GENEVA—22 April 2021—Continuing Iran’s decades-long campaign of persecution of its Baha’i community from cradle to grave, the Iranian authorities have now banned the Baha’is of Tehran from burying their loved ones in a space previously allocated to them in Tehran’s Khavaran cemetery. The destruction and desecration of Baha’i cemeteries in Iran is part of the government’s longstanding policy of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government began to desecrate, and in some cases demolish, Baha’i cemeteries in Tehran and all around the country.
In 1981, the central Baha’i cemetery in Tehran was confiscated, and more than 15,000 graves were demolished. Later a parcel of land in this cemetery was assigned to the Baha’is in a portion of the cemetery colloquially known as “place of the damned”. However, the government refused to sell the property to the Baha’is and has since substantially increased the price of each burial plot.
The cemetery land assigned to the Baha’is should be sufficient for several decades. However, agents from the Security Office of the Behesht-e Zahra Organization, which manages Khavaran, have banned the community from using these plots. The Security Officer reportedly issued threats against Baha’is who were attempting to use the allocated land.
The Baha’is are now being forced to choose between impossible options. One is to use the narrow gaps between existing graves to bury their loved ones, while another is to use a mass burial site authorities claim to have recently emptied. This site is known to be the burial place of thousands of political prisoners killed in early years of the Islamic revolution, as well as at least 50 Baha’is as part of the government’s campaign to systematically persecute Iranian Baha’is for their religious beliefs.
“Prohibiting individuals from burying their loved ones in a befitting manner, when they are already in grief, is beyond inhumane,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “The Baha’is respect the resting places of all and, given that over many decades the Baha’i community has faced the desecration of its own cemeteries, they do not want anyone to experience the same pain by burying their dead where others recently lay.”
“A dignified burial according to one’s own religious laws is among the most basic human rights,” Ala’i added. “The Iranian authorities must respect this and stop hindering the Baha’is from exercising this right.”
Baha’is are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority and have been systematically persecuted for 42 years, extensively reported by the United Nations. More than 200 Baha’is were executed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and since the 1980s they have been denied higher education and livelihoods, vilified in the media, and even their cemeteries have been desecrated.
The persecution of the Baha’is in Iran is extensively documented in the website, Archives of Persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.
In early 2009, a group of unidentified individuals using bulldozers demolished an area of the cemetery known as the “graveyard of the infidels”, the area where many of the people executed in the early years of the Revolution were buried.