteries were provides a helpful view of the forces which were body multiplied rapidly, invading every area of
distract attention from two vital but highly vul-
seized and handed over to mobs for desecration, at work in the crisis. The clergy pressed for a public life and finally producing the infamous
nerable projects: the compensation of the share-
and corpses were dragged through the streets and formal piece of legislation which would declare "Internal Security and Action Branch," which
holders of Anglo-Iranian Oil, nationalized by
burned in public. the Baha'i Faith illegal, would make service to used torture, secret prisons and trials, and a
Muhammad Moss<ideq, and the Iranian govern-
In response to the government's initiatives, the the faith a criminal offense, and would establish network of informers in its efforts to paralyze all
ment's decision to join the Baghdad Pact. Large
Ayatollah Behbehani, second-ranking figure in appropriate penalties: prison terms for anyone opposition to the regime.72 Economic life, too,
segments of the public regarded both projects as
the hierarchy, heaped praise on the Shah, calling found guilty of Baha'i membership, the was to be harnessed to the service of the State. In
further illustrations of Iran's domination by
the Iranian army "the Army of Islam" and sequestration of all Baha'i properties and the 1962, the Shah announced the launching of what
Western powers, and the regime would have been
assuring the authorities that the anniversary of disbursement of the proceeds for the use of he called a "White Revolution" which included a
particularly vulnerable had the clergy decided to
the attacks on the Baha'i National Centre would Islamic propaganda agencies, the discharge of land bill involving a major redistribution of the
orchestrate a general outcry. 65
henceforth be observed as a religious holiday. 68 all Baha'is from public service, and the prohibi- ownership of agricultural lands throughout the
The most powerful cleric in the country, tion of any form of Baha'i religious activity. The country. A simultaneous program of intense
The New Pahlavi Shah and the Ayatollah Burujirdi, who had initiated the clergy's spokesmen in the Majlis found them- industrial development tightly tied the fortunes
Baha'is pogrom, published an open letter of thanks to selves facing an embarrassed cabinet which, of the emerging capitalist class to the interests of
N SUCH A SITUATION, the Baha'is were an Mullah Falsafi for his service both to Islam and to while assuring them that every means would be the State. The State's bureaucracy mushroomed,
I irresistible target. During the month of
Ramadan 1955, a leading Shi'ih preacher,
the monarchy. The letter described the Baha'i
Faith as a conspiracy which endangered the State
taken "within the law" to protect Islam, stub-
bornly refused to introduce the legislation which
bringing fundamental areas of culture such as law
and education l,mder secular control and creating
Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Falsaff, began a series as well as the national religion, and called for a would have accomplished the 'ulama's objec- an enormous demand for trained personnel. 73
of incendiary sermons in a Tehran mosque, call- general purge of Baha'is from all positions in tives. Nor would the government even pronounce To provide ideological underpinnings for the
ing for the suppression of the Baha'i Faith as a public service. its official attitude towards the Baha'i Faith. The new regime, the Shah adopted a historical ideal
"false religion" dangerous to the welfare of the Once again, however, the alliance ran aground regime was reduced to engaging in a debate in the which he saw as capable of seizing the imagina-
nation. 66 The government signalled its approval on the reef of political realities. Iran had become Majlis on the subject of the Baha'i community, in tion of the Iranian people and channelling their
by putting both the national and army radio an integral part of an interlocking global system which the government apologists appear to have energies into the service of the State. This ideal
stations at the Sheikh's service, thus disseminat- of economic and political relationships. In been forbidden to mention the word Baha'i. 70 was the cultural glory which Persia had known
ing his attacks throughout Iran. When the Baha'i response to a summons from the head of their before the coming of the alien and "inferior"
delegates gathered on 21 April for their national faith, Baha'i communities around the world vig- influence of the Arabs. The theme can be
convention in Tehran, the situation throughout
A Quasi-Totalitarian Regime detected in some of the features of the reign of
orously protested the regime's support for the
NLY A SUPERFICIAL OBSERVER would have
the country had become extremely volatile. The
spark was provided by the government's decision
persecution. In this, they were joined by leading
organs of the international press. 69 The Se~re­
O concluded, however, that the end of the
1955 crisis marked an improvement in the basic
Reza Shah, but it became a national credo during
the concluding two decades of the rule of his son.
to seize the national headquarters of the Baha'i tary-General of the United Nations, Dag Ham- All government agencies were mobilized in its
position of the Baha'i community in Iran. In the
community and to undertake the destruction of marskjold, and the United States State Depart- service. Efforts were made to purge the Persian
Baha'i issue, as in a number of others, the Shah
its impressive dome. Minister of the Interior ment brought pressure on the Iranian government language of Arabic corruptions; the great
had recognized the weakness of his regime and
Batmangelich and General Timur Bakhtiar, later to call a halt to the attacks. Dependent as it was on achievements of the ancient Persian dynasties
its vulnerability to pressures from both domestic
head of SAVAK, joined representatives of the were celebrated; pride in the "Aryan race"
and foreign sources. His response was to initiate a
clergy in personally participating in this act of 67. Falsafi was invited as guest of honour at the event. became an article of faith in the schools; the
series of programs aimed at creating in Iran the
63. Akhavi, pp. 76-90. 68. Akhavi, pp. 77-78.
69. When the regime discovered the extent of the pro- apparatus of a quasi-totalitarian state. These 71. See particularly Fred Halliday, Iran: Dictatorship
64. Ibid., p. 77.
test aroused in the West they denied that army officers had developments were to have particularly grave and Development, pp. 38-172.
65. Idem.
66. Falsafi, an active supporter of the Pahlavi regime, is participated. An unsuccessful attempt was made to suppress 72. Ibid., pp. 78-90.
the series of photographs which had been taken of the 73. James Alban Bill has provided a sociological analy-
now prominent in the ruling circles of the Islamic Republic
destruction of the Baha'i National Centre's dome. 70. Akhavi, pp. 80-87. sis of the effects of this development. The Politics of Iran.
(Farhang, Nation. n. 129).
24 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984
25

Iranian calendar, which Reza Shah had based on beliefs of certain of his Baha'i subjects impinged
the solar year, was shifted again to begin with the on their relationship to him.76 More important,
coronation of Cyrus the Great in 558 B. c., with Baha'i teachings represented a potential intellec-
the odd result that Iranians went to sleep one tual rallying point for the growing Iranian intel-
night in the year A.H. 1355 and awoke the next ligentsia, which was independent of the Pahlavi
morning in the year 2535. myth. In the mid-1960s, for example, James
In short, the regime appeared bent on trying to Alban Bill, concluded that:
resolve the problem presented by the adherence The Iranian intelligentsia has very decidedly
of 95 percent of its subjects to Islam, by ignoring discarded old values and value systems.
Islam. Faith was relegated to those areas which Indeed, one result of this has been an intellec-
were considered of lit~le or no importance to the tual wandering in continuous search of a new
"Great Civilization" which the Shah envisioned, framework. . . . It is perhaps natural that the
areas where it could be expected gradually to secularization of the educational process
atrophy through neglect. This vast program would result in a different view of Shi'ih
culmin~ted with the celebration in 1972 among Islam. The result has been a sharp move away
the ruins of Persepolis, of the twenty-five hun- from this most basic of value systems which
dredth anniversary of the founding of the Iranian organized all phases of a Muslim's life .. .. In
monarchy. the move away from Islam, large numbers of
The program excited a rage of opposition the intelligentsia have embraced Baha'ism , a
among many of the fundamentalist clergy, who religion that demands great commitment ~ but
saw the new society as literally "Satanic." They at the same time claims progressive and liberal
were joined in ihis sentiment by the younger and goals. 77
radicalized group of Shi'ih Muslim thinkers who The pressure on the Baha'i community increased
were convinced that modern technology could be greatly in 1965 with the appointment of Amir
assimilated to a basically Islamic intellectual and Abbas Hoveida as Prime Minister. Although
political structure. Only the Shah's autocracy, nominally a Muslim, Hoveida was a secular-
and the foreign patrons who were perceived minded politician who was accused by his politi-
as its supporters, stood in the way of this fulfill- cal rivals of using an ostentatious devotion to
ment of Islam's historic mission.74 Islam to advance his career. He had, however, an
Achilles heel. His paternal grandfather had been
a member of the Baha'i Faith, and Hoveida's
Campaign to Suppress the father had returned to Islam and raised his own
Baha'i Faith children in that religion only after being expelled
HAT OF THE BAHA'i COMMUNITY during
W this period? The events of 1955 were a
continuing reminder to the regime of the need to
from the Baha'i community for persistent
involvement in political activities. The Prime'

avoid a level of anti-Baha'i violence which might 76. Because visits by Persian Baha'is to the United
States were being misrepresented by Islamic fanatics, the
attract renewed international disapproval. There
Guardian of the faith requested that these not take place. Letter from Khuzistan Pars during the reign of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi (May 29, 1970) to the Firuz
were, however, new factors which deepened Accordingly, when it became necessary for the Shah's per-
antipathy towards the Baha'is on the part of the sonal physician to accompany the ruler on a state visit, it was Company of Khorramshahr, cancelling contracts because of the latter's association with "the ugly Babi
necessary for him first to secure the approval of the Guardian, and Baha'i sect" and refusing "to deal with your dirty and defiled selves."
political establishment. The Shah himself, who
as the doctor was a member of the faith. The permission was
has been suspected of clinical megalomania by readily accorded. Since the individual concerned was in the
more than one observer,75 shared his father's army medical corps, the request from the Shah had the
resentment of the ways in which the religious character of an official order; the Guardian pointed out that
submission to it represented no more than an act of civil
obedience. The implication was not, however, lost on the
74. See Keddie, pp. 183-230. monarch.
75. See for example Bakhtilir, p. 93, and Heikal, p. 16. 77. Bill, p. 61.
26 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984
27

Minister's political enemies sought to use this pened in 1963 following antigovernment riots in
family history to attempt to discredit Hoveida by several regions of the country, the authorities
attaching the all-purpose "Babi" tag to his turned a blind eye to violent attacks on Baha'is
name. Accordingly, he appears to have felt and the destruction of their property during the
impelled to be particularly severe in his treatment Muslim months of Muharram and Ramadan.
of Baha'is. 78 The twelve years of his ministry
saw a series of discriminatory regulations against
Baha'is adopted by the government and enforced Economic Pressure
N THE 1970s, as the regime consolidated its
by SAVAK: a new Civil Service Code required
applicants for government jobs to state their I position, and particularly as the creation of the
religion, and attendant regulations made it clear OPEC monopoly reinforced its leverage in for-
that candidates could be accepted only if they eign affairs, minority elements of all kinds came
professed one of the recognized faiths and did not under steadily increasing pressure. Several new
hold "opinions" which were out of harmony factors made the Baha'i community a par-
with the traditions of the country. Acting on these ticularly attractive target. The first of these was
directives, government departments, crown cor- related to the advantage the community had
porations, and even private industries which come to enjoy in consequence of its response to
relied heavily on government orders discharged the Baha'i teaching on the importance of educa-
their Baha'i employees. At the same time, orders tion, particularly education in the sciences. As
were given to erase from the history books all early as the 1950s, Baha'is were becoming prom-
events associated with the Baha'i Faith. In the inent in the self-employed professions. As the
United Nations, the regime's spokesman, Mrs. Shah's ambitious modernization campaign
Teimourtash, denied to her startled audience that gained momentum and the need for trained
the Baha'i community any longer existed in resources became acute, it was obvious that one
Iran. 79 of the few pools of qualified personnel in Iran was
Once again, after a brief period of hope the Baha'i minority. Accordingly, exceptions to
inspired by the United Nations' intervention in the rule excluding Baha'is from government
the mid-1950s, the Baha'i community sank back employment multiplied. Such prominence"
to its existence as the scapegoat of the Iranian together with the economic prosperity which
social order. During the 1960s, employment out- tended to accompany it, particularly in a socio-
side private industry was a serious problem for economic milieu like that of Iran, exposed the
many Baha'is and depended always on the ability Baha'i community to the clergy's charges that its
of a Muslim superior to demonstrate that no members were a "favoured elite" who benefitted
other applicant possessed the particular talents or not through their own efforts, but because of
technical knowledge required by the position. undisclosed advantages they enjoyed. 8o Much
Always, the application of law or regulation was the same charges were made against Iran's Jew-
left to the caprice of individual chiefs of police, ish minority.
heads of government departments, and local and A related problem was the success of the
Baha'i community itself in gradually increasing Letter from Ministry of Health under Muhammad Reza Shah (October 28 1968) t d
provincial functionaries. On occasion, as hap- th M' . I . . ' 0 epartment heads of
its ownership of properties necessary to its vari- e I.mstry, ex~ aInIn~ th.at a graduate medical student, Firouz Taghizadeh, who had com leted his
78. It seems significant that Hoveida's brother, Ferey-
doun Hoveida, formerly the Shah's representative at the
ous programs. Holy places associated with the is
educatIOn and .hls. service In the health corps, is refused the medical position to which he ennl d
lives of the founders ofthe faith, the sites of many because he has Indicated his religion as Baha' f. The letter quotes "Article 2 of th C' '1E I I e
United Nations, makes no reference to the family's Baha'i fi d '" e IVI mp oyment Act
antecedents (or indeed to the existence of the Baha'i Faith or of the great events of Babi history, cemeteries, con rme In Article 14 of the Bill on Civil Employment" as the authority for this action. '
community) in his recent book, The Fall of the Shah. The
book is essentially an attack on the author's former master and 80. The 'ulama were, of course, aware of the falsity of
an apology for his brother's political career. these charges since they had themselves instigated the
79. Fischer, p. 187. (See illustrations previous and regime's discriminatory legislation and closely monitored
facing pages.) enforcement.
28 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 29

and administrative offices were painstakingly died with a staggering financial burden for the economic boom which the country was enjoy- Recent disclosures by former SAVAK officers
acquired by individual believers and donated to indefinite future. 82 The parallels with the treat- ing. 84 Alone among the population, the Baha'i have also shown how " government agents
the community. Donations and charitable ment of the Jews in medieval Europe are nowhere community wrote formally to the Shah to indi- provoked anti-Baha'i hysteria to divert reaction-
bequests also made possible the establishment of more striking than in the Pahlavi regime's eco- cate that, while he could be assured of their ary Muslims from turning their fury against the
hospitals, clinics, orphanages, old age homes, nomic exploitation of its Baha'i subjects. loyalty, Baha'[s would have to decline to join the Shah. "86 SAVAK agents organized a riot in
and community centres. Handicapped by the In 1975, a further development added to the Rastakhiz on the grounds of their religious belief which some three hundred homes owned by
refusal of civil law to recognize its collective deepening isolation of the Baha'i minority from which prohibited participation in political Baha'is were burned. A mob attack on the house
existence, however, the community could not the rest of the nation. Deciding that political activities. 85 The isolation of the Baha'IS thus of the Bab was then incited. To the surprise of
hold property in its own name. For a period of opposition was sufficiently divided and demor- became complete. SAVAK, familiar with the local clergy's hatred of
time, many of the endowments had been regis- alized, the regime announced the formation of a the Baha'i heresy, mullahs came into the street to
tered in the name of trye Guardian of the Faith, as new single-party system, the so-called stop the riots before the shrine had been
an individual. 81 After his death in 1957, however, Rastakhiz, or "Resurgence Party. " Government Fall of the Pahlavi Regime destroyed. The excuse given to the faithful was
therefore, that when the
I
T IS NOT SURPRISING,
these titles were transferred to the Umana Corpo- spokesmen made it clear that any subject invited that the building had once belonged to a siyyid,
to join the organization and refusing would have marches and protests began in 1978, the sin-
ration, a company created under the provisions of i.e., the Bab had been a lineal descendant of
to justifY his refusal, and that such justification gling out of the Baha'I community as a scapegoat
Iranian and Islamic law, with directors appointed Muhammad. This respite, however, was short-
was one of the regime's immediate responses.
by the Baha'i national assembly. would be subject to review by the courts. In the lived. By December, public protest had turned
Throughout that summer, SAVAK organized a
These successes and the community's efforts Shah's own words: into revolution, the clergy were united in their
number of incidents aimed at driving a wedge
to consolidate them in law became a vulnerable We must straighten out Iranian ranks. To do so, opposition to the regime, and a number of
between the more radical elements of the Shi ' ih
target for extortion. An initial tax of 28 million we divide them into two categories: those who Baha'[s in Shiraz were killed with impunity
clergy and the main body of the 'ulama. The
tumans was collected from the Baha'is by the believe in the monarchy, the Constitution, and during the course of attacks incited by the
horrifYing burning of the Rex Cinema in Abadan,
Hoveida ministry, but this proved to be only an (the White Revolution); and those who do not. mullahs themselves. 87
which the regime attributed to Islamic funda-
opening demand. When an arbitration commis- . . . Everyone must be man enough to clarifY
mentalists, may have been one of these attempts.
sion, from whose judgement there was no appeal, his position in this country. He either approves
ruled against the government's attempt to impose of the conditions or he does not. As I said
the tax twice over, legislation was introduced before, if his disapproval has treacherous over-
with a retroactive clause permitting the judge- tones, his fate is clear. If it has ideological
ment to be set aside. During the parliamentary roots, he is free in Iran, but he should not have
debate, the ministry's spokesman assured the any expectations. 83 (Italics added.)
Majlis that the law would be applied only to the The Baha'i community quickly discovered what
Baha'i community and represented no threat to these ominous words implied. Iranians from all
any other group in society. Once the legislation walks of life, flocked to join the new organization
was in place, a government commission imposed in order to continue to playa role in the system
a supplementary tax of 50 million tumans on the and to participate fully in the apparently limitless
holdings of the Baha'i community, and a few 82. The Baha'i International Community prepared an
days later raised this figure to 80 million tumans. extensive dossier of photocopies of the documents related to
Neither sum bore any relation to the value of the this and other aspects of the persecution of the Baha' f
community under the Pahlavis, and offered it to Mansour
property nor to the financial resources of the Farhang, then the Representative of the Islamic Republic of
hapless community. Raising this vast ransom Iran to the United Nations , in a letter dated July 7, 1980. A
involved sacrifice on the part of Baha'is complete set of these documents , both photostats of the
originals and English translations, was subsequently sent by
throughout the entire country, but even so, only a
the National Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States to
part could be put together. The regime thereupon Mr. Ali Agha , then Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of
fixed an interest-bearing bill of exchange for the Iran to the United States. The documents are available for 86. Time magazine, February 20, 1984, p. 83. The
study by qualified scholars at the library of the Baha'i 84. Bakhtiar says that even the members of the Com- agents in question were the Tablighat-i-Islami.
remainder, and the community found itself sad-
International Community, Suite 444, 866 UN Plaza, New munist Tudeh party felt compelled to join (Bakhtiar, p. 91). 87. Fischer states that, when the summer's efforts to
81. Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, great-grandson of York, N.Y. 10017, USA. 85. The community adopted the same attitude when create diversions failed, the regime "pandered to the allega-
Baha'u'lhih, served as Guardian of the Baha'i Faith and 83 . Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, in a speech of March 2, called upon by the Islamic revolutionary regime to vote on a tion that the Shah relied excessively on Baha'is" and dis-
interpreter of its teachings from his appointment in 1921 until 1975, published by the Ministry of Information and Tourism, one-option ballot for the new constitution drafted by the missed those in prominent positions, including the Shah's
his death in 1957. and cited by Halliday, p. 48. mullahs. physician (Fischer, p. 198).
IV.
The Islamic Republic, 1979
HEN THE PAHLAVI REGIME finally col- hostility to Israel, the promise of protection was
W lapsed in February 1979, the vast majority
of Iranians hailed the revolution as the dawn of
categoric:
I have given a message to the representatives
the long awaited era of political liberty and of the Jewish community [of Iran] who came
national reconstruction. Elsewhere in the world, to visit me here ... I told them that we would
particularly in the West, governments with the even invite all those Jews who have left their
foresight to establish ties to the circle of political country under the influence of propaganda and
advisors around Ayatollah Khomeini , reassured are now in Israel, to come back to their country
themselves about the essentially progressive and participate in rebuilding it. In Iran, under
nature of the revolution and the prospects for Islamic rule, they will have all the freedom,
satisfactory, if stressful, relations with the new religious freedom , they could wish.9o
regime. 88 The press, assiduously cultivated by Only the Baha'is were conspicuously excluded
these same aides, found many encouraging fea- from these assurances. In the same interviews in
tures amid the fundamentalist rhetoric . It was which the Ayatollah and his spokesmen prom-
widely accepted that the movement's ideology ised toleration for religious minorities , they
represented the resurgence of the religion of explicitly denied any such rights to Iran's largest
Islam itself, and scholarly experts began to religious minority. An interview given by Kho-
appear in chancelleries and on television to meini to Professor James Cockroft of Rutgers
explain the character of Islamic law and govern- University in December 1978 is typical. The
ment. 89 following excerpt is taken from Cockroft's tran-
Even the traditional victims of Shi'ih fanati- script of the interviews , the text of which was
cism had their fears considerably allayed by approved by the Ayatollah and his aide, Dr.
reassurances from the revolutionary leadership. Ibraham Yazdi, and then published in the Febru-
In the new order religious minorities were to be ary 23, 1979 issue of Seven Days:91
granted toleration, ethnic groups were to pre-
Question: "Will there be either religious
serve their identities, and women's rights were
or political freedom for the
not only to be protected but also redefined and
Baha'is under an Islamic gov-
extended. All hues of the political spectrum,
ernment?"
including Marxism, would have their assured
Answer: "They are a political faction;
place in the system. Jewish delegations called on
they are harmful. They will not
Khomeini at Neauphle-le-Chateau, France, as
be accepted."
well as on his spokesmen in other major centres.
Question: "How about their freedom of
Despite the history of anti-Jewish discrimination
religion - religious practice?"
in Iran and the special vulnerability of that com-
Answer: "No. "
munity because of the revolutionary leadership's
In view of the long history of persecution of
88. See, for example, the summary of the views of Iran's Baha'i population under both the Qajar
American expert observers such as Richard Cottam, Richard
Falk, James Bill, and Andrew Young in Ledeen and Lewis, 90. Many of the promises were violated, although the
pp. 210-12. three religious minorities continue to enjoy a limited tolera-
89 . Edward W. Said in Covering Islam believes that the tion.
coverage of "the Iran story" by the Western media was unfair. 91. See also New York Times, February 13,1979: "Two
See, however, Rubin, Appendix. U.S. Jews hold talk.. . . "
32 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha' ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha' is of Iran, 1844-1984
33

