05 June 2014, by Majid Mohammadi
After three decades of atrocities against Baha’is, Khamenei put an official government stamp on this oppression: “All believers should confront the trickeries of the misguided Baha’i sect… and avoid any sort of interactions with this deviant sect.”
According to the HRANA (Human Rights Activists in Iran) website on Monday 2 June, Mashhad Intelligence Officers attended a worship meeting of the Baha’is, and after shutting it down, began to search the house and confiscate the religious books. Upon leaving the premises, agents arrested three Baha’is, then proceeded to the homes of the detained and spent most of the night inspecting their homes. They left after confiscating computers, books and religious pictures. Such actions against Baha’is in Iran have continued over the past 35 years. About 200 Baha’is have been executed in Iran in the past 35 years, and the seven informal Baha’i leaders (Yaran ˗ “Friends” of Iran) have been imprisoned for an extended period of time.
After three decades of atrocities against Baha’is, Khamenei put an official government stamp on this oppression. In response to several questions, he defined the official stand of the Islamic Republic and the seat of the Shi’ite clergy as such:
“All the members of the deviant Baha’i Sect are infidels and unclean (1), all should avoid food or other items that have been touched by them. It is incumbent upon the believers to combat the deception and fraud of this misguided sect… In case they have come into contact with anything, the proper cleansing process must be observed… All believers should confront the trickeries of the misguided Baha’i sect and prevent others from becoming misguided and joining them… any sort of interaction with this deviant sect should be avoided.”
First of all, such provisions are not only the view of Khamenei alone. Other Shi’ite clerics (with the exception of very few individuals like Ali Montazeri (2) and some of his students) have similar views towards Baha’is and Baha’i Faith. They have also held the same views in previous eras. During the time that the Qajar Kings supported them, they were intent upon murdering Baha’is, and during the Pahlavi Era, which, from the point of view of religious tolerance, was a shining era in the history of Iran, they were forced to refrain from physical harm against Baha’is and their belongings, however they continued with their ideological combat, and their views were and are exactly like Khamenei’s comments today. Combating Baha’is has always been such a serious task for the Shi’ite clergy that one of the most important Shi’ite religious institutions in the twentieth century, the Hojjatieh Society (3), was founded strictly to combat Baha’ism.
Second, views such as “combating the deception and fraud of this sect”, were not issued by a powerless cleric in one of the small towns within the country, but by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, who has its entire coercive forces under his command. Naturally he expects his followers to follow his commands, and they also obey him in order to please their high ranking official. Therefore any oppression against Baha’is is an order that has already been green lighted. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic is directly responsible for these attacks.
Finally, the definitions of such words is filled with hatred and hostility. Such terms as “diversion”, “misguided”, “cunning”, “deception”, “infidel”, “excrement” and “sect” are all nothing but firing the first bullet in the elimination of the Baha’is and whatever is ascribed to them. The regime has gone to the extremes of mass murder and of detaining up to tens of thousands of individuals, against those who had not been described by such attributes (such as some of the Shi’ite clerics or reformists during the time of the Green Movement); it is quite clear how much farther it will go with such phrases.
Why Violence Against Baha’is?
Muslims, proudly and without any rational basis, consider their religion to be the last religion. In the religion market, there has always been a rivalry. Religions have always considered themselves to be the best and the final religion. The claim of the seal of prophecy in this market, however, is like a pizza place claiming to be the last pizza shop. This vain pride and self-righteousness has caused them to view any new religion as the manifestation of corruption, falsehood and deception. That is precisely why the Shi’ites accuse the Baha’i Faith using such charges as having been created by foreign powers, or offering a license to incestuous marriage. In their eyes, any action to discredit the competition is legitimate.
Every single religion offers certain aspects in the field of competition. Each of these claim to offer the best goods, and to the extent that one side does not resort to force and the sword, they see themselves as having every right to continue in this rivalry. But from the perspective of an observer who has all of them under watch, they are sales people who are trying to gain a larger market share. Accusations and lies towards one another in this market is actually fair game, and done merely to disrupt the competition.
