An Editorial from Bahá'í Sikkim
BAHÁ'ÍS BEING PERSECUTED IN IRAN
The Bahá'ís if Iran, the country's largest religious minority, numbering some 500,000, are once again in the danger of a genocidical massacre on the grounds of their religious beliefs. One of the first victims of this new wave of persecution is a distinguished Bahá'í of Tabriz, Riza Firuzi. The Pars news agency report published in Tehran papers charges him with being a prominent Bahá'í and an 'infidel.'
According to the latest reports received here, "Bahá'í Holy Places have been seized and destroyed ; members of the Faith have been robbed, terrorized and in a number of instances, kidnapped, summarily executed or murdered. Cemeteries have been desecrated, private property looted and burned, life sayings of thousands confiscated and the entire community subjected to various forms of discrimination and humiliation."
It may be of interest to note here that the Canadian Parliament and Human Rights Commission have condemned these persecutions and appealed to U. N. O. to bring an end to them by using its good offices.
When the Bahá'í Faith was founded in Iran in the19th Century, some 20,000 Bahá'ís were killed because of their belief in such concepts as the equality of sexes, the unity of religions, one world and non-involvement in partisan politics. These principles were and still are the cause of a mounting campaign of harassment against Bahá'ís.
In 1903, 100 Bahá'ís were massacred in Yazd ; further 'pogrom' happened in 1906 and after the first world war; non-violent harassment was kept up during 1930,s; and another major pogrom took place in 1955. In 1975, the wrath of the Shah came upon Bahá'ís because they refused to join his Rastakbiz party. Recently the following persecutions took place :
About 50 Bahá'ís in Tehran Tabriz, and Shiraz were imprisoned without charge. Companies in which thousands of Bahá'ís had invested were confiscated.
Old people were turned out of a branch of a Bahá'í Hospital where, ironically, doctors had treated people in street-riots during the revolution early last year.
The holiest Bahá'í place of worship, know as the House of the Báb, was razed. Other holy places and community centers were confiscated.
Some 50 Bahá'ís were summarily purged from their jobs in a provincial education ministry. Its director threatened to turn them over to revolutionary court unless they became Muslims.
In July, a firing squad shot two leading Bahá'ís in Tabriz. Earlier 4 other believers were executed.
The 9 members of Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Iran were arrested in August. Their whereabouts are still not known
On September 7, seven Bahá'ís were executed in the town of Yazd.
Trumped up charges are being employed again and again to provide legitimacy to the gun- barrel justice. The Bahá'ís have been charged with supporting the Shah, encouraging Zionism and giving aid to Israel. That the Bahá'ís supported the Shah or not can be judged from the fact that Bahá'ís sent Iran's UN delegate a paper summarizing the bad treatment of the Bahá'ís at the hands of the Shah, including a massive campaign against their religion in 1955, special taxes, a ban on their meetings and creation of an anti-Baha'i section of Savak, the Shah's secret police, in 1978.
The Israel - related charges stem from a historical incident. The Founder-Prophet of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, died in Palestine. The Headquarters of the Bahá'ís are, therefore, in Israel. However, in a case of persecution in Tabriz, a receipt for a donation to the Haifa Shrine was produced as an evidence of espionage for Israel. Let it be said, then, that if pilgrimages and religious contributions are crimes worthy of death, no one of the half million Bahá'ís is safe'.
The Bahá'ís also face problems in Iran because thy believe in the equality of men and women. Bahá'í women shun the Chador or Veil. As a result, they are charged with being 'loose women' and soliciting for prostitution.
What is more, because the Mullahs look on Bahá'ís as a splinter from Islam, the Bahá'ís have not been recognized as a religion under the new Islamic constitution. This deprives them of even the veil of legal protection supposedly enjoyed by some other religions.
Under these circumstances, it is but natural for the Bahá'ís to believe that Muslim fanatics are carrying out a systematic attack on the Bahá'ís in Iran. It may be apprehended that once the economic life of the community is destroyed, its members terrorized and leader-ship executed, the next step would be to force the rest of Bahá'ís to recant their Faith.
The Bahá'ís of Sikkim join world wide Bahá'í Community in expressing their horror, indignation and concern at the new wave of persecution against their sole tired and hard-pressed Bahá'í brethren in Iran.
(Various news reports form the basis of the facts and figures contained in the above evaluation.)
-Prof. Anil Sarwal