by Behrouz Setoodeh
[Setoodeh is a former prominent political activist and often writes informed political essays for Iranglobal website. This article was posted at http://www.jamali.info/minorities/?page=170508_A1 and extracts from it are translated below. Mr. Setoodeh is not associated with the Baha’i community. Ahang Rabbani]
One of the ill effects of the coming to power of Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic gang has been increased pressure and efforts to discriminate against the Baha’i community of Iran. Among the news received from Iran during recent months has been details of the destruction of Baha’i homes in Abadeh by the Hezbollah of that city, as well as threats against their lives and the arrest of Baha’is in Shiraz. These reports caused profound alarm among all Iranians outside of Iran and provoked the deep indignation of human rights groups throughout the world. The news services further report that in order to continually increase pressure on all religious minorities in Iran, particularly our much-wronged Baha’i citizens, seven (7) Baha’is leaders were arrested by the government through the hands of its nefarious Mehdist agents.
It can be said with complete confidence that after the Revolution of 1979, the Baha’i community, among all religious minorities of that country, suffered most at the hands of the Islamic regime. By now, hundreds and hundreds of Baha’is have been falsely charged as spies or apostates by corrupt and criminal mullahs, and have been incarcerated, tortured or hanged.
Indeed, the enmity of criminal akhunds toward Baha’is, who are the religious descendants of the reformist movement of the Babis, has deep historical roots. During the Qajar era, the Babi movement – which aimed at reforming Islam, eliminating cruel and medieval religious laws, removing discrimination against women, land reform, abolition of priestly pulpits and the mullahs’ authority, and many other reforms – was eagerly welcomed by the oppressed Iranian society of that time. The Babi movement challenged the authority of both the ruling class and the religious ranks, and confronted them with a social and popular revolt.
Eventually, through the religious rulings of depraved mullahs, Nasiri’d-Din Shah issued orders for the mass killing of the Babis, which resulted in thousands of them and their families, young and old, being massacred, thereby adding another chapter to the crimes committed by the criminal mullahs in this land cursed by their presence. …
After the barbaric massacres of the Babis during the Qajar period, some of the Babis were able to rescue themselves from the bloodbath and migrated to other locations. Among them were groups of Baha’is who settled in Palestine, which at that time was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. [Baha’u’llah and his family were exiled from Iran against their will and eventually were sent to the penal colony of Akka by the Ottoman Sultan in the hope that they would perish there. Translator.]
Later on, after the defeat and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and its replacement with British colonialism in Palestine, the Baha’is residing there were allowed to practice their religion freely and to establish their center in that region. This very fact once again provoked the mullahs against the Baha’is, and on every occasion and every time they ascended pulpits, they incited the ill-informed masses and presented the Baha’is as “servants and agents of British imperialism”.
In 1948, after the formation of the state of Israel, the deceitful and criminal mullahs added a new charge to their former accusations that the Baha’is were “servants and agents of the British” by claiming that they were “servants and agents of Zionism” as well.
When the mullahs came to power [in 1979] in Iran and established their reign through the Islamic regime, in addition to the previous two charges against our Baha’i countrymen a third one was now added by the imposter and hypocritical mullahs: they are purported to be “servants and agents of global imperialism and worldwide Zionism”.
It should be noted that the central core of the Islamic Revolution was formed from Islamic groups and organizations which during the Pahlavi regime, under the umbrella of the Shah’s promotion of modernism, even at that time were engaged in suppressing the Baha’is of Iran. After the 1979 Revolution, these same organizations rewrote their dark and sinister history of abusing the Baha’is of Iran as a history of combating the Shah’s regime in order to bring about a free and independent Iran.
The most famous of these anti-Baha’i Islamic groups was known as the Hojjatieh Society (which presently is active under different names), in which mullahs like Mesbah-Yazdi (the spiritual guide and support of Ahmadinejad), Jannati, Khazali, Makarem-Shirazi, and dozens of other well-known mullahs operated. After the 1979 Revolution they came out of their dark medieval caves and climbed onto the shoulders of the deprived and hardworking people of Iran.
The Baha’is of Iran were among the first religious and social groups of our nation that became targets of unrestrained and fanatical attacks from reactionary and mindless orthodoxy even before the mullahs had seized absolute power and were still protesting the Shah’s regime. And when the government of the Islamic Republic was formed [in 1979], the Baha’is of Iran were the first group for whom hanging gallows were erected.
What great shame there is upon all political parties and activists in Iran, large or small, that when the tale of “combating imperialism” was woven by the ruling authorities, we closed our eyes to all the killings, atrocities and violence inflicted upon our Baha’i countrymen – a carnage that unfolded before our own eyes and in the full view of history. For this failure, we owe a profound apology to this group of our fellow-citizens – an apology which has long been neglected and remains unspoken to this day.
While the past is gone, we can still rectify these past mistakes by now defending the Baha’i leaders of Iran, who some time ago were seized by the clutches of Islamic fascists and are presently under the weight of torture and imprisonment – and through this defense to some degree redeem a shameful history. …
We must recognize that when the Islamic Republic arrests en masse all the Baha’i leaders, an ominous plan against this group of our countrymen is certainly taking place. This plan must and can be defeated.
If all the Iranians who care for human rights, liberty and social justice were to join hands in defending our fellow-citizens who are Baha’i, most assuredly we would be able to repel this ugly ghoul and bloodthirsty Islamic regime.
Do not forget that the fascists of the Islamic Republic can far more easily achieve their criminal and barbaric objectives when people are silent or remain indifferent, or the world looks the other way. …