Another aspect of acts of oppression and abuse against Baha’is in contemporary Iran is the severe weakness felt by Shi’ites and their religious leaders against new thoughts and fresh points of view. From this perspective the root cause of oppression, abuse and persecution against Baha’is is the same as that against Jews, Christians, Dervishes, Dissidents, Afghans, Kurds, and women. Islamists see themselves as the losers in the ideology wars, and can only hold their religious and political rivals back through bullying, oppression, and force.
How Do They Conduct their Harassment?
The rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with former members of the Hojjatieh Society and a majority of Shi’ite clerics resort to harassment and repression of Baha’is in the following five ways:
Building cases against active Baha’is (those who work against human rights violations, and are the voice of those whose rights have been violated, or those who insist on their rights and refuse to leave the country) with such accusations as acting against the regime, acting against national security or working with foreigners. Such fabricated cases have caused hundreds of Baha’is to be murdered, thousands imprisoned, and thousands of Baha’i properties to be seized by the judicial system.
Terror: Baha’is who are active, but difficult to fabricate a case against, have been eliminated through assassination techniques. The murder of Ataollah Rezvani (4), a former member of the three-member group of the Khademeen – “Servants” – the local Baha’i community leaders of Bandar Abbas, which took place on the night of 24 August, 2013 by shooting him from behind, is an example of this type of terror. Prior to this Mi’ad Afshar and Iraj Maydani, prominent Baha’is in Bandar Abbas, were injured by stabbing from behind, by elements close to the Bandar Abbas Friday prayer leader. Iraj Mehdinezhad, another Baha’i from Bandar Abbas, was also murdered several years ago by multiple stab wounds, according to a family member of Mr. Rezvani in an interview with Radio Zamaneh on 25 August 2013.
Eliminating job opportunities: Baha’is who live in Iran today can only be employed in small private companies, because their employment in the public sector and government is impossible. Additionally they cannot work in the private sector as entrepreneurs or establish large companies. Baha’is can only make a minimal living, but the government is not able to stop them from making just enough to survive.
Stifle growth opportunities: Blocking the enrollment of Baha’is in universities and expelling them from the universities, depriving them of employment in various organizations, including the military, universities, social and political offices, is in a way a form of social elimination. According to the Ministry of Intelligence Act and the mandate of the High Council of the Cultural Revolution “Baha’is are unable to enroll in universities and centers of higher education. So if such an event is observed, the matter should be reported and their registration should be diligently avoided, and in the case of enrollment, they should be expelled.” (5)
Destruction of Inheritance: Those who are opposed to Baha’is intend to operate in such a way that there remains no trace of Baha’is in any of the towns and cities of Iran, so the Iranian people may forget that there ever were, in the history of Iran, a group by the name of Baha’i who lived among them. This began with the destruction of the Baha’i temples in the early years of the Islamic Republic, and in recent years has escalated to destroying their homes and cemeteries. Of course, some of the destroyed graves belong to teens who were executed by false accusations of the Islamic Republic. The destruction of these tombs is in fact the elimination of evidence of criminal acts. These acts are very similar to actions of the Nazi government against the Jews of Europe.
The Ultimate Goal
The purpose of the persecution and oppression of Baha’is in Iran is to cleansing Iranian society of all their signs and memories. The government and its security forces and military and paramilitary forces have been trying to make Baha’is choose between two options: being charged with apostasy (which has a potential sentence of death) or leave Iran. To this end, in reality fighting against the Baha’i religion within the Islamic Republic is a form of gradual Holocaust. When Khamenei regards Baha’is as unclean and the rule of religion leads to the elimination of uncleanliness, then obviously the government’s policy is religious cleansing of Baha’is. This purge has been in progress for the past 35 years that resulted in the killing of hundreds, and the migration of tens of thousands of Baha’is.
1. Najis, or “ritually unclean”. For a contrasting view, see the summons to sweep away ritual uncleanness of people by Mohammad Nourizad here: http://iranpresswatch.org/post/9369/
2. Hussein-Ali Montazeri – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein-Ali_Montazeri.
3. Hojjatieh Society: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hojjatieh.
4. For an obituary of Mr. Rezvani, see http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/10/bahai-murder/.
5. Under “Educational and Cultural Studies in the following document: http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education/feature-articles/secret-blueprint
Translation by Iran Press Watch