by Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh
The systematic persecution of Bahais in Iran intensified in the month of April. Again and again individual Bahais are being arbitrarily arrested. They are sometimes released against a substantial amount of bail money. They are, however, not the only ones affected by state repression; Christians are under unprecedented pressure as well.
The treatment of religious minorities in Iran is a litmus test for society’s freedom there.Iran has a four-class society when it comes to the treatment of religious groups and religious minorities.The Khodi are the recognised Muslims, who identify with the absolute rule of the clergy and submit to their dictatorial demands.In the second class are the less loyal Muslims, who do not accept the totalitarian dictatorship’s religious constitution and advocate a secular democracy.
The third group is composed of the recognised religious minorities of the Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews, who, within the framework of the Islamic legal order, enjoy a lower legal status than Muslims.These minorities are legally discriminated against in many respects – by the blood law, for example. Muslims who have disavowed Islam, called apostates, whether atheists, Christian converts or Bahais, are fundamentally persecuted. One can not consider such a political system to be an open one.
An example of arbitrary rule over Bahais
On 8th of April an agent of the Iranian intelligence service phoned the Vahdat Dana family in Shiraz.Without giving any reason, the agent informed Mrs. Vahdat Dana that her husband was to appear at the Ministry of Information the following morning. Mrs. Dana insisted on a written notification, reported Iran Press Watch.
On 12th of April, as Mr. Vahdat Dana was leaving his house to go to work, agents met him on his doorstep and instructed him to accompany them to the intelligence service’s prison, known as “Pelak 100”, housenumber 100. Mr. Vahdat Dana insisted that he be issued with an arrest warrant.The officials produced a handwritten note that read, “Individuals of interest may be investigated and arrested.”Mr. Vahdat Dana persisted that an official document with his name on it had to be presented before he would voluntarily go to prison. The officials left for the time being.
Mr. Vahdat Dana immediately wrote a letter to Hojjat-al-Islam Musavi-Tabar, the revolutionary court prosecutor. In response, the cleric wrote that if “the agents of the Ministry of Information are able to issue a warrant, then Mr. Vahdat Dana must accompany them.”
At 12.30 on 25th of April, the intelligence agents again entered Mr. Vahdat Dana’s house and instructed his wife to call him immediately.They said he had to return home straight away. When Mr. Vahdat Dana arrived home they arrested him and issued a warrant, signed with the name of judge Rezai-Dadyar, on the spot.
Mr. Vahdat Dana suffers from a heart disorder, but is receiving no medical treatment.
Several Bahais were arrested in April: as reported by the Bahai World News Service, on 21st of April Michel Ismaelpur was arrested without a warrant in Mazandaran. On 26th of April Mr. Safaju was arrested in Karaj without any explanation. On 27th of April, Siamak Iqani and Susan Tabianian were arrested in Semnan.
Around 39 Bahais are currently being held in Iranian prisons without charge, solely because of their religion, because they believe in Baha’u’llah, who is a messenger of God for them and who founded the religion in 1863. This is a thorn in the eye of Iran’s state clergy.
On 8th of March 2009, the Islamist “Parliament” passed a budget of 3 million dollars for the country-wide fight against “Bahais, Sufis and devil worshippers”. By “devil worshippers” the Iranian government is referring to the youths who listen, for example, to heavy metal music.The “devil worshippers”, Muslim Sufis and adherents of the Bahai faith, the youngest world religion, all have one thing in common: persecution by the Iranian government.
Arrests of Christians intensifies
As the “Christian Examiner Online” reports, two Christian women were arrested on the accusation of “activities against the government”. The arrested women are evidently in poor health.A Pentecostal church in Tehran was also shut down.Three other Christian men were arrested in this connection as well, also accused of “activities against the government”.
The “International Christian Concern” reported that,”Iranian officials have dramatically stepped up the persecution of Christians after a large number of Muslims converted to Christianity.”In the last year alone, more than 50 Christians were arrested because of their religious conversion.Some of them are said to have been tortured, some to have died in prison as the result of this torture.
International Christian Concern calls attention to the Apostasy Law, which mandates the death penalty for converting from Islam.The Islamic “Parliament’s” final decision on this law is expected in autumn of this year.
Wahied is a Senior Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels.