The Baha’is: Problem or Solution?

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Source: http://iranglobal.info/node/35699

Translation by Iran Press Watch

IRANGLOBAL

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Safa Rasti (Shintoo)

In Iran, the rights of Baha’is are ignored in many different ways. Baha’is are even executed based on fabricated crimes. They could retain their rights to a small degree if they were not so committed to their ideals. All they need to do is to claim they are Muslim on their university applications or when requesting work permits, but they don’t have a good relationship with falsehood, and avoid it as much as possible, to the extent that they would prefer a non-believer rather than to be an imposter. They believe in the nobility, oneness and equality of human beings, freedom of conscience, the equality of men and women, the elimination of all kinds of prejudice and …..

They don’t have the right to higher education. They are legally forbidden to have government or military jobs, and can’t easily obtain private jobs either. Religious authorities have officially banned them from working in the production, distribution or sales in the food industry (1). And even though there is no apparent legal obstacle to engaging in other businesses, once in a while, actually by the direct order of the extremists in the Ministry of Information, they are attacked by various government entities such as the Bureau of Housing and the Workers Unions, and are put out of business. The cities of Semnan, Tonekabon and Hamedan have witnessed the closing of practically all Baha’i businesses. Baha’is property is easily confiscated using any excuse, and the Justice Department has no problem justifying these actions. Setting aside the issues of property, jobs and education, in practice the lives of all Baha’is in Iran are in danger. Hundreds of them have been put in prison, more than two hundred have been executed by order of the Justice Department, and some have disappeared and been killed under suspicious circumstances. And unofficially, the so called rebellious and spontaneous groups and individuals, who in reality have been instigated by official religious and government leaders, regularly attack Baha’i homes, beat them up, or even kidnap and murder them. Recent examples of these crimes have occurred in Bandar-Abbas and Birjand. Baha’is are not safe even after death. Their cemeteries are desecrated and they face problems and complications trying to bury their dead.

The radio, television, magazines, newspapers, mosques, the parliament, the government and several official and unofficial websites and weblogs are busy around the clock, making accusations against Baha’is ranging from espionage, propaganda against the government, terror, spreading rumors, perturbing the minds of the public, insulting Islam and Muslims, spreading prostitution and adultery and any other evil act they can think of, and they are constantly persuading the general public, acquaintances, friends, neighbors and coworkers of Baha’is to take actions against them and even to count such actions as a cause of salvation. Both of the Supreme Leaders of the Islamic Republic have officially called Baha’is infidel and religiously unclean (najis); we can guess what consequences such comments from the highest ranking officials have had in the past and will have in the future. Despite all this flagrant cruelty, it is surprising that these same Iranian officials deny these widespread and systematic human rights violations against Baha’is in all the international media.

Despite all this, Baha’is have never been after retaliation or vengeance, but have tried to prove that they are the well-wishers of all, especially of Iran and of Iranians. For many years, they even refrained from presenting their complaints to international organizations and merely used internal means to present their cases in order not to be a cause of insults against their beloved country. Instead of seeking vengeance and spreading hatred and malice, they worked for the betterment of their community. They created the means for nurturing and cultivating their children, and with the establishment of a university − mainly through the efforts of their now unemployed professors − they helped their youth who were being deprived of higher education to reduce the bitterness of this deprivation.

In recent years, there has been a wave to express sympathy and to defend the undeniable rights of Baha’is. This support first started in various countries in the world and among their elected officials, and then gradually spread among Iranians outside the country. However, within the past year a group of brave, fair minded and sympathetic compatriots who seek justice and speak of justice – some even from inside prison cells – have courageously and truthfully stood up in defense of the Baha’is. While the brave, wise and utterly sincere actions of the outspoken journalist, Mohammad Nourizad (2), undoubtedly makes him a pioneer in this arena, also the role of human rights activists such as Nasrin Sotoudeh (3), Jila Baniyaghoob (4), Issa Sahar-Khiz (5), Mohammad Maleki (6), Narges Mohammadi (7) and many others is worthy of utmost praise and appreciation, but for various reasons when Ayatollah Abdolhamid Massoumi Tehrani (8) – the high ranking Iranian clergyman – joined this group, a different kind of excitement warms the hearts. Thus, there is more hope for elimination of prejudice, narrow-mindedness and anti-dissident feelings.