and Pahlavi dynasties, this exclusion of the com- towards Baha' ism by a Baha'i teacher. For
Document marked "secret" fouhq in
munity was ominous indeed. Baha'i fears had nearly six months they studied Baha'i beliefs.
the captured files of the Pahlavi s~cret
been intensified by the way in which, during the Eventually, Alavi, although a trained the-
police, SAVAK, revealing the collab-
final months of the Shah's regime, they had been ologian, became one of the grea~ teachers of
oration of the latter with the Anjum~n-i­
singled out by Shi'ih fanatics in violent attacks Baha'ism, writing books in its support. When
Tablfghat-i-Islami in harassing the
on individuals and property. If their historic Halabi, who had also been drawn towards
Baha'i community. SAVAK's Third
exclusion from civil protection was to be made BaM' ism, saw how his friend accepted the
Bureau instructs regional directors to
even more explicit under the new regime, and new faith, he began to realize the danger that
cooperate with the Anjuman in sup-
particularly if th~t regime was to be dominated he himself faced through his association with
pressing BaM' is systematically, but
by the ecclesiastical caste responsible for the AlavI. He saw that BaM'ism might not only
warning that such activities must not
persecutions under the Qajars and the Pahlavis, influence uneducated lay people, but even
provoke public disturbance. The docu-
the future was very dark. infiltrate the theological schools, and that
ment was published by the left-wing
prospect alarmed him greatly. Consequently,
revolutionary newspaper, Mujahid,
he became sensitized towards this issue and June 9, 1980.
The Anjuman-i-Tablighat-i- started a program of study aimed at opposing
Islami Baha' ism .94
HE MENACE BECAME explicit through the Tayyeb also attributed the form of the Anjuman's
T emergence of the Anjuman-i-Tablfghat-i-
Islami (Society for Islamic Teaching) as a politi-
organization and its nationwide expansion to
Halabf's familiarity with the administrative
cal power in the new regime. This fundamentalist structure of the Baha'i Faith which he sought to
Muslim group had been organized in the 1950s combat:
by a Shi'ih cleric, Sheikh Mahmud Tavallai (who The religious leadership, which was con-
later took the name Halabf), as a means of cerned over the problem of Baha'i expansion,
combatting the B aha' i heresy,. 92 Commonly began praising the work being done by Halabi
referred to by clergy and press as Anjuman-i- and gave their support to the Hujjatfyyih
Zedde-BaMiyyat (Anti-Baha'ism Society), the Society (the Anjuman-i-Tablfghat-i-Islamf).
organization drew its membership from funda- The late Ayatollah Burujirdi, the late
mentalist elements among the lower clergy, sem- Ayatollah Hakim and most of the hierarchy
inarians, civil servants , elementary school teach- endorsed the Anjuman's activities. 95 In this
ers and the like, who were organized into local way, the Anjuman rapidly expanded. Some of
chapters. Although the Anjuman enjoyed the the clergy even gave permission to allocate
patronage and financial support of the Shi'ih funds from religious donations to " the share of
hierarchy,93 its services were early coopted by the Imam," to its activities. 96 This led to the
the Shah's secret police, SAVAK, as one of attraction of growing numbers of people to the
several instruments of social control in the Anjuman with the result that it was able to set
Pahlavi state. up branches in various cities and towns , each
A 1982 article in a pro government Iranian under the sponsorship of a local mullah. As
newspaper by Mehdi Tayyeb, a former official of time passed, the Anjuman emerged in
the Anjuman, throws an interesting light on the organized form at the national level, as well,
circumstances which had led Halabi to found his and since its purpose was to combat Baha'ism,
movement:
94. The article appeared in the February 14, 1982 issue
Along with another theology student named of Subh-i-A ztidegan. Tehran. See also nn. 139-141.
Siyyid Abbas AlavI, he (Halabf) was attracted 95 . Burujirdi and Hakim were leading ecclesiastics
with close ties to the court. Hakim, particularly, was regarded
92. Halabi, an obscure figure, has deliberately sought as "the Shah's ayatollah."
to avoid publicity. 96. The " share of the Imam" is a fund theoretically
93 . Principally, Ayatollahs Hakim and Burujirdi. See held in trust for the Hidden Imam, but actually used at the
n. 95. discretion of the hierarchy for pious purposes.
34 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 35

which was a secret and well-organized group, metamorphosis. An organization which had been One of a series of documents from
this increased the pressure to organize the a tool of the Pahlavi regime's oppressive policies SAVAK files representing discussions
work of the Anjuman. 97 emerged as a power-broker in a people's revolu- between government departments on
Under the aegis of SAVAK, Halabf's organiza- tion. Positioning itself on the extreme right wing the degree of freedom to be given to the
tion was granted freedom to carry out vigorous of the political spectrum and allying itself with Tablfghat-i-Islami (i.e., the Hujjatiy-
propaganda aimed at preventing Muslim con- powerful ayatollahs , the Anjuman offered the yih) in harassing Baha'is. The docu-
version to the Baha'i Faith and, wherever possi- support of its widespread organization in mobi- ment illustrated is a memorandum to
ble, attempting to coerce Baha'is to convert to lizing conservative Islamic elements in the revo- the Minister of Court from Parviz
Islam. The program included publishing abusive lutionary upheaval. In 1978, anti-Baha'i Sabeti, director of SAVAK's Third
literature, disrupting Baha'i meetings and activities still provided one of the few safe guises Bureau, approving Tablfghat-i-Islami
religious services, and attempting to identify behind which clerical opposition to the regime activities against the Baha'i community
Baha'is in public employment and to pressure could organize itself. Once the revolution suc- in Mashad "so long as they do not
officials to enforce various discriminatory reg- ceeded, the Anjuman began designating itself create public disorder." Ironically,
ulations.98 The arrangement provided an outlet the Anjuman-i-Hujjat and is now generally Sabeti is one of those officials of the
for the frustrations of Shi'ih fundamentalists, referred to by supporters and opponents alike as Shah's regime whom the Islamic
while giving SAVAK another coercive instru- the Hujjatfyyih. lOa regime seeks to portray as Baha'is.
The Hujjatiyyih were able to make this transi-
ment entirely dependent on its goodwill.
tion with relative ease because of the peculiar
In 1956, 1963, and 1978, when the regime was
political anatomy of the revolutionary move-
facing various domestic challenges, SAVAK and
ment. As many commentators have since pointed
the Tablfgh<it-i-Islami carried out joint attacks on
out, the Islamic Revolution was the product of a
the Baha'i community as diversions. 99 Mullah
loose coalition of political forces with little in
Taqi Falsafi, who had led the 1955 anti-Baha'i
common except their determination to bring
pogrom, was an active leader of the Anjuman.
down the Pahlavi regime, and with many funda-
Nevertheless, SAVAK was the senior partner.
mental differences of ideology and program. 101
When attacks by undisciplined elements in the
To astute observers it seemed obvious that once
Tablfghat-i-Islami led to formal complaints by
the short-term objective of the alliance had been
the Baha'i community or threatened to arouse the
attained, these contradictions would emerge and
protests of its foreign sympathizers, SAVAK did
a struggle for power ensue. While there were
not hesitate to deliver up its collaborators to the
differences of opinion as to how severe this
civil courts for prosecution.
struggle would be, preparations for a test of
strength gathered momentum as the old regime
The Hujjatiyyih and the disintegrated.
Revolution The principal advantage which the Hujjatiyyih
N 1978 WITH THE GRADUAL EXPOSURE of the enjoyed in this situation was their organization.
I Shah's impotence in the face of civil disorder, Apart from them, the most widespread organiza-
the Tablfghat-i-Islamf moved to free itself from
SAVAK's tutelage and to find itself a role in the 100. The name Hujjat (iit., "proof," i.e., of God) is a
new order of things. The result was a startling reference to the expected Shf'ih messiah, the Twelfth or
"Hidden" Imam. The choice of the new name for the
97. Subh-i-Aztidegan. February 14, 1982. movement was no doubt intended to underline the Anjuman's
98. See illustration previous page. central principle, a denial of the BaM' f claim that the Bab was
99. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution occurred, the this promised messenger. It now serves, as well, to emphasize
leaders of the Tablighat-i-Ishimi, then prominent figures in the movement's rejection of claims made by Khomeini's
the new Islamic power structure, were embarrassed by the partisans on behalf of their leader, claims which the Huj-
publication in the opposition newspaper Mujahid of docu- jatfyyih feel are inconsistent with faithfulness to the expected
ments from SAVAK files exposing their close collaboration advent.
with the infamous "Third Bureau." (See illustration facing 101. See Halliday, chapters 4 and 8. Also Keddie, pp.
and following pages.) 205-30, 235-39, 257-64.
36 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 37

Another in the series of captured tions in the revolutionary movement were all tionary underground. The leaders of the
SAVAK documents. The head of leftist in orientation: the Mujahedin-i-Khalq Fada'iyan, who were rumoured to include Sadeq
SAVAK, General Nematollah (Islamic Marxists), the Fada'iyan-i-Khalq (a sec- Khalkhali himself, imposed discipline as the
Nassiri is inquiring about the ular Marxist group to the left of the Mujahedin), Islamic regime consolidated itself, but the
arrest of five persons by a divi- and the Tudeh (the Iranian Communist party). 102 Fada' iyan remained an unpredictable and violent
sional office. The detainees claim In circumstances so unpredictable, the eccle- element in the new republic.
to be members ofthe Hujjatfyyih, siastical leadership could not afford to allow an Joining with ecclesiastical allies in the capital
and Nassiri orders the division to unsavoury history to bar the Hujjatiyyih from an and with rural clergy in many areas of the
consult with Sheikh Mahmoud influential role in the new order. Overnight, country, the Hujjatfyyih and the Fada' iyan-i-
Halabi before taking any action, individuals whom one might have expected to Islam formed a loose political alliance. In this
since the Sheikh is the head of the see join their former SAVAK patrons before new role they secured key positions in the Revo-
Hujjatfyyih and "is collaborating revolutionary firing squads emerged instead as lutionary Council and in other organs of the new
closely with SAVAK's 21st Divi- members of the komitehs, the local Islamic regime. The first step in the campaign they
sion in Tehran." (See also pre- groups who were meting out this rough justice. launched against the Baha' is was to complete the
vious document.) With Iran in the hands of the revolutionary seizure of the community's records, an initiative
regime, the Hujjatiyyih took a leading role in which the Hujjatiyyih had begun under
attempting to rid Iran of the Baha'i heresy. They SAVAK 's protection during the closing months
were joined in this undertaking by a much of the Shah's regime. Squads of Hujjatfyyih
smaller right-wing organization which had just gunmen descended on Baha' i national headquar-
been reborn, the notorious Fada'iyan-i-Islam, ters in Tehran and on centres in several of the
representative of the "know-nothing" tradition in major provincial capitals, seized the buildings,
Islamic political history. 103 Violently suppressed expelled the staff, and undertook an exhaustive
in the 1950s by SAVAK, after a long history of study of the files and membership lists. 104
terrorism and political assassination, the group At the same time, a campaign of anti-Baha'i
reappeared as the revolution gathered momen- propaganda began in the form of denunciations
tum. The initial energy for the renascence was from pulpits, articles in the press, handbills ,
supplied by criminal elements who appear to posters, and graffiti. Baha'is were denounced as
have taken advantage of the disorders oflate 1978 heretics, enemies of Islam, "corrupt on earth,"
to arm themselves and to put their services at the and as collaborators with the Shah's regime. The
disposal of fundamentalist mullahs in the revolu- effect was to unleash waves of attacks on Baha'is
and their property throughout the country. Mem-
102. The Mujahedin and the Fada'iyan primarily differ
bers of the faith were beaten and in several
over the essentially religious orientation of the former, but
both represented major forces in the revolution, especially instances killed, many businesses were con-
among the students (Mujahedin) and the industrial workers fiscated or destroyed, hundreds of houses burned,
(Fada'iyan). Halliday dismisses the Tudeh as a weak party and efforts made to force believers to recant their
whose "servile loyalty" to the Soviet Union, he feels , crip-
pled its long-term hopes for a major role (Halliday, pp. faith. Prominent clergymen warned that there
238-39). was no place in Islamic Iran for this heresy which
103. Richard W. Cottam briefly discusses the history of was a danger to the spiritual and moral fibre of
this fanatical group in Nationalism in Iran . See also Akhavi,
society.
pp. 66-74. The temporary partnership of the two groups
appears to have involved a certain division of responsibility.
Sheikh Halabi and the Hujjatiyyih leaders present themselves
as theological experts on the Baha' i heresy and on the 104. Shortly after the membership lists were seized,
development of polemical methods to counteract it. They Baha'is began receiving Hujjatiyyih flyers in the mail, warn-
have also established what they call a "Research Centre on ing them of the consequences of obstinately holding to Baha' i
Bahaism, " in Qom. The Fadil'iyan-i-Islam, who are essen- beliefs. Subsequently, the Hujjatiyyih made a point of using
tially religious hoodlums , serve much the same function as the Baha'i registration numbers in communications with
the Brownshirts did in the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. members of the faith, presumably to demonstrate their com-
(See illustrations following two pages.) mand of the community's records.
38 Baha'I Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'IS of Iran, 1844-1984 39

Article in revolutionary newspape r


Bambad. February 23, 1980, announc'-
ing the candidacy for the Majlis elec-
tions of one, Ram, who takes credit for
the assassination of the Baha'i physi-
: \ <"i;;. _ " ' ;
,,~ •••.}c.o$... JI • cian, Dr. S. Berdjis, in 1949 (see also
l.t~,,~••,-.. ~•

.....
~ ... ...,,')-.:..::....
.".,.. "'" "-Ioo.~,T•.,,.L.(~
".",
.... ,"' ...,... JI.o., ....I..... ';T
document on previous page).
....,JJ~"' .. I"'r'r~I~~er·.Ir:L1
,,'i" ."t. ......."....... ~:';'I
~I ~;,u~.,r
•..... .,t:,~~il·,
"'1Jf'Lo~I"'''".i ..... ~~~
,,.1.:,, ~".q.. •"ee
oU,.""(,,,
.J" ~~I'I, t.;T ,,,, ';'.,-" .r
t'JI.o!~rl)'o$;;",£;l~"''''
:~~"JU ~ ' .. ,~¥,J"' ....
~t".;..J"Jd~J~.ir:,':~.. .".a..u •
"'"...~·.......wT ,I,J. ':'1.:,0:
o$..rt<"'U __ J ,.. JI.o'JI
. ... • . ' ..'-'P
orIIi.... ""' I o$,IG'.Jr'.:ocl
" :~~ ..J1s;r IJ.~'f"..~ ~,,\oIU"

Article from the Tehran. weekly magazine, Ferdowsi during the reign of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi
(February 26, 1949) reporting the murder of a Baha'I physician in Kashan, Dr. S. Berdjis. Dr. Berdjis was
murdered by two members of the Fada'iyan-i-Islam who subsequently walked through town, their hands
covered with blood, announcing their execution of a heretic. They also presented themselves to the police
in this condition, but were not detained; the local medical association has protested. (See also document
on f~llowing page.)
40 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 41

Mehdi Bazargan and the First history. That they accord similar recogni- provided by law. It was unjust to allow such visiting.109 The regime's initial explanation to
tion to the revelations of the founders of general and unsupported allegations to cast foreign journalists for these expropriations was
Islamic Revolution
other great religions, including their own, a shadow on the reputation of an entire its desire to protect the buildings from malicious
of hope existed. The Shi'ih
O NE FAINT RAY
clergy, despite their power, did not con-
stitute the civil government of Iran. After Febru-
does not make them anti-Islamic. l06
3. The presence of the international head-
religious minority. 107
These initiatives received no response from the
damage.
In May 1979, however, the authorities took
quarters of the BaM'i Faith in Haifa, over the central financial institution of the Baha'i
ary 11, 1979, that position was filled by Mehdi Bazargan ministry. On the contrary, evidence
Israel, is evidence that BaM' is are agents community in Iran, the Shirkat-i-Nawnahalan,
Bazargan, who had been appointed Prime Minis- began to emerge which suggested that the gov-
of Zionism froze its assets, expelled its staff, and terminated
ter by the Ayatollah Khomeini, acting on his ernment itself, or elements of it, were prepared to
The Assembly pointed out that the head- all salaries. They followed this by seizing the
assumed authority as head of state, replacing the collaborate to a certain extent in the persecution.
quarters of their faith were established in Umana Corporation, the body which held title to
Shah. Bazargan had been accepted as such by the Baha'is in North America were shocked when,
Haifa (and neighbouring 'Akka) over 80 all Baha'i shrines, holy places, and cemeteries.
revolutionary movement and the general public, during the "MacNeil-Lehrer Report" of Febru-
years before the State of Israel came into Within days, the Missaqiyyih Hospital, the large
and had duly formed a cabinet. 105 Because he ary 12, 1980, Dr. Mansour Farhang, the regime's
existence; that the selection of Mount Car- Baha'i charitable institution in Tehran, was
and his colleagues had been emphatic in their spokesman and later representative at the United
mel and the neighbouring region for this seized' together with the Baha'i home for the
public statements assuring civil rights to all Nations, denied that the Iranian Baha'i com-
purpose is related solely to the fact that the aged in the capital, and all their Baha'i patients
Iranian citizens, regardless of ethnic or religious munity was in any way being mistreated and went
founders of their faith, the Bab and and residents summarily evicted. 110
background, the Baha'i community turned to on to repeat the charge of the mullahs that
Baha'u'llah, are buried there. (Baha'u'llah
them for protection. At first privately, and then Baha'is had been torturers for SAVAK, chosen
was taken to the Holy Land in 1868 as a
formally, the National Spiritual Assembly of the because of their peculiar psychological suit- Foreign Intervention
prisoner of two Muslim rulers, the
Baha'is of Iran laid their situation before the ability to the task. 108 That this was not an isolated NITIALLY, the international Baha'i com-
government, pointed out the dire threats being
made against them, and sought to respond to the
Ottoman sultan and the Persian shah, kept
there as a prisoner until his death in 1892,
lapse, but an expression of government policy
became apparent when the authorities began a
I munity, like the National Assembly of Iran,
and entombed at Bahji, in the vicinity of adopted a conciliatory attitude. Although
allegations which the clergy were making. series of seizures of Baha'i shrines and holy abstaining from political activity, Baha'is had
'Akka.)
Among these allegations were: places and excluded members of the faith from little difficulty in appreciating the justice of the
4. The leadership of the Iranian BaM' i com-
1. The BaM'i community had been political munity is engaged in "a conspiracy" with general outcry against the old order in Iran and
supporters of the previous regime the U.S. and British governments 107. As religious minorities in similar situations have the demand for sweeping changes. To varying
To this charge, the Assembly pointed to the The Assembly pointed out that the teach- had cause to appreciate, the charge of "profiteering" has been degrees, they tended to accept, as well, that an
public record. The Baha'i community had a difficult one for the Baha'is to counter, principally because upheaval of the proportions involved in the Ira-
ings of the Baha'i Faith categorically for- the accusers have never been required by the civil authorities
been the only segment of Iranian society bid the involvement of its members in any to document specific cases. The accused community could nian revolution was bound to entail a period of
which had written openly to the Shah in partisan political activity, and make loyalty and did point out that discriminatory legislation had denied to turmoil, including random acts of violence and
1976 and explained that, because of their the great majority of their members many of the opportunities injustice. Accordingly, Baha'i Assemblies
to government a principle of faith. normally associated with such activities. They were also
religious principles, they could not take Although challenged repeatedly to do so, aware, however, of the advantages which superior education
around the world limited themselves to appealing
part in the one-party system which he had the clergy who made this allegation had had conferred on many of their members and of the con- by cable and letter to Prime Minister Bazargan
imposed. Nor had Baha'is accepted cabinet struction which fundamentalist Muslims were placing on and Ayatollah Khomeini to intervene and secure
been unable to produce a single piece of
these advantages and the financial benefits that had accrued
or any other political posts under the supporting evidence. the protection of the lives and properties of their
during the boom of the 1970s. Their reputation for reliability
Pahlavis. 5. BaM'is profited financially from the no doubt played ,a part in persuading Muhammad Reza Shah Baha'i subjects.
2. The BaM'i Faith is anti-Islamic Pahlavi regime to entrust his personal health to a Baha'i physician, a fact These appeals likewise received no response
The Assembly pointed out that Baha'is frequently mentioned by Shi'ih critics. The kafkaesque rea- from the Bazargan ministry. Instead, Iranian
On this point, the Iranian National Assem- soning of the Islamic leadership holds that Baha'is were a
revere the Prophet Muhammad as a mes- bly urged that the government identify any "privileged elite," since any of the opportunities they embassies in various parts of the world began
senger of God, accept the Qur'an as a individuals whom it considered to be enjoyed were technically unjustified privileges, denied to
divine revelation, and regard Islam itself as them under the constitution. The effects of this attitude can 109. These seizures took place in April 1979.
guilty of improper activities of this kind, still be seen in comments by some Western scholars who had BO. The hospital was subsequently renamed Shahid
one of the great civilizing forces in human and prosecute them in the civil courts, as little direct contact with the Iranian Baha'i community, but Mustapha Khomeini Hospital, in honour of the Ayatollah's
who picked up the foregoing attitude from their Muslim dead son, believed to have been murdered by SAVAK. The
105 . The cabinet included close associates of Kho- associates. The names of one or two particularly egregious judgement of the Central Revolutionary Court, ordering the
meini, such as Ibrahim Yazdi, Deputy Prime Minister and 106. Unlike Islam, the Baha'i Faith recognizes the examples of Baha'i millionaires are commonly cited in the hospital's confiscation, lists ten reasons justifying this action,
later Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as prominent figures validity of the major Far East religions, Hinduism and Bud- absence of any evidence supporting the general accusation. each one of which refers explicitly to its Baha'i character and
in the former National Front like Karim Sanjabi. The effect dhism, as well as those faiths mentioned explicitly in the 108. See pp. 57-58, for Farhang's subsequent retraction to no other factor (The BaM' IS in Iran, p. 80). (See illustra-
was temporarily to reassure the middle class. Qur'an. of these charges. tion following page.)
42 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 43

