[The following report was filed by Hasan Zerehi, who is the editor-in-chief of Shahrvand, a Persian weekly published in Toronto, Canada. This essay (report no. 1197) was posted on Wednesday, 1 October 2008: http://fa.shahrvand.com/. It was also posted on Asre-Nou on Thursday, 2 October 2008, http://asre-nou.net/. A translation follows. Ahang Rabbani.]
The Islamic Republic regime has arranged for the collection of signatures on petitions against the Baha’is at Friday congregational prayers and other venues. These semi-official petitions demand the “dissolution” of institutions – apparently intending the Baha’i Faith [N.b.: All Baha’i administrative institutions were voluntarily dissolved in 1981, and have never been reinstated.].
Thoughtless actions, like the latest episode of collecting petitions at Friday congregational prayers and other venues, clearly threaten Baha’i families in Iran.
In a land where the followers of this religion [i.e. the Baha’is] have grown their roots in the same soil and environment, yet where they have no right to attend universities or pursue their studies, such provocations have no result but to encourage promoters of religious bigotry and hoodlums supporting the government in their efforts to further harass and persecute the Baha’is – all of this because Baha’is are prohibited from telling lies regarding their religion.
I have said that the Baha’is are prohibited from telling lies. Why is this important? Because certain elements in the regime urge the Baha’is to avoid writing “Baha’i” on application forms for jobs, schools or other such needs so that their application is not denied based on religion. However, our fellow-citizens who are Baha’is and whose religious teachings severely forbid them from telling lies, continue to speak truthfully and willingly forgo their right to jobs and schools, and persevere in spite of new obstacles in their path.
On the other hand, since when does it make sense that in order to eliminate and dissolve a religious body – an ambition of Muslim clerics –people in the streets and bazaars should sign petitions in support of such a thing? If this was the right method, then everywhere that a religious majority lived, they would vote to eliminate and remove all religious minorities.
Because of thirty years of threats by the Iranian regime against the Baha’is – who wherever they live in the world consider themselves Iranian and have been advocates of Iranian culture, language and traditions – some people have fallen for the government’s false propaganda against our Baha’i countrymen. The Baha’is, who at one time lived securely and peacefully like other religious minorities, now have no security for their lives, possessions or occupations.
The Baha’is not only have to endure the regime’s broad suppression and persecution like all other Iranians, but because of their religious beliefs must endure many other forms of intolerance and discrimination specific to them as well. Imagine a Baha’i girl who has scored well in the national college entrance exam, who has also overcome various quotas for her race or gender, who will find herself at the impossible-to-overcome religious barrier placed before her, who despite all her excellent qualifications must remain home and be forever deprived of education. Contrast this against Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
Everyone has the right to education… Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
And Iran is a signatory of this Declaration!
Our citizens in Iran must be vigilant and not fall for the deceptive and unwise provocations of the regime. They must recognize the Baha’is as our esteemed countrymen, who have the right to their religion, beliefs and convictions, and who live in accordance with their own teachings.
Regrettably, due to a false atmosphere that the Islamic Republic has created against the Baha’is, Iranians living inside the country have no opportunity to support this stratum of their fellow countrymen. However, it is incumbent upon those of us Iranians who live outside of Iran or are of other nationalities, to arise to make the world hear the clamor of the suffocation of Iranian Baha’is, and not allow a prejudiced and theocratic regime to portray the face of Iran in an even more repulsive and abhorrent light.
How can one expect a regime that insults and denigrates the Sunnis, whose worldwide population is many times that of the Shiite, in such a way as if they were thoroughly non-Muslim, to treat other religious minorities in a manner worthy of the high ideals of Iran? Therefore, it is the duty of us Iranians living throughout the world to provide our complete and wholehearted support to our Baha’i countrymen as well as followers of other religious groups who have been discriminated against by the Iranian regime, and to demonstrate to the entire world that the oppressive and reactionary deeds of the leaders of Iran has nothing to do with being a true Iranian – a people whose land is a home to people of diverse religions, cultures and languages.
Do not allow the Baha’is of Iran to continue live in their own land in an atmosphere of fear, terror and hopelessness.
We must defend the civil and human rights of the Baha’is and all other heterodox and free thinkers in Iran from both religious and political persecution.