 

Today, the main concern regarding Baha’is is their human rights and that they, like other Iranians, have rights as stipulated in the Iranian Constitution. Some say that Baha’is are human beings and have their own ideology. Others openly reject their ideology – even believe that Baha’is pretend to be oppressed – yet demand that their rights be restored. Despite all this, one issue is still ambiguous and has not yet been researched as it should. Why are Baha’is subjected to such attacks? and more importantly, why do they put up with these attacks? and how have they succeeded in such constructive perseverance?

Baha’is could retain their rights to a small degree if they were not so committed to their ideals. All they need to do is to claim they are Muslim on their university applications, or when requesting a work permit. If they would announce their conversion to Islam in a small, insignificant column of even an unreliable newspaper, they would be treated like royalty. Their enemies would be content if they did that. Then, why don’t Baha’is choose such an easy path that many of their well-wishing, sympathetic fellow citizens recommend? Some believe the reason is religious fanaticism, trying to look oppressed or even fear of being excommunicated from the Baha’i community. However, Baha’is have a different viewpoint.

First and foremost, they don’t have a good relationship with falsehood, and avoid it as much as possible, to such an extent that they would prefer to be a non-believer rather than to be an imposter. This is a phenomenon that friends and foes both have acknowledged in recent years. Second, they recognize the oppression against them, but they refuse to pretend to be oppressed. Just like any other human being, they love life and want to take advantage of its many gifts. The fact that their name is associated with the word “oppressed” is not their heart’s desire, but is something that has been imposed upon them. They don’t desire to go to prison, lose their jobs, be deprived of education or be subjected to contempt, disrespect and execution, and this is not a point that needs to be proven. Third, they know very well that one lie is bound to be followed by several more lies, and is like a swamp that they would sink farther into with every move. These are issues that are brought up regardless of the truth or falsehood of their ideology, and therefore calling them religious fanatics due to their avoidance of lying is futile and meaningless. They disagree with lying as a matter of principle, and believe that whoever takes that route will sooner or later have to face the consequences. There is copious historical and contemporary evidence to prove this point.

There is no doubt that the citizenship rights of Baha’is have to be restored, but this is the least of their wishes. Baha’is have higher aspirations. Their desire for implementation of the Universal Charter of Human Rights is mainly because a case like this, to a great extent, we can be assured it would be implemented for all the people of Iran. They also believe that they have solutions for helping Iran to get away from the crises it faces, and that in reality it is because of these thoughts and ideologies that Baha’is have been subjected to oppression and cruelty, thoughts such as the necessity to respect human nobility, the unity and equality of mankind regardless of race, ethnicity and belief, the equality of women and men, adherence to learning and acquiring knowledge and science, controlling the fire of greed, promoting an economy devoid of extremes of wealth and poverty, and agreement between science and religion. These are principles and teachings that not only form their lives, but which could also form a solid foundation for creating a progressive society. It seems as though there ought to be further reflection on the status of Baha’is.

 

1. Baha’is are forbidden to work in the food industry in Iran due to clerics’ legal rulings that Baha’is are “unclean” (najis) according to Islamic law. For examples of the consequences of this, see for example: http://iranian.com/BTW/2006/April/Book/index.html

2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Nourizad

3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasrin_Sotoudeh

4. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jila_Baniyaghoob

5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issa_Saharkhiz

6. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Maleki

7. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narges_Mohammadi

8. For a description of Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani’s courageous act of compassion, see http://news.bahai.org/story/987

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2 Responses

  1. Mary's

    July 8, 2014 5:10 am

    Thank you for writing such a well-informed piece. I learned a few things and I consider myself knowledgeable on the subject. I hope many people read this and are encouraged to speak out against the injustice and oppression. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  2. Christine

    July 10, 2014 5:25 pm

    Thank you for informing others of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
    Your article is accurate and well written. It is an excellent resource to use when people ask if one knows anything about the status of Baha’is in Iran.
    In my opinion, Iran is missing out on the creativity, humanitarian beliefs, and progressive thoughts of the Baha’i community which can only help to lead Iran forward to greatness in the international community, a status they definitely do not have now.
    Your work is greatly appreciated!

    Reply

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