issuing statements which denied the reports of With the extinguishing of their claim td' civil
persecution and insisted that the Baha'is were a rights, the position of the Iranian Baha'i com-
political movement supporting the Pahlavi munity rapidly deteriorated. In March 1979, the
regime. III The Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Yazdi, house of the Bab, the holiest Baha'i shrine in

.. ;;.' 7,-
':;I.IV
/ .... ~/ /", ... " ,
"
',!:.J/""',j;;.v'-~1'.rill~f-1":o:I'-'I~~J""''1
a close associate of Ayatollah Khomeini , person-
ally endorsed these allegations.
Iran, which had been carefully restored after
being wrecked in the Shah's 1955 anti-Baha'i
,4....:-h ~~ ,. -J~!A:-~-(~';"':"';;::rkly.;{-U't;;/~rP
By April 1979, when the new Constitution was
being drafted, it was apparent that the persecu-
campaign, was turned over by the government to
Sadeq Khalkhali specifically "for the activities
::~;0(J:J'~;Ii/~-!P'J'.:.;lflfl,(;;',,:,,~1 tion of the Baha'is was to be institutionalized. In of the Fada'iyan-i-Islam." 113 About the same
,({41/I, none of the drafts which were prepared and time the authorities gave the former National

~ef''''~.J 1iI,t(II""ift:A~~)~;lhp,~'
published in the press was there any reference to Centre of the Baha'i community to the Huj-
the Baha'i Faith, although the Constitution jatiyyih, who sent out flyers announcing its
~:,;t;;-ff~r'; 1:I';;".t.;:II¢'Vt.J~Mf ~~~JW;;""~,;IJ would make such inclusion the sole basis for the acquisition as their new headquarters. 114
"'..,J~~I/J";:"J'iJ.;ra?I·~....:'4;"~;;:'II~.J,.,:..~
A'i •
granting of civil rights. The other three religious Although the centre survived in this new role, the
minorities - Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians shrine proved too attractive a target for the grow-
(':'~~!f~"'·~".f-/~It?-J;!'J(r.4,g,~~J~~~/' - were named, even more explicitly than they ing violence of the anti-Baha'i movement. From
~• .t"".. • • • . ,d( • - ... XII had been in the Imperial Constitution of 1906, September 8 to 11, 1979, a mob led by mullahs
.1f,~J"';':Jr{~.:/t./?tJ,:,'~II¢."-'':'J- IrK..;, !If1JWJ
and officials of the Department of Religious
.::-.;fJ~ ,t;.,Jb;~";"JJ!j'l)it, ~~AV ;I'~~"';' from which the Baha'is had also been excluded.
Appeals from the National Assembly of the Affairs, using equipment supplied by the muni-
·~;(":";!"11:1~..'1'I.I(!J'/~0t';/~"Ji!::'~J~IJ(tJI;JIJ.I':tJr.: Baha'is of Iran and other Baha'i Assemblies cipality of Shiraz, engaged in wanton destruc-
;"-....."..,r,:
. J ~VA1If,r"p
• ," .c:".. ~I.......,A,I
r( ..{ ....r:'-1.;:"1~~.:t!~
..:;J/.::,!) J' around the world, as well as from a wide range of tion. Baha'i communities around the world once
" .. "'C-' " .. '" disinterested observers, went unacknowledged. again cabled Prime Minister Bazargan in a des-
Y::":;;;;J,";;',,.J..:.-v' ,j~1.t ":/.:hlf:.:.t.! '::"'-I:'--;'+I:I!'-'~!'IJ
.;,;" . . When the new constitution was eventually perate attempt to save the building, but the cen-
, ,//. /, .' - ~:,;{ • ..J."I!
it~ ;,1-/.:1.'1) (N.I:''' 'Iv!/'U~_,'"!"'III'1":"':.'':!)/{.J /~(.!t adopted in December 1979, the Baha'i com- tral authorities did not intervene until the shrine
~ ~u ~I' munity, the largest religious minority in the had been reduced to rubble on 11 September.
. .
I ;(. / /; /" , /,.0
,j'}1"v..,I'.::.:';I.:I".blti.J,V" ,"-Iii ..,;;..0',(1',:0.1.,
country and the object of over 130 years of Once again, for reasons which ' are difficult to
.'/,'" . , / , .I.u'" ' .. .-
~'·v,J.:..:'f...A-'J ...;..oA':IJ.:t ,;/!ttJr-""-"'- ,;'J'/~":1" discrimination and persecution, had once again understand, the government implicated itselffur-
, . /•. ; . ~ /10, 6"t: ~-.1"'".~
~~..::..s.:l~'!:"'~/'''1'-,~/"-l:"'''..w;'''''-I.I~x'''/t1.,, I
been denied any civil status. Challenged by the ther by issuing, through its embassies, state-
Western press on this obvious discrimination and
.:I~I')·r1. ;1 :£it:l.J.."i-:iJ,1i 1!i'F~'J.,t..;,;;:,r:i:JId.:N-' its implications for the safety of nearly half a
~p'..::'IIP;t..;",th:';"'...::,....-~/~/"y.).,ih .J{,1V;;,,-:,;; "1" 1:I~!r. million people, the government replied through
"",
,,~ . . . )Y'. //.t,
.,,~ Y,~.J~.(""~e:-".:.v, n .....{"}..Y/~'N-:"''',;tJ...r.
"',
.;.JIII~
its embassies that:
declined to be put off by such statements, spokesmen for the
> "' . "..I I //;, ,~~
...t.?:"v;l)rr..rl'J~/.~.v.J~I.:I~~--'~tty~,:.Ab'''''u.·· I
The Islamic Republic of Iran, having as its regime outside Iran sought to justify the exclusion of the
official religion Shi'ih Islam, cannot and Baha'is from the constitution by explaining that, as a post-
~/.",,!;';1p.J ..;,;1I~! ~~ ..::..u.;I;~lo:I;.to=':'o:I4~ should not place a misguided group like the Islamic phenomenon. the Baha'i Faith cannot be "·a true
religion" but must be a political party. With no apparent
,,';:"~t:I'r.J,~, ..::.;.!"--'"cf...::../.",;I,;J:-~~f,.::tJ(»fpJ~I:I~!:,;1 Baha'is, whose affiliation and association awareness of the contradiction involved, the same spokesmen
.' ~:"r:-r'~
with world Zionism is a clear fact, in the same added that Baha'is are Muslims who have been " seduced into
heresy." As most Iranian Baha'is are fourth or fifth genera-
category as minorities like the Christian, Jews,
tion members of their religion. the latter argument is mean-
and Zoroastrians, and recognize them as a ingless.
religious minority.112 113. Letter from the Foundation for the Dispossessed.
Tehran. addressed to Sheikh Sadeq Khalkhali , dated March
23, 1979, file 655 , no. 1088. (See illustration page 44.) An 8
Extract from verdict of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Tehran, ordering the confiscation of the Baha'i 111. See, for example, statements of the Iranian mm film of the destruction was incorporated in Canadian
Missaghiih Hospital. The charges, which are enumerated, include the Baha'i membership of the embassy in Buenos Aires (September 26, 1979), and the Television's national news-magazine program "W-5"
founders, the Baha'i membership of 40 of the 87 students in the associated school of nursing, the support Iranian consulate in Manchester, England (September 21, October 1980. Several collections of colour photographs also
1979). exist in the West.
of the latter school by Baha'i grants, the Baha'i membership of 123 of the 290 staff members, and the 112. Statement by the Embassy of Islamic Republic of 114. The flyer equates the Centre with the " Embassy of
intention of Baha'i doctors and nurses to use their training in overseas projects. Iran, Buenos Aires , September 26, 1979. When newsmen IsraeL " (See illustration page 45 .)
44 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 45

Fly~r published by the Anjuman-i-


TabHghat-i-Islami (i .e., the Huj-
jatiyyih), June 1979, announcing
that the former national centre ofithe
Iranian Baha'i community (which is
represented as being "one and the
same with the Israeli embassy") has
now been taken over as the Tehran
headquarters of the Anjuman. To
celebrate this acquisition, the public
are invited to the former centre on
June 10, 1979, to hear an address by
the Ayatollah Noori who will expose
the relationship between Baha'is and
Zionism.

Formal letter from the Foundation for the Dispossessed (#655-1088, March 23, 1979) formally
transferring ownership 9f the principal Baha'i shrine in Iran, the house of the Bab, to Sheikh Sadeq
Khalkhali, "for the activities of the Fada'iyan-i-Islam."
46 Bahli'i Studies/Etudes bahli'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984
47

ments which sought to justify the desecration. 115 Khomeini's personal authority the so-called Rev-
By this time, the attacks on the Baha'i minor- olutionary Council temporarily assumed the
ity were beginning to arouse concern and protest powers of government, pending the election of a
outside the community. On September 12, 1979, president and parliament. 118 As the Council
the Human Rights Commission of the Federation itself included hardline Shi'ih clerics who had
of Protestant Churches in. Switzerland published been chiefly responsible for the imposition of the
the text of an independent investigation which it new theocratic constitution, the political change
had just completed, and which represented an meant that several more of the organs of central
indictment of what it saw as a coordinated pro- government fell directl y into the hands of persons
gram aimed at harassing the Baha' i community, who were active in the ·anti-Baha'i campaign.
destroying its economic foundations, and arous- One of these was Muhammad Ali Raja'f, who
ing popular hatred. The report expressed fear for had been an organizer of the Hujjatiyyih group in
the lives of Iranian Baha'is and called on the the city of Qazvin." 9 Appointed Minister of
framers of the constitution to reconsider their Education by the Revolutionary Council, Raja'i
exclusion of the Baha'i minority."6 Like the began a purge of all Baha'is in the educational
protests of the Baha'i community itself, the system. In an edict which not only discharged
report was ignored by the Iranian government. Baha'i teachers but which also held them respon-
Behind the scenes, attempts by sympathetic for- sible for repayment of all salaries they had pre-
eign governments to alleviate the situation were viously received, the new minister said:
likewise able to do little more than caution the The Ministry of Education, which has come
regime that it was under ~bservation; violence into being only through the justice of the
which led to a widespread loss of life could Islamic Republic of Iran and the blood and
provoke an outcry damaging to the efforts of the martyrdom of thousands of Muslims, men and
new Republic to establish itself in the interna- women, cannot tolerate, like the previous
tional community. regime, the existence of followers of the
Baha' i sect in its Educational unit, and in this
Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr and the way defile and deviate the minds and thoughts
of innocent students. 120
Second Islamic Revolution
of 1979 the Bazargan Other government departments followed this
I
N EARLY NOVEMBER
ministry collapsed as a result of its inability to lead, dismissing Baha'i employees, cancelling
protect the United States Embassy or to secure retirement pensions, and pressuring companies
the release of the embassy's personnel. 117 On holding government contracts to do the same.
The Union of Islamic Committees of Civil Ser-
115 . "On September 8, 1979 a group of people in Shiniz vants was induced to adopt a resolution on June
. . . , in deep sadness and grief for the 5,000 unarmed
22, 1980, calling for the expUlsion from all
Iranians who were gunned down by the U.S.-trained army of
the deposed Shah, and fully knowledgeable of the activities government employment of "individuals who do
of the Baha'is in the upper echelons of the deposed Shah's not believe in one of the recognized religions of
regime, suddenly attacked the Bab's house on that commem- the country," 121 mentioned in the Constitution.
orative day of mourning." Letter from the Embassy of the
Circular letter from Muhammad Alf Raja' i, then Minister of Education, dismissing Bahli' i teachers for
Islamic Republic of Iran, Washington, D.C ., to Mr. Dell 119. The meteoric career of Raja'i, from part-time "defiling the minds and thoughts of innocent students." The teachers are warned that the revolutionary
Wells, October IS, 1979. elementary teacher to Minister of Education, Prime Minister, courts are considering action to recover all salaries paid to them since their employment had been in
116 . From a copy in the possession of the writer. and eventually President in less than three years , is extraordi- violation of the constitution.
117. Bazargan and his cabinet resigned when Khomeini nary, given his modest abilities. His only qualification for
refused to approve the enforcement of their decision to return office seems to have been his unquestioning obedience to the
the embassy to the U.S . government. dictates of his ecclesiastical patrons.
118 . The list of fourteen names includes seven Shi' ih 120. The BaM' is of Iran, p. 76, includes a photostatic
ecclesiastics during the period February 1979 through August copy of the original as well as an English translation. (See
1980. Messrs. Bani-Sadr, Bazargan, and Ghotbzadeh were facing page.)
among the laymen: Iran Times, February 10, 1984. 121. Ibid., p. 25 .
48 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 49

Article published in the June 30, 1980 Prominent ayatollahs issued theological judge- Executions Begin
issue of the Tehran daily lumhuri-i-/ slami ments which not only justified the discharge of the party succeeded. 124 The
I
N THIS AIM
(organ of the ruling party) announcing that Baha'i employees and the cancellation of their immediate consequence was to give a much
three leading ayatollahs have declared the pensions , but also threatened uncooperative freer hand to the fundamentalists who were
payment of pensions to Baha'is to be for- supervisors with punishment before revolution- pressing for more vigorous steps to purify the
bidden by the shariat [Islamic canon law 1 ary courts. 122 The media gave wide publication Republicfrom the contamination of infidel ideas.
but warns that those who ignore the edict to these actions, representing them as instances Having already seized the records of the Baha' i
will themselves be regarded as offenders. of Islamic revolutionary justice. community and begun the systematic seizure of
Hope for the beleaguered community flickered Baha'i property, both communal and individ-
briefly at the beginning of 1980 when the presi- ual,125 the clergy moved now to "cut off the
dential elections produced a surprising landslide head" of the heresy by destroying its lead-
victory for Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr. Although ership. 126 Influenced, no doubt, by the role
Bani-Sadr, a member of the Revolutionary Coun- which they themselves play in Shi'ih Islam, the
cil, had taken a leading role in undermining the mullahs ' mistakenly believed that the Baha' i
Bazargan regime, he was regarded by Western Faith's survival in Iran depended on a limited
observers as a rational politician whose principal number of leaders whom they identified as the
concern would be to ease tensions and restore the membership of the appointive or elective institu-
national economy.123 His election was seen by tions of the faith . 127
many political observers as a defeat for the It was the conviction of the organizers of the
Islamic fundamentalists whose own candidate plan that, once this leadership had been
had been disqualified a few days prior to the destroyed, the Baha' i community would simply
balloting because he did not meet the electoral dissolve as the mass of believers succumbed to
requirement of pure Iranian descent. The Baha'i intensive pressure to recant their faith.1 28 This
community was cautiously assured by its sym- pressure had already begun in many centres
pathizers inside and outside Iran that a govern- throughout the country where groups of Baha' is
ment with greater authority and public support were dragged into mosques and threatened that,
than the Bazargan ministry would be able to if they did not renounce their beliefs and convert
extend a greater measure of protection to its to Islam (i.e. , " return to Islam," in the parlance
citizens, including even Baha' is. of the mullahs , although 95 percent of the Baha' i
The attacks on the Baha'i community did community are fourth and fifth generation
indeed lessen to some extent during the second
half of 1980. In retrospect, however, this seems to
have been the result of the preoccupation of the
clergy with the American hostage crisis and the
extended campaign for the election of a new
Majlis. An initial ballot took place on 16 March 124. The Islamic Republican Party secured nearly two
thirds of the seats in the Majlis.
and a run-off on 10 May, during which period the
125 . This aspect of the campaign appears to have been
clergy devoted their energies to an attempt to motivated partly by avarice and partly by a desire to cut off
secure a strong majority for their newly-formed Iranian Baha' i support for the overseas activities of the faith .
Islamic Republican Party. 126. One has to remember here that, in the semi-
anarchical conditions in revolutionary Iran, groups like the
Hujjatfyyih have their own prisons , courts, and companies of
revolutionary guards who "cooperate" with the organs of the
central government and with other factions, but who are
122. Ibid., p. 77. (See illustration facing page.) responsible only to the movement's own leadership.
123. A major reason for the extremely positive attitude 127. The Baha' i Faith has no clergy.
taken to his election by Western commentators was , of 128 . The agents of the Hujjatiyyih, especially, have
course, the widespread understanding that the resolution of boasted of this intent in interviews with Iranian Baha' is under
the U.S . Embassy crisis' was high on his personal agenda. interrogation.
Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Voil. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 51
50

Baha'is), they and their children would Attorney General, on charges of involveme'ht in
ultimately starve. 129 an alleged plot (with the Anglican Church) to lise
On June 27, 1980, Yusuf Subhani, a highly CIA funds to finance armed uprisings against the
regarded member of the Tehran community was regime. The newspaper reports of the arrests and

,((~))
- ....,-
summarily executed. This was followed by the
executions of the chairman and a second member
allegations added more fuel to the fires of public
hostility against religious minorities. Then, sud-
c)~'cJtY'cJ;/
~ . of the Tabrfz Spiritual Assembly on 14 July, a
member of the Spiritual Assembly in Rasht on 16
denly, reference to Baha'i involvement in the
alleged plot was dropped, and the government
July, and two prominent Baha'i spokesmen in announced that it had no knowledge of the
Tehran on 30 July and 15 August. whereabouts of the Baha'i prisoners. All efforts
Greatly alarmed, the Baha'i community by the Baha'i community to secure further infor-
around the world intensified its efforts to have the mation met with no success.131 When the gov-
persecution halted. The recipient of most of these. ernment was forced to admit a year and a half
appeals was President Bani-Sadr. Locked in his later that it had secretly shot eight of the nine
political struggles in the Majlis, however, the successors to the vanished Assembly members,
President was unwilling to meet with represen- the community could only conclude that the first
tatives of the Iranian Baha'is, to issue any public group of prisoners had likewise perished.
statement that would counteract the vituperation In Yazd, where Sadduqi's sermon had been
of the mullahs against the Baha'i minority, or to delivered, seven Baha'is, including members of
use the organs of the central government to the local Baha'i Assembly, were executed on
intervene on behalf of the victims. On the con- charges which mixed their Baha' i membership
trary, to the dismay of the Baha'is, Bani-Sadr's with alleged support of the previous regime and
own newspaper, Inqildb Is[dmi, on June 21, conspiracy with foreign governments. Over the
1980, published the text of a violent denunciation next several months other executions followed in
of the Baha'i community by a close associate of Tabrfz, Tehran, Shiraz, and Hamadan. 132
Khomeini, the Ayatollah Sadduqi, in which the
latter claimed to possess documents proving that
the Baha'is were plotting against the revolution
International Protest Grows
F, AS SEEMS LIKELY, the intent orthe Shi'ih
"in every city in Iran." Sadduqi called on the
faithful to "hunt down the Baha'is whom you
I leadership in proceeding cautiously with the
first formal executions was to determine the
know. . . and tum them over to the revolutionary
extent to which the pogrom would attract interna-
courts." As the influential French newspaper, Le
tional attention, they were not long in finding out.
Monde, pointed out, the effect of the publication
Newspapers and magazines throughout the West
of the ayatollah's sermon in so prestigious a
carried stories and editorials on the persecution,
newspaper was to "give it dangerous pub-
licity. "130 exposing the lack of any evidence for the charges
being made against the victims, and warning that
A wave of arrests in several centres justified Le
such actions were damaging the credibility of
Monde's fears. In Tehran, on 20 August, the
Official recantation form for Baha'i children issued by the Ministry of Education at the start of school
entire membership of the National Spiritual 131. The then Chief Justice ofIran, Ayatollah Beheshtf.
'n the Fall of 1981. The form requires pupils to provide information on the religious beliefs and
ye ar l h . f: 'th Assembly, the governing body of the Baha'i was to announce six months later that the plot had been
observances of their families, and concludes by asking them if they are now prepared to recant t elr al . " fabricated" by "an unbalanced person" who had forged the
Faith in Iran, was arrested on a warrant from the key documents. The exposure of this forgery was hailed as a
triumph of the system of law under the Islamic Republic. The
129. "Recantation forms" have been devised and are Anglican detainees were eventually released, but no further
routinely presented to Baha'IS, including children in elemen- reference was made to the Baha' I prisoners.
tary school. Scores of members of the faith have been dragged 132. The Hamadan executions were also the first
into mosques throughout the country and beaten in efforts to recorded case in which Baha' I victims were tortured in the
induce them to sign. (See illustration facing page.) attempt to extract recantations from them before they were
130. Le Montie . Paris, June 24, 1980. shot.
52 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 53

Iran's popular revolution in the eyes of the tions which the fundamentalist mullahs had long arrogant solitude or indulging in fruitless con- At the practical level, the Will of Go'd was
world. 133 threatened. This did not, in fact, take place. troversies with his opponents, while trying to administered by the Ayatollah Beheshtf, '~ho
National governments, as well as international Although some twenty other prominent members outwit them with Islamic initiatives which had founded the Islamic Republican Party and
of the Baha'i Faith were to die in isolated execu- only isolated him further. New attacks on the organized the mullahs into a nationwide poli'tical
organizations interested in human rights , began
to adopt a more public approach in their protests tions and assassinations over the next year, some Kurds, persecution of the Baha' fs, firing machine reaching into every hamlet and city
restraining influence was clearly at work in squads for the "corrupt-on-earth, " stonings , block in Iran. 143 This was an impressive feat. The
against the persecutions. On July 16, 1980, the
Canadian Parliament passed a unanimous resolu- Tehran. The regime's sensitivity to foreign pres- Khalkhali's tribunals - Bani-Sadr let all Shf'ih clergy does not possess a hierarchical
tion deploring the persecution of the Iranian sure, particularly that of certain Western Euro- these things go on, never opposed them, even administrative structure as is the case with most
Baha'is and calling for "this total abuse of pean and Third World nations, was no doubt encouraged them at dmes. 141 Christian churches, Western political parties, or
religious tolerance" to be brought to the attention intensified by the Iran-Iraq war which broke out many international organizations. Each mullah is
that fall. 137 independent of such administrative control and is
of the Human Rights Committee of the United Muhammad Beheshti and the
It would not appear that the Bani-Sadr govern- free to function as he sees best, so long as he does
Nations. 134 Two months later, on 19 September,
ment itself played any significant role in what-
Third Islamic Revolution not lapse into heresy. This jealously guarded
the European Parliament went on record as of the attitude toward the
describing the attacks on Iran's Baha'is as "a
systematic campaign of persecution" and urged
ever exercise of restraint did take place in Tehran.
Marc Kravetz has provided accounts of reactions
T HE QUESTION
Baha' f persecution of the Bani -Sadr regime
became irrelevant on June 20, 1981. After several
feature of Shf'ih ecclesiastical life made the job
of mobilizing the mullahs into an effective
the foreign ministers of the member nations of from spokesmen for the regime to whom he and national organization extremely difficult. It
months of increasingly outspoken attacks by
his fellow journalists appealed on behalf of the u~derlines, too, the importance of the support
the European Community to bring pressure to leading ayatollahs and government party deputies
bear on the Iranian regime to halt the persecu- Baha'is. In the course of a statement which given to the ecclesiastical leadership during the
in the Majlis, the President fled from Iran after
tion. 135 In a surprising addendum, the Parlia- sought to present Islam as "a religion of liberty, " process by the Hujjatfyyih and the Fada' iyan-i-
being summarily deposed by Khomeini. In due
ment went so far as to propose "an embargo on Hassan Habibi, Minister of Culture and expert in Islam.
course, a second presidential election replaced
Jslamic constitutional law, justified the exclusion ~ehe.shtf and Raja ' f did not have long to enjoy
all sales of surplus agricultural produce to Iran, Bani-Sadr by the prime minister, Muhammad
where subsidies by European taxpayers are ofthe Baha'is from the protection of the constitu- their tnumph. The former, together with over
Ali Raja'f, who was generally regarded as the
involved, until full human rights are restored to tion with the mullahs' familiar argument that sixty of his colleagues in the ruling party, was
instrument of the mullahs. A third Islamic Revo-
Iranian citizens." A far-reaching sequence of "Baha'ism is not a religion, but a political doc- killed on the morning of June 27, 1980, in a
lution had taken place, and there was now no
protests was set in motion that same month at trine. "138 Bani-Sadr, when a group of Western bomb explosion arranged by the Mujahedfn.144
longer any barrier to the full implementation of
Geneva, when the Sub-Commission on the Pro- journalists appealed to him to save the life of a The Mujahedfn had been irrevocably alienated
the. Shf'ih clergy's vision of a purified society
tection of Minorities of the U. N. Commission of prominent member of the Baha'i National from the regime by what they considered to be
which would perfectly reflect the Will of God on
Human Rights took up the question. As subse- Assembly whose character and innocence were the clergy's theft of a people's revolution. Raja'f
earth. By then, Khomeini was being routinely
quent events were to show, the Sub-Commis- well known, was surprisingly candid. The Presi- had fortuitously stepped out of the building only
referred to as the Imam, a no doubt deliberate
sion's endorsement of the Baha'is' concern laid dent replied "that his enemies were only awaiting a few moments before the explosion, but less
ambiguity which was resented by Khomeini's
the basis for a steady intensification of interna- a faux pas in order to mow him down, and what than two months later, a second explosion
ecclesiastical equals who regarded it as little
worse faux pas could he commit than to intervene dem~lished his headquarters. Raja'f, the newly-
tional pressure on the Tehran regime over the short of blasphemy, but which was seen by his
next three years. 136 on behalf of a Baha'1?"139 appomted Prime Minister, Ayatollah Bahonar,
followers as an appropriate expression of the
It is difficult to assess precisely the effects of Although Kravetz, like a number of other and several senior security officials of the regime
divine mission with which they believed he was
this worldwide outcry. The Baha'i world had observers, found the Iranian Baha'is remarkably burned to death in the wreckage. 145 Scores of
charged. 142
good reason to fear that these executions marked understanding of the difficulties under which the other ecclesiastics , as well as hundreds of lesser
central government was working, and reluctant to 141. Kravetz, p. 92.
the opening blows in a program of mass execu- .142. The word imam means literally " leader" and is
agitate their case,140 his own assessment of the applied to the believer, customarily a mullah , who leads the 143. Beheshtf, too, was fulsome in his assurances of the
133 . See New York Times, July 21, 1980; The Times , regime is severe: prayers at the mosque. (Hence, im amjum ' ih or "Con- protection of religious liberty under the new regime: " Be sure
London, July 15 and August 30, 1980;Le Monde, August 29, Bani-Sadr was having more and more trouble gregation or 'Friday' leader, " the ranking ecclesiastic in a that we will do our best to make. Iran the land both of Islam
1980; The Sunday Statesman, New Delhi, July 20, 1980; community.) Theologically, the term is used to designate the and offreedom. The Prophet has said that no one should force
defending himself, shutting himself away in twelve lineal descendants of Muhammad, who are regarded another to believe.... " (Kravetz, p. 113).
Newsweek , March 24, 1980.
134. The Canadian Parliament followed up this step by the main branch of Shf'ih Muslims as legitimate suc- 144 . Official Iranian sources put the number of victims
with a second unanimous resolution in June 1981. 137. The Iraqi war broke out on September 22,1980. cessors to the prophet and as divinely guided. The last of at seventy-two, presumably because, in Islamic tradition, that
135. The diplomats of several European countries were, 138 . Kravetz , p. 237. these, the so-called Twelfth or "Hidden" Imam , is believed to was the number of the martyred companions of the Imam
in fact, already making efforts behind the scenes to persuade 139 . Ibid., p. 241. have vanished in the ninth century, but will return in the Husayn.
the Tehran regime to exercise some control over those respon- 140 . Ibid., pp. 239-40. Eric Rouleau has also noted this fullness of time to establish the reign of the saints. To refer to 145. Ironically, the purpose of the meeting which was in
sible. phenomenon: "Tous les dirigeants ... de la communaute Khomeini as the. "Imam" leaves an ambiguity about the progress at the time was a discussion on ways to protect the
136. See below. bahaie assassines," Le Monde, Paris, January 1, 1982. precise station being claimed for him. leadership from assassination.
54 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 55

functionaries and revolutionary guards, have Qur'an recognizes only the People of the Book
since been killed by bombs, bullets, knives, and [i.e., Muslims, Jews, Christians and, by special
dynamite in the Mujahedin's campaign of politi- dispensation, Zoroastrians] as religious commu-
cal assassination which quickly turned govern- nities. Others are pagans. Pagans must be elimi- JS'";I:..~I.
ment offices into virtual prison-fortresses. nated. "148 ~,t~~.~t ~.a~.~'..:i~~-:-,:'~.;;
Whatever satisfaction the political under- Horrors multiplied daily: an elderly man and
ground derived from these dramatic demonstra- his wife in the village of N6k drenched in ker-
tions of organization and daring, the assassina- osene, set afire, and forced to run through their
tions did not bring about the collapse of the own fields until they fell dying; Baha' i girls
regime, which was the announced intention. kidnapped from their families , forced to marry ~

Rather, to the series of calamities produced by Muslims and threatened with divorce and dis- L,.;L••---=: .:,1::.-1..:- ll.;ul,-:l:....,;..): oJ c::J~
".~~
foreign war, ethnic and tribal uprisings, eco- grace once they became pregnant, unless they l.:.... .o:-./ ')... 1..1-1,; ,:.'./ ,)1.;:" 4--;~~J .> • ,,'... I..t:.,. .. "",' ~--==-'J~J ~ t ~1.. 1.r: '.11
nomic disintegration, and international recanted their faith ; graves broken open and the . ' · t'· '. "·II.'\; I ....J\......... ;',.;..;..--::-"t-:~
': ' \, ., I ' t (
...sr~.:', .l,;~(""- -J.:-: 1./": ....>-1; r.:;.JJ·1
opprobium was added the constant insecurity of bodies of highly respected Baha'is dragged
political terrorism. 146 through the streets to be burned on garbage '":1.
e' , v.,;.\ .~ "-: .S,p .,:. t:...1 t .u, \:.~:. .:.:+ I '~ ...tL.-: ~J I ..) .:;;~ ~:.i-,; '1

heaps; Baha'is declared by mullahs to be sub- ""1 l


-"".'''"'' .J~ ''":
.··.1(" . . . , , ,.).J.r:--
-'.:""''''/.,1)-- -! ~ .,:...,; 'c!.J ...;'.I:.JJ
. ,
C'.:t.l~':'·Y t..:
human, bridled like donkeys , led through the
A Reign of Terror ;' ..I,,; ,) "'';,'...;:!.l.,; l:..~;.. oJ )'-:/,:.1) t •• ~ .. .i rL ... '#'.:;-~~Jf; • .l..!r'.l.:L'; (,L...
streets , chained in stables and fed on grass;
manifestations of social
T HROUGH ALL THESE
pathology, the regime steadily intensified
the campaign against the Baha' is. During the
widows compelled to pay the price of the bullets
which had killed their husbands and then evicted
l./,:.:,,~_ ":J~ e'~I: .)I.:~'.).6. &$' \J'~':'~,; ':'U."

-'~~, ~'):; .!!:\:~~ "'~J!....."t ..: .:.......: ....!:-


'i: :..,-.~ 'J.>I ... ,s~. ul;~1
-~-.; '-~ ".!.:":':.\.".a~"';,~.:. .. .:!;,_ 4l_-,,=,
Bani-Sadr period a total of 32 officials or promi-
from their homes with only the clothes they were
wearing; condemned persons executed after hav-
...E _;".I'S;I.:"'lt ,:.1.1..)1....: •.1.l .7_1••...., ....... ~,;:e. . ..,) .:..JJI~ ~~. x).) ~~~
nent teachers of the Baha'i Faith were executed,
ing much of their blood drained out for use in
including those who were murdered in the streets
field hospitals on the Iraqi front; and appalling
or in their homes by revolutionary guards and
tortures practised on prisoners in the unending
mobs under the direction of mullahs. Since the
attempt to force the Baha'is to recant their
triumph of the fundamentalists in June 1981,140
faith. 149 All this against the background of daily
more believers who had been outstanding in the
life in which Baha'is had become social outcasts
service of their faith have been put to death at the
with no recourse against whatever abuse the ill-
order of revolutionary courtS. 147 By the late
disposed chose to commit. Baha'i marriages,
summer of 1981, revolutionary courts were
regardless of duration, were declared dissolved,
openly sentencing Baha'is to death on purely
Baha'i family life was deemed prostitution (itself
religious grounds and announcing the fact in the
punishable by death), and Baha'i children were
Iranian media. Ayatollah Sadduqi declared
judged illegitimate and their parents denied any
Baha'is to be "mahdur ad-damm" (those whose
right to them in civil law. Indeed, the clergy's
blood may be shed), and the Attorney General,
proposed Law of Retaliation, if adopted, would
Siyyid Moussavi-Tabrfzi stated explicitly: "The

Order from the Attorney General of the Islamic Republic instructing all local and provincial prosecutors
that the blood of condemned persons should be "drained by syringe and transferred to appropriate
146. It is significant that, despite the hostility to the
Baba' is, no suggestion has been made in any quarter that they containers by reliable medical personnel , .. for use by our wounded Pasdar brothers (i.e" revolutionary
are implicated in the assassinations or other terrorist acts. guards)." The Attorney General assures his officials that "the Imam Khomeini . , , has indicated that
147 . Initially, the executions were carried out by local 148 . "Iran Plans a Final Solution," Sunday Times , there is no objection in Islamic canon law. "
revolutionary courts on their own initiative. The involvement London, September 20, 1981.
of the I.R.P. 's national leadership was signalled by the 149. Several popular books have recently appeared
willingness of the hierarchy, headed by Ayatollah Beheshtf, describing the community's ordeal: William Sears, A Cry
who had previously denied all knowledge of the executions , from the Heart; Christine Hakim, Les baWl is: victoire sur La
to begin formally approving the death sentences , in the vioLence; Geoffrey Nash, Iran's Secret Pogrom . (See illustra-
Spring of 1981. tion facing page.)
56 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 57

explicitly exempt crimes against Baha'is from for all Iranian citizens. They argued that the Sub- Attempt at Justification The rationale is interesting because it was
any punishment by law. 150 Commission's report was motivated only by the of the debate was presumably adopted to counter growing criticism
To the Western media, it seemed that Iran had
fallen into the hands of a gang of blood-thirsty
desire of what they termed "United States impe-
rialism and her European criminal friends" to
A N INTERESTING FEATURE
the first appearance of a lengthy rationale
which was later to become the foundation for the
from Third World nations. This pressure, coming
from so many smaller nations, appears to have
fanatics gripped by a paranoid hatred for the rest interfere with legitimate efforts of the Iranian regime's attempt to counter criticism of its treat- constituted a continuing embarrassment: atroci-
of humanity and blind even to their own best government to protect itself against "those who ment of its Baha'i citizens. The origin of the ties committed against law-abiding citizens can-
interests. The evidence is persuasive, however, terrorize people with bombs," a reference, pre- argument may reflect the degree of cooperation not be justified even on those grounds of neces-
that the group of ecclesiastics who at present sumably, to the Mujahedin, as the Baha'is were then existing between the Islamic Republic's sity which are advanced to explain the
control the levers of political power in Iran, not accused of involvement in terrorist acts. 152 leadership and the Tudeh (Communist) Party, as suppression of internal political enemies, the
although bent on pursuing their apocalyptic Undeterred, the Commission invited the dele- the central thesis had first appeared in the article campaign against separatist movements, or con-
experiment and capable of any degree of savage- gates of the Baha'i International Community, the on the Baha'i Faith in The Great Soviet Encyclo- flicts with other nations. Despite their desire to
ry this may require, retain a keen appreciation of faith's representative at the United Nations Eco- pedia. 154 When it became apparent that the exterminate heresy, the regime had political pri-
practical necessities. The economic, political, nomic and Social Council, to present their case. resolution would pass the Commission, the Ira- orities, ~hich, at the moment, were more urgent
and military storms assailing them have their The latter took this opportunity to table a mass of nian government's spokesman argued that the than the Baha'i question. Under international
own imperatives. Appreciating these circum- official documentation in which virtually every faith was part of a vast conspiracy concocted pressure, the Iranian authorities admitted that the
stances, the international Baha'i community department of the Islamic Republic of Iran states during the late nineteenth century by the British Baha'is pose no political threat. 156
intensified its efforts to bring the suffering of the the adherence of the victims to "the depraved and Russian governments, in which individuals The Iranian government's vulnerability to crit-
Baha'is of Iran before the nations of the world Baha'i religion" as its sole and sufficient reason had been discovered, persuaded that they were icism has been greatly increased by the tendency
and to generate international pressure on the for seizing property, discharging employees, messiahs, and induced to start ostensibly of its former servants and political allies to
regime. revoking pensions, expelling school children, religious movements aimed at undermining the expose embarrassing facts which contradict the
confiscating bank accounts, and prohibiting ability of colonial peoples to resist their regime's version of events. The Baha'i com-
United Nations Human Rights business dealings. The documentation also exploiters. 155 The chief target of this conspiracy munity's rejection of allegations made by Iranian
included the text of death sentences in which was the Islamic world since, in the words of the spokesmen received an unexpected con-
Commission Takes Up the Baha'is were condemned because of their mem- Iranian statement: "Islam, especially in the past firmation, for example, from Dr. Mansour
Case bership in Baha'i institutions or their teaching century, proved to be the toughest and most Farhang, the regime's former ambassador to the
HESE EFFORTS produced encouraging
T results. On February 24, 1982, the United
Nations Human Rights Commission took up the
activities on behalf of their faith, as well as
copies of articles from major Iranian news-
successful opponent of colonialism and imperi-
alism, and the major contributor of many libera-
United Nations in 1979 and who had earlier been
the chief spokesman of those allegations. In
papers, openly reporting the details of such sen- tion movements throughout the world." The January 1982, Farhang broke with his govern-
report of its Sub-Commission on the situation of
tences. original conception of the Baha'i Faith, specifi- ment and bitterly denounced the persecution of
the Baha'is of Iran. Representatives from half a
Following this presentation, and in the cally, was attributed to Tsarist Russia. Subse- the Baha'is as the product of what he called a
dozen nations expressed the view that the situa-
absence of a relevant response from the Iranian quently, control over the faith had been secured, "fascist totalitarian ideology" promoted by the
tion had become "perilous" and underlined the
government to the evidence, representatives of in a manner not explained, by the British Foreign Islamic ruling clique. In a letter to an American
view of the Sub-Commission that the persecu-
several states spoke in support of a resolution Office. More recently, the faith had been trans- academic colleague (a large part of which letter
tion is "motivated by religious intolerance and
which would ask the Secretary General of the formed, again through a process not revealed, was later published in the February 27, 1982,
by a desire to eliminate the Baha'i Faith from the
United Nations to investigate the situation and to into an extension of "international Zionism."
land of its birth." 151
report to the next session of the Commission. 153 The proposed resolution before the Commission
The position taken by the spokesmen for the 156. The embarrassment can be inferred from the inten-
The resolution, adopted on March 5,1982, asked was, therefore, merely an attempt by imperi-
Islamic Republic of Iran was to deny the exis- sive efforts the regime is making to counter Baha'i claims,
the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to alistic nations to protect their investment. although pretending its indifference to foreign opinion. These
tence of such a problem and to insist that their
cooperate with the Secretary General's mission. efforts extended to the publication of a document entitled
nation's constitution assures religious freedom Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran published by
154. For this information I am indebted to Professor the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran and
152. Note verbale, January 19, 1983, from the Perma- Firuz Kazemzadeh, Department of History, Yale University. distributed to members of the U.N. General Assembly's
150. The Bill seeks to restore the full corpus of medi- nent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addressed to the Professor Kazemzadeh points out that the thesis was orig- Third Committee, November 18, 1982. Twelve of the book-
eval Islamic law with different schedules of rights and penal- United Nations Centre [sic) for Human Rights. inally developed by a Soviet theoretician, M.S. Ivanov, in a let's thirty-two pages consist of a defense against the charge of
ties for Muslims and members of the three "tolerated minor- 153. The countries voting for the Resolution were: book published in Moscow in the 1930s, under the title The persecuting the Baha'is, and include, for the first time, the
ities" (Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians). Other persons Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Btibf Uprisings in Iran. admission that "the beliefs of a few hundred followers of the
("infidels") will have no recourse to civil protection. France, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Panama, 155 . Cruder versions of the argument have also been Baha'i Sect which has no logical or politico-ideological
151. The Iranian government made three statements Rwanda, Togo, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, printed for the use of Islamic student groups at Third World justification, is not reckoned to be a danger to us. . . ."
before the Commission. West Germany, Zambia. universities. (p. 30).
58 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 59

