Editor’s Note: In March 2009, the Baha’i administration in Iran obeyed the wishes of their imprisoned leaders (formerly known as the Yaran) and terminated all their activities and seized functioning. Several of these local groups wrote to Iran’s Attorney General and some of these have been translated and published on Iran Press Watch (e.g. Tehran or Kerman). The following is a translation of an important letter that one such group in Tehran wrote to Iran’s Attorney General (also known as the Prosecutor General). The original Persian is also attached.
To Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi; Prosecutor General; Islamic Republic of Iran
March 12, 2009
With greetings, and wishing your success in the important responsibilities that you are carrying out!
Respectfully, in response to your recent announcement published by Fars News Agency on February 15, 2009 and with reference to the letter of the Baha’i International Community on March 4, 2009 addressing your excellency, and the guidance from the Universal House of Justice on March 5, 2009 addressed to the Baha’is of Iran, we would like to bring a few matters to your attention:
1) Your honor and all the responsible authorities at the local and national level have witnessed in the past thirty years that the Baha’is residing in any locality adhere to their moral and spiritual convictions and obey the laws governing their country. Along with their countrymen, they have labored on behalf of the progress of their sacred country, Iran, the birthplace of their religion. Under all circumstances, with complete wisdom and honesty, and removed from any slyness and craftiness, they have engaged in their spiritual responsibilities. They have actively and wholeheartedly established friendships among co-workers, neighbors and strangers alike. They have abhorred any act of treachery to their homeland. They have proven loyal to their country, by their manners and way of living.
2) Pressure and harassment imposed on the Baha’i community of Iran have escalated in the past thirty years. Their basic rights as citizens of the country, despite articles of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, have been disregarded. In order to earn the necessities of their lives and to protect themselves from discrimination, Baha’is have sought internal legal channels for the alleviation of injustice, with calmness and without any protests or commotion. When no results were achieved, they sought international venues in hopes that the tyrannies against them would be stopped and their lost rights restored. It is the natural right of human beings to be protected against injustice, cruelty and the denial of civil rights, irrespective of their belief system and country of residence. Unfortunately, when Baha’is made attempts to survive in the sacred land of Iran, they were labeled as being involved in espionage and being associated with foreign countries. Certainly, thirty years from the beginning of the revolution and with careful observation of Baha’is’ actions, fair minded authorities and the honorable residents of Iran see no foundation for these accusations.
3) After the revolution of 1979, the administrative affairs of the Baha’is of Iran were carried out as before, by the local and national institutions of the faith called the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies. In September 1983, the Prosecutor General of the time called for a dismantling of the Baha’i administrative structure. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran dissolved itself and the rest of the administrative structure in the country, as a demonstration of obedience towards the Islamic government of Iran. Subsequently, arrangements were made to tend to the spiritual and social needs of the Baha’i community through the formation of “Yaran”, which means “Friends” in Persian and “Khademin” which means “Those Who Serve” at the national and local levels. This was not without the knowledge of the authorities. As stated by the Intelligence Minister of the time, Mr. Fallahian, “the activities of the Baha’i community are under control and there are no dangers to the national security”.
Authorities were aware of the activities and were in contact with the Yaran and Khademin. At times the communication was in the form of friendly dialogue and at other times in the form of interrogation in different cities. It is surprising that after over a quarter of a century [of close observation], you have described their activities as “espionage for Israel”, “insulting religious sanctity” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.
Certainly, the existence of the spiritual and administrative body of the Baha’i Faith in Israel is no reason for associating this faith with the government of Israel. In the same way, existence of holy places of Muslims in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and even Masjed al-Aqsa, first Qiblih [point of adoration] of Muslims in the land of Israel, is no reason for associating Muslims with the political regimes and governments of these countries. There is no justification for labeling Muslims of different countries, including Iran, as being spies for the governments of these countries.
How is it that in 179 countries worldwide, National Spiritual Assemblies of Baha’is conduct the affairs of the Baha’i communities and none of these countries other than Iran have accused them of spying for Israel? Is it only the authorities of Iran that have figured this out? Without any doubt, the root of these allegations is to be found in hatred, prejudice and unfounded misunderstanding.
The 165 year history of the Baha’i Faith in Iran is a testimony to the fact that at each point in time, for unknown reasons, followers of this faith have been accused of association with foreign countries, in order that disunity would be created between them and their honored countrymen. However, these baseless allegations have never lasted and on the contrary have caused the opposite result. Any fair-minded individual realizes that “no one throws stones at barren trees”.
4) In different cities of the country, the civil rights of the Baha’is have been violated, and cruelty and tyranny have been systematically and without interruption inflicted upon them. Violation of rights include: the rights of their children to calm and security in schools, the rights of young Baha’is to obtain higher education, the rights of the departed to rest in peace in their graves and the protection of cemeteries against desecration and destruction, the rights of Baha’is to be engaged in their occupations, and the rights of Baha’i prisoners to access legal counsel and fair hearings in just assemblies. During these long years, the Yaran and Khademin have tried to calm and comfort the wronged members of this harassed community based on the convictions and spiritual principals of the Baha’i Faith.
Therefore, as you observe, after the dismantling of the elected administrative bodies of the faith, the Khademin have continuously endeavored to gain the good pleasure of the authorities. They have co-operated with governing bodies in all areas to the extent that their co-operation has not been contrary to the fundamental principles of the Baha’i Faith.
Your honor, you have announced that the activities of the Khademin are illegal and have ordered the closure of their administrative actions. The banning of the services performed by the Yaran and the Khademin was set as a condition for reinstating some of the basic rights of the Baha’is which have been violently denied in the past thirty years. As the Yaran of Iran have agreed to this dismantlement and the Universal House of Justice has approved it, from this moment the Khademin of area five of Tehran will cease their administrative activities. Members of this appointed group will perform their personal spiritual duties like other citizens of the country.
Even though denying the Baha’is the services performed by a small group which has been attending to their social and spiritual needs is against the basic right of any cluster of citizens, and is hard for the community, the 165-year history of this faith bears witness to the fact that the Baha’is of Iran, despite severe pressure and oppression, with confirmation from the Almighty, will be able to tread their spiritual path, and will achieve spiritual growth and progress.
In conclusion, we request that your excellence examine the charges brought against the Yaran and other Baha’i prisoners with fairness and justice. By reinstating the civil rights of the Baha’is you will demonstrate your goodwill and Islamic compassion to the world.
Without a doubt, initiating a dialog and communication with the Baha’i community within and outside of Iran at this sensitive period of Iran’s history will have an important constructive impact.
We supplicate God for the success of your honor and the other leaders of the country in carrying out the imperative responsibilities that you have shouldered based on this verse from Holy Quran:
O Believers! Stand up as witnesses for God by righteousness: and let not ill-will at any induce you not to act uprightly. Act uprightly. Next will this be to the fear of God. And fear ye God: Verity, God is apprised of what you do. Al- Ma’idah 5:8 (J.M/ Rodwell translation of Quran)
Khademin of Tehran – area 5
The original Persian copy: Letter to Attorney General in Persian