By Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari
Translation by Iran Press Watch
The Peace Line Monthly – By now, most regular consumers of media have been exposed to recent reports exhumation of Baha’i woman was exhumed (apparently overnight) from a cemetery in Damavand village. The body was then abandoned in the desert. When Law Enforcement Forces later found the body, the family was notified and asked to take the body to Tehran for reburial. Due to religious restrictions regarding Baha’i burial, the family refused. Authorities then, without consent of the family, interred the body in a cemetery in Tehran that is designated for Baha’is.
This is the entire story. Yet this seemingly unimportant event was reported widely in the media, sparking a wave of anger, hatred and protest. A number of Muslim religious scholars strongly objected to this important and terrible incident. I was also one of those signatories.
First of all, I would point out that this incident may not look too significant, especially in light of the unfortunate daily distressing news from inside of our country; poverty and destitution, water rationing, destruction of the environment, the continuous decline of the national currency, the expansion of population of Iranians living below the poverty line, daily unrest, trade union protests and the protest of various layers of population for various reasons, jail, execution, and loss of life for various reasons, rape and violence, and all kinds of other violence. All these issues so important to the people that, in comparison, the exhumation of an elderly woman would probably appear so important a matter. Yet, the fact is that the various dimensions of this incident are so catastrophic contemplation to this matter will bring dismay, and objection by every honorable and noble human being. The depth of such tragic event will cause the core of every peace-loving and patriotic Iranian to tremble.
In the simplest form, we can state that in the Islamic Republic of Iran, even the dead are not safe. A little reflection on this simple statement reveals the depth of the tragedy. In all autocratic and authoritarian regimes, citizens (who are not even threated like citizens) are indeed faced with a variety of pressures, restrictions, harassment, torture and death, but it is not likely that this harassment will continue to apply to the dead. At the very least, after the death of people, they rest in peace in their graves, and the survivors will get the opportunity to grieve, and conduct a proper burial, and pay their respects. However, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the dead related to the critics, or the ideological and political opponents, generally do not even benefit from such opportunities.
This claim is well illuminated with a brief overview of the government’s work in these forty years. Besides the political dissidents and their mass burial in mass graves (including the bloody summer of 1988) and, in many cases, vandalism of the gravestones of dissidents, such tragedies have repeatedly been committed against our Baha’i compatriots. While Baha’is have never been political, and have never disagreed with the current Islamic regime, or never even created any nuisance for the government. Of course, they, based on their own acknowledgment, do perform their religious practices according to the laws and traditions of their Faith.
But such behavior (by the government) can be pondered from various angles.
The first is the moral ugliness of such behavior. In any case, the ethics and current norms of morality are the most important and fundamental components of the humanity and society for all people across the world; in such a way that the lack of ethics and even weak ethics lead to a weakening of human relationships and this weakness contributes to societal collapse and loss of social capital. Mutual respect and respect for human rights are among the most fundamental components of human ethics. Particular among these, in all the cultures, religions, and old and new traditions, is the respect for the dead, which is an obvious matter, worthy of attention.
Another issue is the comprehensive collective security that must be present in all parts of the society and the country; the security and protections for life, property and housing in the cities around the entire country, as well as employment and education, and so on. Respect for the dead also has special importance and is included in the realm of the issue of security, and is one of the most important and oldest concerns of all human societies. In this regard, the governments have the greatest responsibility.
The third issue is maintaining national solidarity. National solidarity has long been important and has generally been given ample attention, but in the new era, since national units emerged as a modern nation-state, and the geographical, cultural, and political unity have become more important than before, the element of national solidarity has also become more prominent. No need to point out that national solidarity is achieved under the protective shadow of morality, security, justice, peace, equality, public welfare and in a word respect for the rights of all citizens without discrimination.
Given these three components, it can be said that, although the Islamic Republic has violated the rights of other Iranian citizens (including Muslims and some religious scholars) during this forty-year period, they have also committed persecution against our Baha’i compatriots. It has, in a systematic and consecutive manner, deprived them of all rights and even the right to live a life. In the light of the principle of the modern nation-state, no longer is the gender, religion, or ethnicity, etc., the criterion for enjoyment of civil rights. Hence, there is full equality in human rights between a religious or an atheist Iranian, also no individual, or ethnicity, or religion is or can be special over the others. Today, it is incumbent upon the government and the people to observe both morality worthy of humankind, and give added value to collective security, and to put forth every effort in consolidating and strengthening the foundations of our national solidarity. Especially since inhumane acts under the name of religion is taking place, and it is the obligation of every Muslim to both wake up to such behaviors and to also object to them.
In any case, unfortunately, during these forty years the Iranian Baha’is have not even enjoyed the minimum of their citizenship and human rights. From the right to education, to employment, to the right of practicing a religion and belief, or ability to express themselves, and ultimately even the right to die, and be buried on the soil of their homeland according to their religious burial tradition. Such behaviors do not add to anything but to religious and human hatred. With hopes of a better tomorrow.