--
issue of The Nation), Farhang described what his bodies were discovered fortuitously, and news of

--.
own investigations in Tehran had revealed: the executions was carried by Agence France
The truth is that not only have the Baha'is been Presse and Reuters wire services. i

persecuted for more than a century, but they Apparently confident that no evidence sup- .,).9-
./
have also been the most vulnerable of all the porting the story existed, the Chief Justice of .

religious minorities in the country. This has Iran, the Ayatollah Moussavi-Ardibfli, called a
been the case regardless of what ideological or press conference on January 3,1982, attended by
--, \ t
political orientation happens to be in power. Western as well as Iranian journalists, at which - - -. (
... Since the early months of the revolution- he denied categorically that the executions had
ary victory . . . the Khomeini regime, just like taken place. 159 He pictured the charge as an
the Shah's regime during the 1955-56 period example of an effort by Baha'is to tarnish the
of state-led persecution of the Baha'is, has integrity of the Islamic Revolution. Three days
increasingly repressed its progressive political later, however, Ardibfli was compelled to issue a
opponents and used the Baha'is as scapegoats. second statement when the Baha'i International
. . . Khomeini is far more brutal than the Shah Community produced photostatic copies of the
ever was. 157 death certificates signed by the regime's own
prison doctors.160 Forced into a humiliating
retreat, the Chief Justice admitted that the
Efforts at Concealment Baha'is had been killed. He explained that they
s INTERNATIONAL PROTEST mounted, the
A Shi'ih hierarchy sought refuge in conceal-
ment. References to the Baha'i membership of
had been shot as "Zionist spies," although
obviously no trial on such charges had taken
place. Unwisely, he went on to include in his
victims vanished from official government news statement a gratuitous assurance that "a Muslim
releases, to be replaced by various euphemistic, would have been executed similarly on the same
but universally understood phrases such as that charge. " Two days later it was revealed that, on 4
depraved sect, enemies of God and His Prophet, January, seven more Baha'is, including six mem-
those who are not members of one of the bers of the Local Assembly of Tehran, were shot
accepted (constitutional) religions, infidels, etc. in Evin Prison under the same clandestine cir-
In December 1981, when Shi'ih fundamentalists cumstances as the members of the national body.
finally arrested eight of the nine members of the The husband of their hostess (herself the seventh
National Baha'i Assembly (who had replaced victim) was released when he agreed to the
those kidnapped and presumably murdered in publication of a letter stating that he was a
August 1980), the victims were killed in secrecy. Muslim who had been misguided. 161
The eight were shot in the cellars of Evin Prison
on the night ·of 27 December, without even the
usual formality of a summary trial before an 159 . The 5 January issue of Le Monde carried Ardibflf's
Islamic revolutionary tribunal. 158 The bodies denial.
160. Baha' Is in Iran , p. 13 dated December 28,1981.
were buried under cover of dark in a plot of The certificates of the Central Islamic Revolutionary Court Death certificate of Qudrat Rawhani, one of the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the
barren land set aside as a graveyard for infidels. each describe the illness from which the deceased died as
"shot with bullets" and the presiding physician as " the Baha'is of Iran whom the Islamic regime originally denied having killed. The certificate is dated
Official secrecy, however, broke down. The
Department of Justice." (See illustration facing page.) December 28,1981 by the Central Islamic Revolutionary Court; the cause of death is described as "shot
161. Le Monde carried this further statement and the with bullets" and the administering physician is given as "Department of Justice."
subsequent stories in its issues of 5 January, 8 January, and 9
157 . Letter to Professor Richard Falk, Center for Inter- January. The paper asked: Why were the authprities silent
national Studies, Princeton, N.1., The Nation, February 27, about a trial which, to all appearances never took place? Why
1982. were they (the Baha'i officials) buried illicitly, in the dead of
158 . Le Monde carried stories on the executions in its night, without notification of families? Is Tehran ashamed of
December 30, 1981 and January 1, 1982 issues, when the assassinations which bring dishonour on their 'Islamic Jus-
deaths were first discovered. tice'?
60 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha 'fes - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha' is of Iran, 1844-1984 61

Factional Conflict within the positively harmful because they delay the final Tehran daily, sheds an interesting light on the individu al who "devotes his attentiorl to
Islamic Leadership collapse that will bring about the long-awaited government's concerns: religious subjects and disputes , and neglects'the
H~S SEQUEN~E of events illustrates the advent. 163 Such worldly efforts include the
T dilemma which the regime faces in its
efforts to steer a course between meeting the
institution of the Velayat-i-Faqih, the role of
theological Governor General, which the consti-
Before the Revolution, you were either against
the Revolution or indifferent towards it. Have
political aspects of religion," a course of action
which runs the danger of distracting Muslims
you now changed your policy? Are you willing from "the dangers of American imperi-
minimal desires for acceptance by the interna- tution confers upon the Ayatollah Khomeini .
to accept that your previous policy was wrong alism. "168 This attitude is said to have led the
tional community and its desire to purge Iran of The theological foundations for such an authority
and if not, why have you now changed your Hujjatfyyih to doubt that the revolution could
any influence that does not reflect its conception are regarded by many of the Islamic clergy as
pol~cy ? Why do you persist in penetrating ever succeed and to involve themselves in an
of human society. Meanwhile, a much more highly doubtful, and all involved are keenly
vanous government information agencies and improper collaboration with the Pahlavi
serious issue has gripped the attention of the aware that control over this central institution regime. 169
collecting information from them? What pur-
clergy, the signs that the Islamic Revolution may will represent a decisive edge in the next stage of
pose do you have for this information ? Why do The articles contained veiled warnings to the
be about to move into another and undesired the political struggle. 164 For both reasons , sup-
you not share or pass information you collect other "grand ayatollahs," those whose theologi-
phase. port for the Velayat-i-Faqih concept in con-
to other revolutionary agencies? .. . What cal stature matches or exceeds that of Ayatollah
So far, the revolution has followed the pattern servative circles has tended to be vague and
legal grounds do you have for using govern- Khomeini. These clerics have shared with the
outlined in Crane Brinton's classic study of such equivocal at best. The Anjuman-i-Hujjat, while
ment facilities for the benefit of your own Hujjatfyyih a rejection of the institution of the
phenomena. 162 The old order has been over- giving lip service to Khomeini's personal role as
organization? What is the reason that you are Veiayat-i·Faqih or at least a refusal to express
thrown, Bani-Sadr and his Dantonists have fol- the inspirer and guide of the revolution, has
opposing the left wing of the counter-revolu- the~selves unequivocally on its theological
lowed Bazargan's Girondins into the discard, the stubbornly resisted the idea that any individual
tion, but ignore the right wing? . . . These are baSIS. Ayatollahs Khu ' f and Shariat Madari were
entire apparatus of state power has been suc- can serve as the "trustee" for the long-awaited
important questions, and we want them especially mentioned and were cautioned that the
cessfully taken over by the lacobins of the Isla- Twelfth or Hidden Imam. Halabi was quoted as
answered. 166 Hujjatfyyih are unreliable allies who serve only
mic Republican Party, and the Reign of Terror saying that he is himself a more reliable voice for
I~ February 1982, the newspaper, Subh-i- their own interests.
and Virtue proceeds unchecked. There remains the Will of the Almighty than is Khomeini, since
Azadegan, published the above-mentioned series
only one stage to traverse before Thermidor the latter is merely a distinguished theologian,
of articles by Mehdi Tayyeb, a Majlis deputy who
brings the presumably inevitable reaction. The while Halabi claims direct spiritual communica-
~a~ a~andoned a leadership position in the Huj-
Mahmud Halabi and a Fourth
"ultras," the extremist fringe who do not know tion with the Twelfth Imam. 16 5 Islamic Revolution?
JatIYYlh after being converted to the constitu-
when a revolution has succeeded, must also be These views have provoked strong reaction of the Hujjatfyyih was muted.
confronted and decisively crushed. from others in the regime. As early as November
1981, the Ayatollah lannati, one of the principal
tional principle of the Velayat-i-Faqih. 167 The
newspaper is regarded as the voice of that seg- T HE RESPONSE
Avoiding any direct confrontation with the
The group which presents itself for the " ultra" ment of the ruling elite which has championed ruling authorities , they attempted to reply by
role is Mahmud Halabi and the Hujjatiyyih. ecclesiastics in Qom, the religious capital, deliv- representing criticisms against their organization
the confrontation with the United States. The
Their differences with the ruling ecclesiastical ered a Friday sermon in the form of a public as part of a propaganda campaign by the Com-
ost~nsible purpose of the series was to urge
faction are primarily matters of theological dis- interrogation of the Hujjatfyyih. The text, which munist Tudeh party. 170 Halabf himself is said to
patience and tolerance among the various ele-
putation arising out of a world view as apocalyp- was published in full in Ettela' at, a leading have repudiated the interview in which he claim-
ments within the Islamic Republic. As all are
tic as any in Brinton's catalogue. Briefly, the ' 163. "Iranian Press Digest," Tehran, October 12 , 1982 working for the same basic purpose, however ed a special measure of divine guidance. Nev-
Hujjatiyyih believe that mankind, ever since the summarizes the Hujjatlyyih view of current history. Since one different the origins of their groups may be, they ertheless, the Anjuman continued to operate as a
termination of the ministry of Muhammad and of the themes of the Baha'I Faith is that its founder, secret organization and to resist all efforts to
Bahif u 'llah, is the fulfilment of the advent of the Hidden
should cease criticizing one another. The revolu-
his lineal successors in the ninth century, has ~ion must be seen as both religious and political force it to be registered officially as a political
Imam, the Hujjatlyyih interpretation of Islam is especially
sunk steadily deeper into darkness and "moral vulnerable to Baha'I arguments. III nature, and its leaders must avoid a tendency to
party (a step which would subject it to govern-
filth. " Only the Hidden Imam can save man, and . 164. Since the basis of the mullahs' attacks on past
focus on one aspect to the detriment of the others. ment inspection).
regImes has always been the latter's lack of legitimacy, their
all worldly efforts to improve man's lot are These observations are used to introduce a cri- To the doctrinal differences was added the
own regime now becomes vulnerable to this charge. Hence
the anxiety of the current leadership to secure acceptance of tique of the Anjuman-i-Hujjat as an organization weight of certain economic and political consid-
162 . Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution. Brin- the authority of the Velayat-i-Faqfh. The stance of the Huj-'
which deviates from the principle of revolution- erations. Many of the conservative rural clergy
ton's study of four revolutions (the English, American, Jatfyyih is that this is a man-made device with no more
French, and Russian) convinced him that the phenomenon Islamic legitimacy than the Pahlavi monarchy. Since all ary unity. While recognizing Sheikh Halabf's
168 . Article of February 14.
arises in certain typical conditions, has common features government is at best a trusteeship for the Hidden Imam , the virtue and learning, the articles picture him as an 169. Article of February 16.
regardless of where it takes place, produces typical results, State should be no more than the instrument of the eccle-
170. Articles signed by "Nasir-i-Din Kermani" in
and passes through predictable stages. His typology is fre- siastical hierarchy who act as his proxies, and subject to 166. Ettalti'tit, November I, 1981. Ka~htin , September II , 1982. The 1Udeh had published a
quently appealed to in attempts to predict the course of events change as they deem advisable. . 167. There were ,five articles published consecutively in senes of booklets on political themes , one of which attacked
in contemporary revolutionary upheavals. 165 . Time magazine, December 7, 1981, p. 45 . the Issues of Subh-i-A ztidegtin, February 14-18, 1982. the Hujjatlyyih.
62 Baha' i Studies/Etudes baha'fes - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 63

are deeply suspicious of the central government's body created in the Islamic Constitution, which only hinted at in official circles were publicly that Baha'i teachings endanger the very moral
efforts to reorganize the economy on a national serves as a watchdog of the theological purity of made by one who has been regarded as close to fibre of Islam. The ruling faction qf the clergy; on
scale: in agricultural policy particularly, there legislation and which has not hesitated to veto Khomeini himself. Khalkhali described Halabi the other hand, insist that it is their efforts, not
has been a well-founded fear that the plans of the decisions of the Majlis with which it has dis- and his organization as supporters of the Pahlavis those of the Hujjatiyyih, which have been suc-
technocrats in the capital entail the nationaliza- agreed. This rising power has challenged the and collaborators with SAVAK, and charged cessful in suppressing the Baha'i threat. They
tion of the huge endowments which finance course which the Islamic Republic has followed them, as well, with being agents of the CIA. argue that the real issues in Iran are political
much of the work of the mosques. At the political under the leadership of the Ayatollah BeheshtCs Such accusations became steadily more frequent rather than theological, and that "Baha'lsm" is
level, rumours abounded that the central successors. There is, therefore, still room for over the next several months and finally, at the essentially an aspect of the campaign by foreign
authorities had failed to act against communism doubt as to which faction will succeed in the next end of the Ramadan fasting period, in July 1983 , imperialist forces to dominate Iran. It is the
with the same vigour as they attacked the West stage of the political conflict, once the Ayatollah the Ayatollah Khomeini himself made a speech Islamic Revolution (originally opposed by the
because the leadership had been infiltrated by Khomeini dies. A Fourth Islamic Revolution which was clearly an attack on the Anjuman-i- Hujjatiyyih) which must be credited with over-
Soviet agents and Marxist ideology. As the con- may, in fact, be taking shape. Hujjat: coming foreign threats. In the Friday sermon
servatives are in a minority in the Majlis, they Throughout 1983, tension between these two Another group's theme is to let sin become mentioned above, the Ayatollah Jannatf made the
placed great emphasis on the Council of Guard- dominant Shi'ih factions daily became more a rampant so that the Twelfth Iman appears. . . . point firmly:
ians as the guarantor of the Republic's theologi- matter of public discussion. What seemed to be What is he coming for? The Twelfth Imam Before the revolution you [i .e., the Huj-
cal purity, and viewed every accretion of power to happening was that persons in the ruling clique comes to remove sin. Are we to commit sin to jatiyyih] were involved in the "anti-Baha' ism
the Majlis as a threat to this bulwark. The who had made use of Hujjatiyyih support in their make him appear? . . . For God's sake, if you movement, " arguing that the Baha'is are a
Anjuman-i-Hujjat was seen by many in the rul- climb to power now saw the need to disavow a are Muslims, and for the sake of your country danger to Islam and have ties to Israel. We
ing faction as seeking to mobilize this growing movement whose squalid past and reactionary if you are nationalists , get rid of factionalism already knew all that. Our position was that
right-wing resentment into a political movement. views had become a political embarrassment. and enter into the wave that is now taking the they must be cut off at the roots, while you
It is with respect to this final phase that Iran's Prominent figures in the regime like President nation. Do not swim against it, for it will break were doing no more than chopping away at
Islamic revolution may deviate from Brinton's All Khamenei, Foreign Minister All-Akbar your arms and legs. 174 their leaves and branches. Very well! Now they
helpful paradigm. In theory, the "ultras" are Velayatf and the Oil Minister, Muhammad
Two weeks later, the Anjuman-i-Hujjat have been denied any place at all under the
"impractical people," a kind of "lunatic fringe" Gharazi, all of whom are believed to have been
announced that it was temporarily suspending Islamic Republic. The Baha'is and all other
who lack the capacity for organization and who deeply involved with the Hujjatiyyih at one time,
organized activities. This uncharacteristically anti-Islamic groups are not permitted even to
"definitely do not succeed in attaining felt it necessary to make public statements dis-
cooperative attitude did not allay the fears of the breathe. What then are your present objec-
power. " 171 The Hujjatfyyih, however, have sociating themselves from it and explaining that tives?175
ruling party. Government spokesmen have since
exhibited a talent for organization and a match- they had supported only its anti-Baha'i activity;
ing capacity for intrigue. As the price for their charged that the Hujjatiyyih are engaged in a The extent to which the entire Shi'ih hierarchy
other ministers were dropped from the cabinet
decisive support of the ruling clergy during the clandestine effort to provoke public unrest by the are implicated in the campaign to suppress the
because of their continuing links with the Huj-
successive struggles with other groups in the jatiyyih.172 Most recently, some supporters of artificial creation of large-scale shortages of food Baha'i Faith is revealed in an astonishing inter-
original revolutionary movement, the Hujjatfyyih the ruling party have begun to designate them- and other necessities through hoarding and price view given to the leading Tehran daily, Kayhdn,
inflation. by the Ayatollah Gilani , judge of the central
were accorded freedom to expand at all levels of selves "Imamis" in order to identify their cause
society. Today, their sympathizers are believed to with Khomeini and to distinguish themselves revolutionary court at Evin Prison in January
have infiltrated the entire political structure of the from the Hujjatfyyih. 1982. Speaking of the execution of the members
Deteriorating Position of the of the Baha'i National Assembly and of the
country. The full extent is not known, as the The dispute first came into the open in
Baha'is Assembly of Tehran, which had taken place three
Hujjatfyyih continue to operate in a semiclan- December 1982, when Sadeq Khalkhali used his
LL SUCH QUESTIONS can have only aca-
destine manner. The group appears to control a
bloc of seats in the Majlis and several institutions
campaign for election to the Council of Experts
(who are to choose Khomeini's successor) as an
A demic interest for Iran's Baha'is. The one
weeks earlier, the ayatollah emphasized that
in cases of the execution of members of such
point upon which both factions of the Shi'ih
in the Islamic State. Their nationwide network of occasion for a bitter attack on his former part- groups, it is necessary to have not only the
clergy are agreed, apart from their antipathy to
conservative mullahs and komitehs is backed by ners.173 For the first time, charges against the approval of the presiding judge of the Revolu-
things foreign, is their determination to extirpate
heavily-armed segments of the Revolutionary Anjuman-i-Hujjat which had previously been tionary Court, but also the endorsement of the
the Baha'i Faith. The Hujjatfyyih, of course, have
Guard and is a power in several major cities. They verdict by a qualified mujtahid [a Muslim
172. Washington Post. December 10, 1982. Labour made this an objective of their organization from
also exercise an important influence in the so- Minister Ahmad Tavakkoli and Commerce Minister Habib theologian]. In addition, the case must be
the time of its inception in the 1950s, alleging
called Council of Guardians, the supervisory Asgar-Owladf were dropped (Iran Times. August 5, 1983). reviewed by the High Court in Qom. If such
173 . Excerpts of the speech were quoted in I ran Times. 174. See International Herald Tribune . August 12,
171. Brinton, p. 168 . December 17, 1982. 1983 , page 5 . 175 . See above pp. 60-61.
64 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 65

cases are confirmed by this Court, the execu- abused. Continuing international protest, indud-
tions take place. At anyone of these stages any ing a joint resolution by the U. S. Congress a'nd
mujtahid has the power to veto the verdict. an appeal to the Ayatollah Khomeini from Presi-
(Italics added.)1 76 dent Reagan, has not succeeded in halting the
Gilani added that Baha'is who are not leaders killings. 178
of their faith will be regarded by Islamic doctrine The determination of the Islamic authorities to
as innocent and will be released, "if it is proven crush the Baha'IS was made dramatically clear in
that they are purified from defilement and from a statement given to the government-controlled
the wrong ideology." (Italics added.) It is this Shlraz newspaper, Khabar-i-lunub . by the Isla-
latter principle that provides the rationalization mic judge, Hujjat-ul-Islam Qazaf, who sent the
for the pressure on the victims to recant their most recent victims to their deaths:
faith. No ecclesiastical leader took issue with The Iranian Nation has risen in accordance
this statement by one of their leading colleagues, with qur'anic teachings and by the Will of
a statement which represents the entire Shi'ih God has determined to establish the Govern-
hierarc.hy as knowing accessories to crimes that ment of God on earth. Therefore, it cannot
constitute attempted genocide and which clearly tolerate the perverted Baha'is who are the
substantiates the Baha'is' claim that they are instruments of Satan and followers of the Devil
being killed solely because of their religious and of the super-powers and their agents. . . .
beliefs. It is absolutely certain that in the Islamic
The persecution moved into an ominous new Republic of Iran there is no place whatsoever
phase in June 1983. On the night of 18 June, the for Baha'IS and Baha'ISm .... Before it is too
Islamic revolutionary authorities in Shiraz late, the Baha'is should recant Bilha' Ism,
hanged ten Baha'i women and teenage girls who, which is condemned by reason and logic.
during three days of brutal indoctrination, had Otherwise, the day will soon come when the
refused to recant their faith and convert to Islamic Nation will deal with the Baha'IS in
Islam. 177 Three days earlier, the same authorities accordance with its religious obligations and
had hanged six men, including the husbands, will ... , God willing, fulfil the prayer of
father, and son of four of the women. A new wave Noah, mentioned in the Qur'an, "and Noah
of arrests followed, and the homes of prominent said, Lord, leave not one single family of
Baha' IS were ransacked and their families infidels on the earth. . . ." 179

176. EttaLa'at, November 1, 1981. (See illustration fac-


Interview in Tehran daily, Kayhdn (January ing page.)
20, 1982) with Ayatollah Gilani, judge of 177. The victims were among nearly 100 Baha' is
Central Revolutionary Court at Evin arrested in Shiniz at the beginning of the year. Of these, 22
were sentenced to death as heretics in February, and the death
Prison. Gilani explains that the death sen-
sentences approved by the Supreme Court. In order to exert
tences against Baha'is have the approval of the maximum psychological pressure on the prisoners , 178 . .As the U.S. government had feared, these human-
the entire Shi'ih hierarchy. Condemned however, the authorities refused to reveal which 22 were to itarian interventions were interpreted by the regime in
die. At intervals over the next four months, I or 2 prisoners Teheran as " proof" of the victims' political ties.
persons who are "purified from the wrong
would suddenly be taken from their cell and hanged without 179. Khabar-i-lunub, Shiraz, February 22, 1983. (See
ideology," however, will be released. notice to the family. illustration following page.)
66 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13

v.
,' ~'
....__
..../ ~.J,,,,,, .. .: ......-;. ;~~
- . ~;- ""., ........
.. - --- ._tl·_·.,·",
.~.-.- .. _·...'-. --' Response to the Persecution
_ .".. • •• _ .. "' ......... t. ......... _ •• " . , . .......
_'.'_,..._.,. .. _110 ....... _ .... .
_
~,

_..,... . _..,......;·,., .....


. _..... _.,
.. - ...",..... _,' ... ."'
• • • • , .'•• ' . . . .. .. 1 _ 110 _
_.~ .:"'
.... . _ _ . , , , -
_.~110

HE OBJECTIVE of the persecution of the activities of their coreligionists in Third World


. """.- ', ... -
.-: -

... _ .......
''-- - _ .. '_4 ... ·.-·
.... '""'". . . . , . . ,
.• -.~ ............ ~ •.I... - - . -...- -
,.., ~.- .... -.-..
. ' , # .... ~ . .. . - ' -

,..: . .. T Baha'is of Iran, from the time the pogroms


began in the mid-nineteenth century, has been to
countries. Their resources had also made it possi-
ble for them to contribute generously to the
eliminate a new religion which has been seen as a building program which has given rise to the
~ loJ¥'.9~~~~' ~ rival to the dominant faith of Iran, the Shi'ih sect complex of shrines, gardens, archives, and
o (s:o:,j~ I~ ~'0 ts::..:,:;U' of Islam. This motivation has at all times been administrative headquarters at the faith 's interna-

.....u ~4~r ,'.i (Mol J~~ . .I" explicit in the pronouncements of the Muslim
clergymen who have initiated and led the suc-
tional centre in Haifa. Moreover, Iranian Baha'is
had constituted a majority of the thousands of
members of their faith who had been serving in
cessive attacks , and continues to be frankly
expressed in their communications to the Iranian Baha'i teaching and development projects
public , although denied in statements made for around the globe. The Shi'ih clergy's concern
foreign release. The method adopted in the cur- about this matter, as evidenced by the contents of
rent phase of this long campaign is to attempt to indictments of Baha' IS before revolutionary tri-
force the Baha'is of Iran, by terror, ostracism , bunals, as well as a host of other official pro-
and economic pressure, to recant their beliefs. nouncements, has approached something of an
This would not only end what the mullahs regard obsession and reveals the importance which the
as a threat to their religion's dominant position mullahs attach to " suffocating" Baha'i activities
and to their own role in Iranian society, but also overseas by denying them necessary
would demonstrate, they believe, the moral su- resources. 18 1
periority of Islam over a faith which claims to In both respects, the persecution has failed to
represent a more recent expression of divine achieve its objectives. Within Iran, the efforts at
guidance, particularly in the social life of man- coercion have yet to produce any significant
kind. 180 number of Baha' is prepared to renounce their
The rapid growth of the Baha' i community commitment to their religion. This is true not
around the world has had the effect of creating a only of the leaders of the community, but also of
second powerful motivation for the persecution, believers in humble walks of life, as the outcome
one that has figured prominently in statements by of an attack on villagers at Ivai in the summer of
the Iranian regime. This has been to cut off, at the 1983 demonstrated. At the instigation of the local
source, the large contributions which the Baha'is Muslim clergy over 130 Baha'i villagers were
of Iran had been making to the international work penned up in an open enclosure, with their chil-
of their faith . Because of its long-established dren and infants, and denied food or water in an
character and its sheer size, the Iranian Baha' I attempt to coerce them into converting to Islam.
community had been providing a substantial When several days had passed without any recan-
Interview with Hujjat-u'l-Islam Qazaf, Religious Judge and President of the Revolutionary Court of
portion of the funds which subsidized the tations being received, the victims were beaten
Shfnlz who had just handed down death sentences to 22 Baha'is. The interview was published in the
and driven into the forest. Throughout Iran,
Shinlz daily, Khabar-i-lunub (#782, February 22, 1983). The main headline, in bold print, read~:
Baha'is have faced death sentences, the loss of
"Religious Court of Shfraz: 1 advise the Baha'is to return to the -bosom of Islam. " The left-hand column 180 . This view will seem grotesque to most Westerners.
In part, it rests on the unarguable principle that a faith which
immediately below the headline summarizes the interview, beginning with the following words: "Before
will be surrendered by its adherents in return for their lives or 181. See, for example, BaM'is in Iran, pp. 73, 80.
it is too late, Baha'is must re~-ant Baha'ism ... . " property lacks spiritual authority. More particularly, however, Baha' is who were subjected to preliminary questioning and
Shf' ih Muslims have made a virtual cult of their eagerness to briefly released while their formal indictments were being
sacrifice their lives for their beliefs, a phenomenon which prepared, have reported that intense attention was given to
figures with ever greater frequency in news reports of military financial and property matters , and particularly to contribu-
conflicts in the Middle East. tions made to the international work of the faith .
Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha' ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha' is of Iran, 1844-1984 69
68

property, savings, pensions and jobs, and have Unintended Effects the United Nations has had the effect of strength- tions are manifestations of a historic prejudiCe
seen their children denied an education, but have PART FROM ITS FAILURE to achieve its objec- ening the recognition of the Baha'i International against Islam. 186 Such prejudice does indeed
refused the most insistent efforts to reduce them
to escape these penalties by even token recanta-
A tives, the campaign against the Baha' is may
be having results undesired by those who have
Community by those agencies. Similarly, at the
national level, Baha'i delegations have been
exist and should be a matter of serious concern,
but like most inherited attitudes it had been
tions. In this respect, the persecution can have undertaken it. Within Iran, the significance ofthe sympathetically received by leaders of thought breaking down under the integrating pressures of
done little more than purge the Iranian Baha'i events has no doubt not been lost on the public , interested in both the plight of the Iranian com- the twentieth century. One of the disturbing fea-
community of some of its marginal members. If including the series of clandestine Baha' i execu- munity and the system of beliefs and community tures of the current situation in Iran is that it tends
the histories of other religions are any guide, tions duly reported by foreign radio broadcasts in life which have attracted such opposition from a to reinforce precisely those conceptions of Islam
even persons who temporarily submit to such the Persian language. A dramatic counterpoint quarter which was already giving cause for grave which have caused the greatest harm to East-
threats have not been influenced in their underly- has been offered by the public hearings given to international concern. It would be difficult to West relations. It is, after all, not a group of
ing opinions and can be expected to seek read- the Tudeh leaders, arrested last summer. For imagine a campaign of publicity and public Muslim extremists who are committing the
mission to the company of the believers as soon several days, during the same period in which education, initiated by a religious minority itself, atrocities in Iran, but the entire ecclesiastical
as the persecutions have subsided. Baha'i women and girls were accepting death being able to generate such widespread public leadersh,ip of what is represented as a model
Throughout the rest of the Baha'i world, there rather than betray their religion, the Iranian pub- interest. Islamic society. Nor has there been the protest
is no evidence that the sudden loss of Iranian lic watched on national television while the entire Furt~er, there is already a considerable body of from Muslim nations and institutions that can be
support has had an appreciable effect in slowing leadership of the Tudeh party, led by party leader evidence which suggests that the campaign confidently expected from other religious com-
the growth and consolidation of the faith 's Nuri 'd-din Kianuri , abjectly confessed to a against the Baha' is may be claiming an entirely munities when factions among them violate their
activities. The Baha'i community organizes its series of offenses ranging from espionage to unintended victim. This is the moral authority of religions' moral standards. This silence from the
work in a series of international plans extending treason, and pleaded for forgiveness. 183 In such Islam , in whose name and alleged defense the Muslim world is one of the most unfortunate
through various lengths of time, from five to ten an atmosphere, the failed attempts to coerce the persecution is being conducted. What does the features of the Baha'i persecution; it reinforces
years. The goals of each of these undertakings Baha'is may well have precisely the opposite average Iranian make of the assertion that the the false impression that what is being done is an
include the creation of thousands of new Baha' i effect to the one intended. Given the growing Qur'an provides full authority for the hanging of expression of Islam's real nature. The long-term
groups; the purchase of properties for schools, public hatred of the clergy, on which many housewives and teenage girls because they effects of this massive miseducation of large
community centres, and houses of worship; the foreign observers have remarked,184 the moral belong to a different religion? What effect does it segments of mankind are incalculable.
publication of Baha'i literature in various lan- fortitude of the Baha'i victims may well prove to have on the view of Islam held by the populations
guages and native dialects; the establishment of be the key that will at last admit their once of Western lands to have the religion of the
International Intervention
local and national institutions; and a range of ostracized community to public acceptance. prophet Muhammad identified with atrocities
HE CONTRAST with the anti-Baha ' i pogroms
similar projects. The current plan, scheduled to
run seven years, was launched in 1979, only a few
As to the rest of the world, there is no question
that the persecution has been entirely coun-
that revolt the conscience of humanity? What
conclusions are Third World statesmen and
T in the nineteenth century is dramatic. In the
past, small segments of the public in one or two
months after the Islamic revolution began in Iran. terproductive. Millions of people who had little jurists to reach when told by Iranian represen-
Western countries would learn, from the isolated
At the halfway point in April 1983 , the members or no knowledge of the Baha'i Faith and its tatives at the United Nations that the worldwide
dispatches of consular officials, of atrocities
of the national spiritual assemblies of the Baha'i teachings, particularly in Western countries , concern for human rights is merely a Western
committed against Persian Baha'is weeks or even
world gathered in Haifa, Israel, for the election of attitude that ignores the deeper insights of Shi'ih
have now been introduced to these subjects in a months earlier. 187 The possibilities for interna-
the faith's supreme governing body, the Univer- highly sympathetic context, solely through the theology?185 In such a situation it is useless to
tional intervention were even more limited, con-
sal House of Justice, an event that takes place publicity generated by the Iranian situation. At protest, as a few distinguished Muslim
sisting of no more than occasional diplomatic
every five years. During the course of the con- the recent gathering in Haifa, several national spokesmen have sought to do, that these reac-
protests from European governments with spe-
vention, delegates reviewed a detailed analysis of Baha'i delegations reported greatly increased
progress in their international plan, which indi- enrollments as the result of this widespread prop- 185 . "The legal system of Islam ... has its own 186. "The success of this coverage (i ,e., journalistic,
cated that its goals were not merely being procedures, codes and due processes. If our nation is free government, and media coverage of Islam, in the West) can
agation of Baha'i ideals. The series of hearings
under the Covenant to choose its religion, . . . without having be attributed to the political influence of those people and
achieved but, in many areas, considerably sur- given to the Baha' i case by various agencies of to seek permission from Western jurists, and if the cultural institutions producing it rather than necessarily to truth and
passed. 182 Clearly, other national Baha' i com- chauvinism of the distinguished Dutch delegate would permit accuracy. . .. The result has been the triumph not just of a
munities have picked up the deficit created by the him to recognize Islam as a viable alternative to Western legal particular knowledge of Islam but rather of a particular
system [sic], then I wonder why we have to be discussing interpretation which , however, has neither been
cut-off in support from Iran. 183. "Le deuxieme Satan," L'Express, May 12, 1983. these baseless allegations instead of .. . finding means to unchallenged nor impervious to the kinds of questions asked
184. See, for example, the recent reviews done by Le end imperialist exploitation of Third World masses , and by unorthodox, inquiring minds." Edward W. Said, Covering
182. For a mid-Plan report on the progress being made Monde : Edition Internationale, June 2-8 , 1983 , "L'lran en remove the savage Pretoria regime and the zionist entity. " Islam , p. 161.
see The Seven Year Plan, 1979·1986, Statistical Report, mal de ' normalisation'." AndLe Monde Diplomatique, July, (Delegate of the Islamic Republic of Iran, statement to the 187. Momen provides a particularly helpful window on
Ridvan, 1983. 1983, " Iran, un regime au bord du vide." 37th Session of the General Assembly, November 23,1982.) this period, ibid" chapters 14, 15, 17-20, passim.
70 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 'The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 71

cial interests in Persia. Even the beliefs for which the Baha'i community sought to utilize the the brutality of conditions inside Iran and the directed against its membership in Iran. Con-
the victims were suffering persecution tended to United Nations system, to the fullest extent pos- apparent lack of moral restraint among the coun- sequently, the experience has served to galvaniie
be seriously distorted because of reliance on sible, along the lines provided for in the con- try's leaders, the relatively small number of the membership into a concerted effort to expose
partisan sources in Persia or as a consequence of ventions. The results have been impressive. Baha'i killings which have so far taken place is the situation and to mobilize world opinion.
superficial and often chauvinistic attitudes Despite intense efforts by the Iranian govern- striking.194 Another suggestive fact is the The existence of a unified Baha'i admin-
toward such questions in Western circles. 188 ment, the Baha'i case has moved inexorably marked concern of the Iranian regime to conceal istrative structure operating at both national and
The two factors which have dramatically through the various levels of the human rights its mistreatment of its Baha'i citizens, in contrast local levels, and responsive to the authority of the
altered the response which such persecution system, building up a virtually unanswerable to the publicity freely given to the suppression of faith's central governing body in Haifa, has made
arouses today are the emergence of an interna- body of documentary evidence and gathering political groups like the Mujahedin. Iranian it possible to coordinate these international
tional system of values that condemns the viola- around it a series of formal resolutions une- spokesmen at the United Nations and at the U.N. efforts and to respond rapidly to new develop-
tion of human rights, and the fact that the victims quivocally condemning Iran as guilty of violating Commission on Human Rights in Geneva have ments. No doubt, the community's good working
of the current persecution in Iran are members of its international commitments. 191 A stri,king fea- repeatedly denied that the Baha'i community is relationship with the agencies of the United
a multicultural community which is now well ture of the process has been the success of the being persecuted, have sought by every means in Nations, where it holds consultative status as a
established in most parts of the world. The first of Baha'i community in attracting support from their power to avoid the case being considered, Non-Governmental Organization, has helped
these two developments, which began to take Third World nations, as well as from Western and have reacted in a highly intemperate fashion greatly, as has the Bahli' i record of strict
definite shape in the operations of agencies con- countries. 192 Significantly, it is second level when confronted with evidence which they have adherence to the faith's principles of obedience
nected with the League of Nations, 189 was given countries such as Australia, Canada, and mem- been unable to refute. 195 The elaborate rationale to civil government and noninvolvement in par-
an enormous impetus by the worldwide revulsion bers of the European Economic Community like developed to explain away the faith's existence tisan politics. Throughout the world, hundreds of
which the Nazi holocaust of the Jews and other the Netherlands which have led the protest further underlines the regime's great unease with Baha'i delegations, native to the countries con-
captive peoples aroused, following World War II. against persecution of the Baha'is. The case has the subject. An adequate assessment of the con- cerned and representing Baha'i institutions
This reaction produced the Universal Declara- not, therefore, become confused with the politi- nection between international intervention and incorporated there, have systematically called on
tion of Human Rights which was subsequently cal conflict between Iran and the United the unexpected degree of restraint being shown in legislators, senior civil servants, academics,
given practical effect through the adoption of the States. 193 While this succession of hearings has Iran will have to wait until historians can study influential journalists, and other leaders of
two Covenants on the subject. 190 been taking place, the subject has also received the documents of the period. thought to plead their case. A flood of literature
The capacity of these measures to compel extensive publicity in the media, particularly on the Iranian situation has been published in key
offending governments to comply with the international news agencies, a sign of the extent languages, containing photographs, photostats
accepted requirements falls far short of assuring to which concern for human rights commands
The Baha'i Response
of Iranian government documents, translations
HATEVER SUCH STUDIES eventually
practical relief for most of the victims of human
rights violations, but the handling of the current
support among large segments of the general
population.
W reveal, it is apparent that the nature of the
of the latter, reports on relevant United Nations
hearings, and carefully reasoned explanations of
Baha'i community has been as important a factor
Baha'i case is an impressive illustration of the The Baha'i community is convinced that it is the central issues. Arrangements have been made
in developing pressure on the Iranian regime as
integrity with which the system operates and its only this constant pressure and the unwavering for Baha'is who have escaped from Iran to appear
has the existence of the U.N. Human Rights
promise for the future. Lacking the size of mem- spotlight of international scrutiny which have, so on national and local television in many parts of
system. When the anti-Baha'i pogroms of the
bership which might itself carry weight with far, prevented a tragedy of appalling dimensions the world, and to give interviews to press and
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
influential nations and precluded by its own in Iran. There is considerable evidence that radio, exposing the conditions in their homeland.
occurred, the victims could call on the assistance
principles from engaging in political agitation, appears to support this view. When one considers In New York and Geneva, the offices of the
of only small, isolated groups of fellow believers
Bahli'i International Community have
in a few Western countries. In recent decades, as
191. See BaM' ls in Iran, pp. 27-31, 61, 66, 68. painstakingly prepared materials for the agencies
188 . Ibid., chapter 26. the Baha'i Faith has spread throughout the world,
189. The Baha'is appealed to the League, in connection 192. Among States which have spoken in support of the of the U.N. Human Rights System and have
a highly organized international community has
with the seizure of the house of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, in community at the Commission on Human Rights, for exam- appeared at the various hearings, in order to
1928. Since Iraq was at that time a mandated territory under ple, are several from Africa and Central America. developed around it. This community sees itself
plead their case. One of the manifestations of this
the supervision of the League, the object of the appeal was to 193. Although the United States did not itself begin to and its faith as the real targets of the attacks
secure recognition of the Baha' i right to the possession of one take any major initiatives in the Baha'i case until 1983, its concern which historians will doubtless find
of the faith's own shrines. See Shoghi Effendi, God Passes delegations supported resolutions put together by other 194. The figure is in sharp contrast, for example, to the especially impressive is the mass of materials -
By, pp. 356-61. nations, when these reached the agendas of the Third Com- many thousands of Mujahedfn who have been killed in briefs, newspaper articles, resolutions by muni-
190. The two Covenants deal, respectively, with civil mittee of the United Nations and the Commission on Human consequence of the efforts of the political underground to
and political rights and with social, economic, and cultural Rights. The Soviet Union likewise took no initiative in the overthrow the regime. cipal councils, letters of sympathy from other
rights. They were adopted in 1966 and came into effect in case, moving from a position in which both it and its East 195. See "Iran: Ie deuxieme Satan," L'Express, May citizens' groups, and printed programs of public
1976, when the required number of States had formally Bloc allies initially supported Iran, to one in which they first 12-19, 1983. meetings - all of it generated by the vigorous
adhered to them. abstained and then began endorsing the resolutions.
72 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 73

efforts of thousands of local Baha'i communities Sub-Commission on the Protection of Minor- victories of the " dear Jewish force" (presumably crisis, the community had just passed through'an
in many lands. ities, the Iranian government released a booklet the Israeli Army), and as announcing instruc- extended period of rapid growth around th'e
entitled Baha'ism: Its Origins and Its Role, tions "from America and London" to "offend world, particularly in developing lands. 204 Even
Iranian Efforts at Rebuttal which it has since distributed widely in the U.N. the Islamic nations as far as possible" by promot- in industrial countries, where the faith had long
HE BAHA'is ' EFFORTS to arouse understand- system. 198 The central theme is the argument ing Western fashions. They are also pictured as been established, the multiplication of Baha'i
T ing and support for their plight have been already cited that the founding of the Baha'i Faith
in the nineteenth century was a conspiracy by the
confiding to their fellow believers the startling
information that " the atom [bomb] is made by
communities in recent years has been a dramatic
phenomenon. This expansion produced a mem-
aided by the attitude adopted by the Iranian
regime itself. The Islamic Revolution initially Russian and British empires and that the current Baha'i hands. "202 When one appreciates that the bership drawn from a great variety of races,
enjoyed widespread international sympathy and, "aggrandizing [of] the Baha'i issue" represents original versions of these reports were written by cultures, and social backgrounds , all held
in some quarters , warm admiration. This good- an attempt "to overwhelm public opinion and to SAVAK's agents from the Tablfghat-i-Islami together solely by devotion to the faith 's founder
will has been steadily squandered over the past scar the holy countenance of the Islamic Revolu- (i.e., by the Hujj atfyyih) and that it is the Huj- and to his teachings. It would be difficult to
five years, in consequence of the regime's gross tion. " 199 The booklet further develops this the- jatiyyih "Research 'Centre on Baha' ism" in Qom envisage anything more certain to awaken a
abuse of its domestic powers and its reckless sis, adducing as supporting evidence quotations which supplies the present regime with its docu- sense of solidarity in this heterogeneous body of
disregard of the opinions of the rest of humanity. from various Baha'i publications. The bulk of the mentation on Baha'i issues, the booklet's argu- people than the collective experience of defend-
Its handling of the Baha'i issue is merely a case presentation, however, consists of a collection of ment becomes ludicrous: the Hujjatfyyih quote ing their faith and their coreligionists against
in point. Repeatedly, Iran's diplomatic represen- "Exhibits," most of them allegedly recovered themselves , in their earlier incarnation as what is perceived as a brutal and totally
tatives have had to be cautioned at various hear- from SAVAK files , purporting to expose political SAVAK spies, as the authority for their own unprovoked attack.
ings of United Nations agencies about abusive ties between the Baha'i community, on the one arguments, and necessarily falsifY their original The experience has been enormously height-
responses to courteous and appropriate inquiries hand, and both the Pahlavi regime and the State reports in order to please their present-day col- ened by the fact that it appears as a replay of the
regarding the human rights provisions of their of Israel, on the other. laborators. The booklet appears, in fact, to have spiritual drama in which the community was
country's constitution. 196 References to the doc- Of the quotations from Baha'i literature, it is been compiled by different groups of people, born over a hundred years ago. Not only are the
umentary evidence of persecution have been met, sufficient to note that a courtesy call at a Baha'i without either coordination or even consultation. locales the same, but the persecutors are the heirs
not merely with denunciations of the complai- shrine in Israel by the president of that country The sections which describe in detail SAVAK 's of the same ecclesiastical elite who slew the Bab
nants, but by gratuitous attacks on those whose and his wife, humanitarian interventions by spying on Baha'is and its suspicions about and 20,000 of his. early followers and who per-
responsibility it has been to pursue the investiga- European diplomatic representatives in Iran dur- Baha'i activities are incongruously set beside secuted Baha'u'llah to the end of his life. 205 The
tion. Even bodies made up of independent jurists ing various anti-Baha'i pogroms, and even a other sections which assert that "the major part motivation, the anti-Baha'i polemic , and the
and human rights specialists, such as the Sub- conventional telegram of condolence from King of the organization of the Shah's damned rule, accounts of sadistic mistreatment of women and
Commission on the Protection of Minorities and George V on the passing of 'Abdu'I-Baha in 1921 particularly SAVAK , was managed by children are all powerfully reminiscent of the
the Human Rights Committee, have been treated are advanced as evidence of a political conspir- Baha'is. "203 One would not have to have a early records left by Western diplomatic obser-
in this fashion. 197 The effect can only have been acy.200 The "SAVAK exhibits" are even less particularly deep knowledge of the events to vers. 206 Even more does the spirit with which
to leave the strong impression that the Iranian helpful to the regime's efforts to build its case. which such statements allude to recognize that present-day Iranian Baha'is are meeting their
government does not have any meaningful They purport to represent confidential reports by they are a malicious concoction, put together in tests evoke these memories. In effect, the per-
defense to offer. agents of the secret police (e. g., "H7") who had an inept and slovenly fashion with little respect secution currently taking place in the Islamic
The impression is reinforced by the regime's managed to infiltrate the Baha'i community dur- for those whose opinions the presentation was Republic is dramatizing for Baha'is everywhere
efforts to articulate its position in published ing the regime of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi to designed to influence. the moral principles and sacred history with
statements. At the 36th Session (1983) of the spy on its activities. 201 Prominent Baha'is are which they have, in varying degrees, identified
quoted as hailing the two Pahlavi shahs as con- themselves. Belief thus becomes experiential,
verts to the Baha'i Faith, as celebrating military
Consolidation of the Baha'i
196 . See, for example, the statement on this subject by particularly so for those individuals and commu-
the Netherlands' delegation at the debate on the Covenants on Community nities who have taken a direct part in the struggle
Human Rights , 37th Session of the General Assembly,
November 18, 1982.
197. "Mr. President, distinguished members: .. . Your
53 pp.
198 . P.O. Box 85567 , The Hague, The Netherlands ,

199. Ibid., p. 3.
T HE EFFECTS of the persecution on the inter-
nallife of the Baha'i community may prove,
to protect what is dear to them .
This process of consolidation is an inner one
attitude towards our people's revolution shall remain in his- in the long run, to be even more significant than
200. Ibid., pp. 12,7-9, 10. which cannot itself be measured, but the occa-
tory as one of the most shameful violations of the true rights 201. Assuming that such reports are not merely present- its members' success in attracting outside sup-
sions it creates are highly suggestive.
of people ... . " "What on earth gives you the right to ask any day fabrications , it is apparent from the text that the agents in port for their cause. When it entered the present
questions ?" (Delegate ofiran, reporting on Iran's compliance question had represented themselves to the Baha'i com-
with its commitments under the Covenant on Political and munity as believers and had been duly enrolled. No photostats 204, Seven Year Plan . pp, 79-108,
Civil Rights, 16th Session of Human Rights Committee, July, of original documents are provided by the compilers of the 202, Exhibits 17 , 19, 20, 33, 205, See pp, 7-13 above.
1982.) booklet. 203. Ibid., p. 18 . 206. Momen includes a number of such accounts.
74 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 75

Throughout the Baha'i world, countless memo- quently escaped. An example is the arrangement martyrs is the seed of faith is one that seems bent martyrdom and who could be expected to ha.ve a
rial services are held to commemorate the lives which the Baha'i community of Canada has been on perennially demonstrating its validity. What is professional appreciation of the dynamics of the
of those dying in Iran as martyrs for their beliefs. able to make with the Canadian government, surprising is that the leaders of Shi ' ih Islam , phenomenon, should show such little awareness
The stories of the latter, their photographs, repro- permitting them to sponsor the immigration of a whose own faith is, par excellence, the religion of of the likely consequences of their actions.
ductions of their last messages to their families, thousand Iranian Baha'is over the past eighteen
poems written by them and memoirs contributed months.208 Through the assistance of local
by their friends are published in the many Baha'i Baha'i groups, the new arrivals have been settled
news organs. Children are named after them , in nearly one hundred and forty communities
teaching and service projects are undertaken in across Canada.
their honour, and financial sacrifices are made as The massive effort to defend the Iranian
tributes to their memories. Towns in other coun- Baha' is and to vindicate the name ofthe faith has
tries are " twinned" with counterparts in Iran, also provided an unexpected opportunity to exer-
and goals of the international plan are adopted in cise the network of national and local institutions
order to compensate for the disabilities which and the various international agencies. The struc-
restrict the efforts of Iranian Baha' is. Summer ture has been painstakingly erected over the past
and winter schools include special sessions on several decades primarily as an instrument for
current events in Iran, studied against the back- the accomplishment of the plan of expansion
ground of the heroic days of the faith 's origins. conceived by the faith 's founders. The com-
Several popular books have been written by munity's dramatic growth is a tribute to its effec-
Baha'is, whose perspective on the persecution tiveness. The demand for sudden mobilization
can be appreciated from the following reference created by the Iranian crisis, however, and for
in one of them to the destruction of the Bab's rapid and coordinated responses as the crisis has
house in Shiraz . The mob had burned an orange unfolded, has tested administrative capacities
tree the Bab had planted in the courtyard: which large segments of the Baha' i community
Don't they know that they really haven't cut must have been only dimly aware of possessing:
down that orange tree at all? I, personally, have capacities to argue a case with appropriate gov-
at least seven friends in North America who ernment agencies , to organize a systematic pub-
right now are eating oranges from the trees licity campaign, or to cope with the needs of
they have grown from the seeds of that orange stranded Iranian Baha'is, many of them des-
tree planted by the Bab in Shiraz. There are poiled of everything they had possessed.
hundreds more. Pilgrims from everywhere In short, an assault which could have been
have taken home oranges and planted seeds devastating shows, instead, every sign of gal-
from that tree. Don't the authorities in Iran vanizing the victims and, ironically, of advancing
know that tomorrow, if access to Iran were precisely those concerns which it was intended to
permitted, black, yellow, red, brown and white inhibit. This is, no doubt, an effect which stu-
Baha' is could fly in from all over the world, dents of religious history would have felt entirely
and plant a whole row of orange trees all round safe in predicting. The adage that the blood of
the city of Shiraz?207
208. The agreement was signed in October 1981. Since
One of the developments which has been then, the Canadian government has further identified Iranian
Baha'is as a class of persons deserving special humanitarian
particularly important in providing Western
consideration under the government's own refugee quota. The
Baha'is with intimate access to the ordeal in Iran United States has informally accorded special consideration
is the program to settle Iranian Baha' is in lands to Iranian Baha' is seeking admission to that country under its
where they were temporarily stranded by the special humanitarian program for Iranian refugees. A number
of other countries have acknowledged that Iranian Baha' is , as
outbreak of the revolution or to which they subse- a group, are victims of persecution in their homeland, and
have accorded them temporary residence visas , pending the
207. William Sears, A Cry From the Heart , p. 78. outcome of events in Iran.
VI.
The Case 'of the Iranian Baha'is: A Study in
Religious Persecution
HE EXPERIENCE of the Baha'is of Iran is a details of public life. Such total power must
T classic case of the violation of human rights
produced by religious intolerance. The series of
entail, as they pointed out about the late Shah,
total responsibility for whatever has ensued.
isolated attacks , efforts at ostracism, and acts of The argument that the current persecution is a
formalized discrimination which link the reaction against alleged Baha'i political activity
pogroms of the mid-nineteenth century with does not survive serious examination. In no
those taking place today under the Islamic single case has an Islamic tribunal which sen-
Republic form a single continuum. The dynam- tenced a Baha'i to death , produced evidence of
ics of the process arise out of the violent rejection political involvement with the previous regime or
by fundamentalist Muslims of the idea that a new of contact with the foreign espionage organiza-
religious system can come into existence after the tions whose interests the victim was alleged to
passing of the prophet Muhammad in the seventh have served. Nor can an independent observer
century A.D. Throughout the political upheavals accept the charge that the Iranian Baha'is were a
and constitutional changes of the past 140 years , protected social elite under the Pahlavis.
this fixed theological attitude has been used to Excluded from the protections granted by the
justify repeated attempts to uproot the Baha'i imperial constitution to the members of all other
Faith in the land of its origin. religious minorities, denied the right to conduct
The persons who must accept the primary some of the elementary practices associated with
responsibility for the resulting catalogue of the religious life of a community, exposed to
crimes against humanity are the Shi'ih clergy. It endless harassments from Muslim fundamen-
was members of this caste who instigated the talists and to pillaging by officials, and often
massacres of the 1850s and who incited each of condemned to watch helplessly as 'their holy
the various outbreaks during the succeeding places and cemeteries were desecrated, the
decades. When the fires of religious hatred began Baha'i community in Iran survived only because
to wane after World War I, it was the 'ulama who of its inherent strengths. Whatever economic,
rekindled them and who assured that they were educational, or professional success members of
kept burning by propaganda in the mosques and the community enjoyed was achieved despite, not
seminaries and by discriminatory legislation dur- because of, the Pahlavi State's policies towards
ing the Pahlavi period. So great was the mullahs' Baha'is.
obsession with the Baha'i issue that they sacri- There is an ironic addendum. If political sup-
ficed Iranian national interests in the economic port of the two Pahlavi shahs or the enjoyment of
and political fields, in return for a free hand from a favoured position conferred by it are blamewor-
the Pahlavi State to carry out the attacks of the thy, such charges may eventually be brought with
1950s and 1990s against the Baha'i minority. compelling force against Iran's Shi'ih hierarchy.
[oday, with complete political power in their The persons who persuaded Reza Shah to estab-
lands, the Shi'ih clergy pursue their vendetta lish the Pahiavi monarchy in 1925 and who
iirectly as justices of the Supreme Court, cabinet played a key role in restoring his son to power
ninisters, government functionaries, judges of when he was temporarily overthrown by demo-
he revolutionary tribunals, and the effective cratic forces in 1953 were leading Shi'ih 'ulama.
'block wardens" who supervise the minute The most respected ayatollahs in the land hailed
78 Baha'f Studies/Etudes baha'fes - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'fs of Iran, 1844-1984 79

the Pahlavis as agents of God and their military a Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of
forces as the "Army of God." One must assume Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on
that, according to constitutional requirements, Religion or Belief. 210 The document was drafted
all members of Pahlavi cabinets during those by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and
sixty years were Shf'ih Muslims. While certain was submitted to the General Assembly with the
Shf'ih institutions were the object of the regime's sponsorship of the Economic and Social Coun-
intermittent efforts at attrition, Shf' ih Islam cil. Although lacking the force of the two Cove-
enjoyed the position of a state religion in Pahlavi nants, the Declaration is considered important in
Iran, compelling submission by all segments of generating international public opinion in sup-
the population to certain of its beliefs and obser- port of the issue of religious rights. It also creates
vances. Even before the land distribution pro- the basis for continuing attention to the subject
gram began, Shf'ih clergy and organizations of by the Third Committee of the General Assem-
all kinds accepted generous funding from the bly.
Pahlavi State and some, like the Hujjatfyyih, The situation of the Baha' fs of Iran is a classic
were eager agents of the regime in spying on their instance of the kind of violation of human rights
fellow citizens , religious minorities, and politi- which the Declaration is intended to address. As
cal groups alike. Sooner or later, this record is a result, the Declaration starts as an immediate
likely to come under review by the Iranian peo- reference point for discussions of the Third Com-
ple. Given the intensity of the political debate mittee and other human rights agencies , and the
currently going on and the accompanying cli- Baha'f case is reinforced by its special relevancy
mate of violence, this review may prove to be very to current United Nations concerns. The coinci-
searching indeed. dence will no doubt ultimately work to the
It is a striking coincidence that the persecution advantage of both. In the short term, however, the
of the Baha'fs ofIran has broken out anew just as prospect is extremely bleak. Even if the Declara-
the community of nations is considering formal tion had the character of one of the Covenants,
measures to protect religious rights. The two buttressed by the adhesion of a sufficient number
Covenants adopted in 1966 and brought into of states, it would still be inadequate to provide
force in 1976, when they were ratified by a ' the effective protection which the Baha'fs of Iran
sufficient number of states, dealt respectively require. One of the central teachings of the
with civil and political rights; and with eco- founder of the Baha'f Faith is that international
nomic, social, and cultural rights. 209 Efforts to peace and the protection of the rights of man
extend these provisions to deal specifically with require the establishment of a world government
questions of religion and belief were long frus- with its own tribunals and police force. The
trated because certain blocs of nations were present situation of his own community provides
opposed either to shoring up the position of a dramatic illustration of his meaning. Given the
religion in society or to providing protection for fact, however, that it has taken two world wars to
religious minorities. Nevertheless, after two produce the degree of receptivity necessary for
decades of protracted discussion and patient the establishment of even the limited degree of
Interview in Kayhdn (September 21, 1983) with Attorney General Siyyid Hossein Moussavi-Tabrfzf,
pressure, the 36th Session ofthe General Assem- international order represented by the United
announcing the formal ban on all Baha'f religious and charitable institutions.
bly finally voted, on November 25, 1981, to adopt Nations Organization, it is clear that short-term
help for Iran's Baha'fs must come from some
209. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human other source.
Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights both make specific reference to 210. The two chairmen of the Working Group of the
"religious rights and practices," but it has long been felt that Commission on Human Rights , which conducted the nego-
the complexity of the subject requires a specific treatment in a tiations leading up to the adoption of the Declaration, were
separate instrument, in order to give effect to the necessary Ambassador Yvon Beaulne of Canada and Judge Abdoulaye
provisions. Dieye of Senegal.
80 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 81

The situation, as this monograph is being took a massive expose of the activities of the The value of these latter assurances was dem- ominous development, apart entirely from the
written, continues to deteriorate daily. On Hujjatiyyih, in a series of major articles. The onstrated when a new wave of Baha' i arrests human suffering involved. It has long been 'evi-
August 29, 1983, Iran's Prosecutor General series brings together all of the accusations followed immediately on the heels of the ban. 21 5 dent that the kinds of pressures hitherto adopted
announced the formal banning of all Baha'i against the Hujjatiyyih which had formerly been The majority of the victims were people who had have failed to achieve the desired recantations,
religious institutions in the country, and declared made behind closed doors and which have been formerly been members of the now dissolved and that the Shi'ih clergy are now prepared to go
membership in them or service to them to be reviewed here. institutions. One can only conclude that the much further. If, as seems certain, these efforts
criminal offenses. 21 1 From the context, some Faced with the problem of explaining why an authorities are making use of the ban as a legal likewise fail to break down the victims and
observers believe that, in addition to the con- organization (the Hujjatiyyih) which had device to sweep up large numbers of prominent induce a similar reaction from the mass of the
tinuing religious fanaticism involved, the allegedly been created by Western powers as a believers and to charge them , retroactively, with Baha' is of Iran, the mullahs' only remaining
Baha' is are being made scapegoats in the wor- political cats paw should have devoted its ener- crimes against the State. This conclusion has option would seem to be to carry out the large-
sening political conflict between the various fac- gies primarily to trying to destroy a religious been reinforced in recent weeks by horrifying scale executions which some of the most fanati-
tions in the Islamic movement. At the same time minority (the Baha'is) who were supposed to be stories indicating that many of those imprisoned cal among them have long threatened. So deliber-
as the government launched its vigorous cam- serving the same ends, the writer of the article are being subjected to torture, in the endless ate an outrage would face those nations who have
paign against the Hujjatfyyih's hoarding advanced a startling suggestion - the aim of the campaign to force them to recant their faith and the capacity to bring intensive pressure on Iran
activities, it was suddenly announced that revolu- Western powers was to distract high-minded and to terrorize their families and friends. This is an with an entirely new kind of challenge.
tionary guards had arrested a Baha'i named Aziz progressive Muslim youth from an interest in
Dehqani-Tafti on a charge of hoarding second- Islamic revolutionary ideas. The Hujjatfyyih
hand automobile parts. The collection proved to achieved this aim by involving these youth in
represent no more than the inventory of a attacks on Baha' is and the latter cooperated (so
medium-sized automotive retail business, but the articles explicitly state) by letting themselves
the incident was hailed in the popular press as an be so attacked. 212
example of "economic sabotage" by groups Immediately upon learning of the ban on their
opposed to the State. institutions , the National Spiritual Assembly of
The ban on the Baha'i institutions was the Baha'is of Iran dissolved all local Baha'i
announced a week or two later, and the Attorney assemblies throughout the country, and then
General took the occasion to attack Baha'is and announced its own formal dissolution. 21 3 In an
other groups whom he blamed for the deepening open letter to the government, some 2,000 copies
economic ills of the nation. For the first time, the of which were audaciously distributed by hand to
Hujjatfyyih were accused by name and were the ministries , the press , and other public agen-
warned that the authorities would not permit cies, the National Spiritual Assembly reviewed
them to resume organized activities until they the history of Baha'i civil obedience throughout
could satisfy the government of their innocence the various changes of regime, pointed out that
of the activities charged. This was followed by a the abuses to which Baha'is are being subjected
frontal assault on the Anjuman in the pages of the violate Iranian law and the national constitution,
leading Tehran daily, Etteld'dt. From August 31 and appealed to the regime to keep its own
through October 11, 1983, the government under- promises that Baha'is , as individuals, would be
permitted to practice their faith in the privacy of
211. The statement of the Attorney General, as pub- their own homes. 214 This promise had been
lished in Kayhlin , September 21 , 1983 , purported to exempt explicitly reiterated by the Prosecutor General in
the private practice of the Baha' i Faith from the ban: " If a the statement which banned Baha'i community
Baha' i himself performs his religious acts in accordance with
his own beliefs , such a man will not be bothered by us, life.
provided he does not invite others to the Baha'i Faith, does
not teach, does not form assemblies , does not give news to
others, and has nothing to do with the administration." 212. The series inadvertently provide interesting
Ironically, and unintentionally, this statement represents the glimpses into the history of the behind-the-scenes power
first time in Iranian history that any Iranian government has struggle in the Islamic regime. 215 . The Baha' i International Community estimates
admitted that the Baha'i Faith is, in fact, a religion. (See 213 . For the full text of this statement, see Appendix. that upwards of 700 Baha'is are held in various prisons
illustration previous page.) 214. For the text of this letter, see Appendix. throughout Iran, as of February 1984.
The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 83

the Fort of Malak (near I~fahan), and those of the Accusations of this nature are many but aU are
Appendix village of Nuk in Birjand, be "spies"? What
secret intelligence documents have been found in
easy to investigate. If just and impartial people
and God-fearing judges will only do so, the
their possession? What espionage equipment has falsity of these spurious accusations will be
An Open Letter come to hand? What "spying" activities were revealed in case after case. The Baha'i com-
engaged in by the primary school children who munity emphatically requests that such accusa-
on the Banning of Baha'i Religious have been expelled from their schools? ... tions be investigated openly in the presence of
All the other accusations made against the juries composed of judges and international
Institutions from the Baha'is by the honorable Prosecutor of the Revo- observers so that, once and for all, the accusa-

National Spiritual Assembly lution are similarly groundless. He brands the


Baha'i community with accusations of subver-
tions may be discredited and their repetition
prevented.
of the Baha'is of Iran sion and corruption. For example, on the basis of
a manifestly forged interview, the falsity of which
The basic principles and beliefs of the Baha'is
have been repeatedly proclaimed and set forth in
has been dealt with in a detailed statement, he writing during the past five years. Apparently
(Translated from Persian) false accusations against a band of innocent
accuses. the Baha'i community of hoarding, an these communications, either by deliberate
12 Shahrivar 1362 people, without fear of the Day of Judgment,
act which its members would consider highly design or by mischance, have not received any
[September 3, 1983] without even believing the calumnies they utter
reprehensible.... Yes, such allegations of cor- attention, otherwise accusations such as those
ECENTLY THE ESTEEMED Prosecutor Gen-
against their victims, and having exerted not the
R eral of the Islamic Revolution of the Coun-
try, in an interview that was published in the
slightest effort to investigate to any degree the
validity of the charges they are making. "Me-
ruption and subversion are similar to those
hurled against us at the time of the Anglican case
described above would not have been repeated by
one of the highest and most responsible
in I~fahan when this oppressed community was authorities. This in itself is a proof that the
newspapers, I declared that the continued func- thinks they are not believers in the Day of Judg-
accused of collaboration with foreign agents, as a numerous communications referred to were not
tioning of the Baha'i religious and spiritual ment. "2
result of which seven innocent Baha'is of Yazd accorded the attention of the leaders; therefore,
administration is banned and that membership in The honorable Prosecutor has again intro-
were executed. Following this the falsity of the we mention them again. . . .
it is considered to be a crime. This declaration duced the baseless and fictitious story that
charges was made known and the Prosecutor Also, Baha'is, in accordance with their exalted
has been made after certain unjustifi.ed accusa- Baha'is engage in espionage, but without pro-
announced the episode to be the outcome of a teachings, are duty bound to be obedient to their
tions have been levelled against the Baha'i com- ducing so much as one document in support of
forgery. government. Elucidating this subject, Shoghi
munity of Iran and after a number of its mem- the accusation, without presenting proof in any
Baha'is are accused of collecting contribu- Rabbani says: "The people of Baha are required
bers-ostensibly for imaginary and fabricated form, and without any explanation as to what is
tions and transferring sums of money to foreign to obey their respective governments, and to
crimes but in reality merely for the sake of their the mission in this country of this extraordinary
countries. 3 How strange! If Muslims, in accor- demonstrate their truthfulness and good will
beliefs-have been either executed, or arrested number of "spies": what sort of information they
dance with their sacred and respected spiritual towards the authorities.... Baha'is, in every
and imprisoned. The majority of those who have obtain and from what sources? Whither do they
beliefs, send millions of tumans to Karbala land and without any exception, should . . . be
been imprisoned have not yet been brought to relay it, and for what purpose? What kind of
Najaf and Jerusalem, or to other Muslim hoI; obedient and bow to the clear instructions and the
trial.
"spy" is an eighty-five year old man from Yazd
places outside Iran, to be spent on the mainte- declared decrees issued by the authorities. They
The Baha'i community finds the conduct of who has never set foot outside his village? Why
nance and upkeep of the Islamic sacred shrines must faithfully carry out such directives."
it is considered very praiseworthy; but if ~
the authorities and the judges bewildering and do these alleged "spies" not hide themselves,
lamentable-as indeed would any fair-minded conceal their religious beliefs and exert every Baha'i organizations have no aim excepuhe
Baha'i-even during the time in which the trans-
observer who is unblinded by malice. The effort to penetrate, by every stratagem, the Gov- good of all nations and do not take any steps that
fer of foreign currency was allowed-sends a
authorities are the refuge of the people; the ernment's information centers and offices? Why are against the public good. Contrary to the
negligible amount for his international com-
judges in pursuit of their work of examining and has no Baha'i" spy" been arrested anywhere else conception it may create in the mind because of
munity to be used for the repair and maintenance
ascertaining the truth and facts in legal cases in the world? How could students, housewives, the similarity in name, it does not resemble the
of the holy places of his faith, it is considered that
devote years oftheir lives to studying the law and, innocent young girls, and old men and women current organizations of political parties; it does
such as those blameless Baha'is· who hav~
he has committed an unforgivable sin and it is
when uncertain of a legal point, spend hours not interfere in political affairs; and it is the
counted as proof that he has done so in order to
poring over copious tomes in order to cross a t recently been delivered to the gallows in Iran, OF safeguard against the involvement of Baha'is in
strengthen other countries.
~ho have become targets for the darts of preju- subversive political activities. Its high ideals are
and dot an i. Yet these very people consider
dice and enmity, be "spies"? How could the 3. The reference is to the sending of financial contribu- "to improve the characters of men; to extend the
themselves to be justified in brazenly bringing tions to the Baha'i International Centre, located in Haifa,
Baha'i farmers of the villages of Afus, Chigan, Israel, where the principal shrines of the Baha'i Faith are scope of knowledge; to abolish ignorance and
1. Siyyid Hossein Moussavi-Tabrizi, in a statement prejudice; to strengthen the foundations of true
located.
published in the Tehran daily, Kayhtin, Sept 21, 1983. 2. A major 14th century Persian poet.
84 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vol. 12/13 The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran, 1844-1984 85

religion in all hearts; to encourage self-reliance, many the precious breasts that became the targets community of Iran or to elaborate upon what is capable of being blotted out upon the recantation
and discourage false imitation; ... to uphold of firing squads. Vast amounts of money and happening. If they were free to do so and were of one's beliefs? Is this not a clear proof of the
truthfulness, audacity, frankness, and courage; to great quantities of personal property have been unbiased in reporting the daily news , volumes absurdity of the accusations?
promote craftsmanship and agriculture; . .. to plundered or confiscated. Many technical experts would have been compiled describing the inhu- In spite of all this , the Baha'i community of
educate, on a compulsory basis, children of both and learned people have been tortured and con- mane cruelty to and oppression of the innocent. Iran, whose principles have been described ear-
sexes; to insist on integrity in business transac- demned to long-term imprisonment and are still For example, if they were allowed to do so, they lier in this statement, announces the suspension
tions; to lay stress on the observance of honesty languishing in dark dungeons, deprived of the would have written that in Shiraz seven coura- of the Baha'i organizations throughout Iran, in
and piety; ... to acquire mastery and skill in the opportunity of placing their expertise at the ser- geous men and ten valiant women - seven of order to establish its good intentions and in
modem sciences and arts; to promote the inter- vice of the Government and the nation. Numer- whom were girls in the prime of their lives - conformity with its basic tenets concerning com-
ests of the public; ... to obey outwardly and ous are the self-sacrificing employees of the audaciously rejected the suggestion of the plete obedience to the instructions of the Govern-
inwardly and with true loyalty the regulations Government who spent their lives in faithful religious judge that they recant their faith or, at ment. Henceforth, until the time when, God
enacted by state and government; . . . to honor, service but who were dismissed from work and least, dissemble their belief, and preferred death willing, the misunderstandings are eliminated
to extol and to follow the example of those who afflicted with poverty and need because of hatred to the concealment of their faith. The women, and the realities are at last made manifest to the
have distinguished themselves in science and and prejudice. Even the owners of private firms after hours of waiting with dried lips, shrouded authorities, the National Assembly and all local
learning. . . ." And again, ". . . to help the and institutions were prevented from engaging themselves in their chadurs, kissed the noose of spiritual assemblies and their committees are
needy from every creed or sect, and to collabo- Baha'is. Many privately-owned Baha'i establish- their gallows, and with intense love offered up disbanded, and no one may any longer be desig-
rate with the people of the country in all welfare ments have been confiscated. Many tradesmen their souls for the One Who proferreth life. The nated a member of the Baha'i Administration.
services. " have been denied the right to continue working observers of this cruel scene might well ask The Baha' i community of Iran hopes that this
In brief, whatever the clergy in other religions by cancellation of their business licenses. Baha'i forgiveness for the murderers at Karbala, since step will be considered a sign of its complete
undertake individually and by virtue of their youth have been denied access to education in they, despite their countless atrocities, did not put obedience to the Government in power. It further
appointment to their positions , the Baha 'i many schools and in all universities and institu- women to the sword nor harass the sick and hopes that the authorities-including the
administration performs collectively and through tions of higher education. Baha'i university stu- infirm. 4 esteemed Prosecutor of the Islamic Revolution
an elective process. dents abroad are deprived of recei ving money for Unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this who says that there is no opposition to and no
The statements made by the esteemed Pros- their education, and others who wish to pursue letter to recount the atrocities inflicted upon the enmity towards individual Baha ' is, who has
ecutor of the Revolution do not seem to have legal their studies outside Iran have been denied exit guiltless Baha'is of Iran or to answer, one by one, acknowledged the existence of a large Baha'i
basis , because in order to circumscribe individu- permits. Baha'is , including the very sick whose the accusations levelled against them . But let us community and has , in his interview, guaranteed
als and deprive them of the rights which have not only hope for cure was to receive medical treat- ask all just and fair-minded people only one its members the right to live and be free in their
been denied them by the Constitution, it is neces- ment in specialized medical centers in foreign question: If, according to the much-publicized acts of worship-will reciprocate by proving
sary to enact special legislation, provided that lands , have been prevented from leaving the statements of the Prosecutor, Baha'is are not their good intentions and the truth of their
legislation is not contradictory to the Constitu- country. Baha'i cemeteries have been confiscated arrested and executed because of their belief, and assurances by issuing orders that pledge, hence-
tion. It was hoped that the past recent years would and bodies rudely disinterred. Numerous have are not even imprisoned on that account, how is it forth:
have witnessed, on the one hand, the administra- been the days when a body has remained that, when a group of them is arrested and each is
I. To bring to an end the persecutions, arrests,
tion of divine justice-a principle promoted by unburied while the bereaved family pleaded to charged with the same "crime" of "spying" , if
the true religion of Islam and prescribed by all torture and imprisonment of Baha'is for imag-
have a permit issued and a burial place assigned one of them recants his belief, he is immediately
monotheistic religions-and, on the other, and inary crimes and on baseless pretexts, because
so that the body might be decently buried. As of freed, a photograph of him and a description of
coupled with an impartial investigation of the today, thousands of Baha'is have been divested of God knows-and so do the authorities-that
his defection are victoriously featured in the
the only "crime" of which these innocent ones
truths of the Baha'i Faith, the abolition or at least their homes and forced to live as exiles. Many newspapers, and respect and glory are heaped
mitigation of discrimination, restrictions and have been driven from their villages and dwelling are guilty is that of their beliefs , and not the
upon him? What kind of spying, subversion,
pressures suffered by Baha'is over the past 135 places and are living as wanderers and stranded unsubstantiated accusations brought against
illegal accumulation of goods, aggression or
years. Alas, on the contrary because of long- them;
refugees in other parts of Iran with no other conspiracy or other "crime" can it be that is
standing misunderstandings and prejudices, the haven and refuge but the Court of the All- 2. To guarantee the safety of their lives , their
difficulties increased immensely and the portals Merciful God and the loving-kindness of their 4. The reference is to the slaying of the Imam Husayn, personal property and belongings, and their
of calamity were thrown wide open . . . . friends and relatives. grandson of the Prophet, by a dissident Muslim faction, on honor;
the Plain of Karbila, in the seventh century. The murderers 3. To accord them freedom to choose their
Many are the pure and innocent lives that have It is a pity that the mass media, newspapers killed the Imam and his male followers but spared the women
been snuffed out; many the distinguished heads and magazines , either do not want or are not and children. Commemoration of the event and the mourning
residence and occupation and the right of
that have adorned the hangman's noose; and allowed to publish any news about the Baha'i related to it corresponds in Shf'ih Islam to that surrounding association based on the provisions of the
the crucifixion of Christ in the Christian faith. Constitution of the Islamic Republic;
86 Baha'i Studies/Etudes baha'ies - Vo!. 12/13

4. To restore all the rights which have been


taken away from them in accordance with the
entirely obedient and subordinate to the Gov-
ernment in the administration of the affairs
Bibliography
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5. To restore to Baha'i employees the rights and in accordance with their spiritual princi- Akhavi, Shahrough. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran. Albany, N. Y.: State University of
denied them by returning them to their jobs ples, they prefer martyrdom to recantation or New York Press, 1980.
and by paying them their due wages; the abandoning of the divine ordinances pre- Algar, Hamid, "Iran." In Encyclopaedia of Islam , pp. 163-67. Edited by B . Lewis; Ch. Pellat; and E.
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8. To permit Baha'i students who wish to unfair, we have accepted it. We beseech God to The Bahd' i World. Vols. 1-8, New York, 1924-40; vols. 9-12.' Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust,
continue their studies abroad to benefit from remove the dross of prejudice from the hearts of 1940-1954; vols. 13-16. Haifa: Baha'i World Centre, 1954-1976.
the same facilities that are provided to others; the authorities so that aided and enlightened by Bahd'i Education: A Compilation . Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1977 .
9. To permit those Baha'i youth who have His confirmations they will be inspired to recog- Baha'u'llah. Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude). Translated by Shoghi Effendi . Wilmette, Ill. :
been prevented from continuing their studies nize the true nature of the affairs of the Baha' i Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1950.
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10. To permit those Baha'i students stranded tion that the infliction of atrocities and cruelties Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1976.
abroad who have been deprived of foreign upon a pious band of wronged ones, and the _ _ . Bahd'i World Faith, 2d ed. Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1956.
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Said, Edward. Covering Islam . New York: Pantheon, 1981. DOUGLAS MARTIN holds degrees in business administration from
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Waterloo, Canada. In 1974, he was one of the founding members of the
Stempel, John D. Inside the Iranian Revolution . Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1981.
Association for Baha'i Studies. He has published and lectured widely
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on the persecution of the Iranian Baha'is, a subject with which his
position as Secretary ofthe National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is
of Canada well acquaints him . The Canadian government has been
particularly active in seeking to generate international intervention on
behalf of the victims.
Other Titles in the Bahd' { Studies Series
The Science of Religion
The Baha'i Faith La foi baha'fe,
William S. Hatcher
A Summary un aper.;u
The Metaphorical Nature of Physical Reality The Revelation proclaimed by Bahit'u ' llith, His followers Les adeptes de Bahit' u'lIi1h croient que la revelation pro-
John S. Hatcher believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in c1amee par lui est d'origine divine , d ' une portee mondiale,
its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its d'une vaste envergure, scientifique par sa methode , huma-
principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the nitaire dans ses principes et dynamique par I'influence
Three Studies on BaM'i History hearts and minds of men . The mission of the Founder of qu 'elle exerce sur les coeurs et les esprits des hommes. Pour
Douglas Martin, Jan T. Jasion, and A.M. Ghadirian their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious eux , la mission du fondateur de leur religion est de pro-
trUth is not absolute but relative , that Divine Revelation is c1amer que la verite religieuse n' est pas absolue mais rela-
continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past tive; que la revelation divine est continue lie et progressive;
The BaM' i Faith in Russia: Two Early Instances religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of que les fondateurs de toutes les religions passees, bien qu'ils
A.A. Lee and A.M. Ghadirian their teachings, " abide in the same Tabernacle , soar in the different dans les aspects non essentiels de leurs enseigne-
same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the ments, «demeurent dans Ie meme tabernacle, s'elevent au
same speech and proclaim the same Faith." Hi s Cause, they me me ciel, sont assis sur Ie meme trone , prononcent les
The Violence-Free Society: A Gift for Our Children have already demonstrated , stands identified with, and memes paroles et proclament la meme foi ». La cause de
Hossain B. Danesh revolves around , the principle of the organic unity of man- Bahil' u' lIi1h, ils I'ont deja demontre, implique Ie principe de
kind as representing the consummation of the whole process I'unite organique de l'humanite avec lequel elle se trouve
of human evolution. This final stage in this stupendous identifiee, principe qui represente Ie but final de toute
Response to the Revelation
evolution , they assert, is not only necessary but inevitable, l'evolution humaine . lis declarent que Ie dernier stade de
Poetry by BaM'is that it is gradually approaching , and that nothing short of the celie prodigieuse evolution est non seulement necessaire
Geoffrey Nash et al. celestial potency with which a divinely ordained Message mais inevitable et qu'il s'approche graduellement; .rien
can claim to be endowed can succeed in establishing it. d'autre que la puissance celeste qui anime un message divi-
The Bahil ', Faith recognizes the unity of God and of His nement ordonne, ne pourra reussir a l'etablir.
Une societe sans violence, un don afaire a nos enfants Prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after La religion bahil',e reconnait I'unite de Dieu et de ses
Hossain B. Danesh, truth , condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, prophetes; elle soutient Ie principe de la recherche indepen-
tr. Danielle finne-MacDonnell teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to dante de la verite, condamne toutes les formes de supersti-
promote concord and harmony , that it must go hand-in-hand tions et de prejuges; elle enseigne que Ie but fondamental de
with sc ience , and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate la religion est de favoriser I'harmonie et la concorde; que la
The Concept of Manifestation in the BaM'i Writings basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society. It religion doit marcher de pair avec la science et qu' elle
Juan Ricardo Cole inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and constitue la seule et ultime base d' une societe pacifique,
privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, progressive et bien organisee. Elle inculque Ie principe
abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, exalts work per- d'egalite des droits et des privileges pour les deux sexes.
On Creativity formed in the spirit of service to the rank of worship, recom- Elle preconise I' instruction obligatoire; elle abolit les
Bahfyyih N~avanf, Geoffrey Nash, Roger White, and Otto Donald Rogers mends the adoption of an auxiliary international language, extremes de la pauvrete et de la richesse; elle eleve Ie travail
and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment accompli dans un esprit de service, au rang d'acte
and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace . d'adoration; elle recommande l'adoption d' une langue auxi-
The Concept of Spirituality Iiaire internationale et prevoit les organisations necessaires
William S. Hatcher a I' etablissement et a la preservation d ' une paix permanente
Shoghi Effendi et universelle .

Shoghi Effendi