Open Letter from Urumiyeh University to a Presidential Candidate

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Editor’s Note:  Below is a letter from a group of Urumiyeh University students to the Iranian Presidential candidate, Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi. This letter is being published solely because of its relevance to the Baha’i community of Iran and historical interest.  Iran Press Watch takes no position whatsoever with respect to the upcoming election of the tenth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or wishes to comment in anyway about Iran’s internal partisan politics.

Dated May 27, 2009

In the name of God

To Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi with respect:

We were very pleased that you graciously accepted our invitation and attended the gathering at our university. We all know that our beloved country is currently facing many problems and crises. You are a candidate who has commitment himself to sustaining and protecting this land, and have wholeheartedly accepted all hardships and sufferings in this path. It is our hope that you will succeed in accomplishing this meritorious task.

Our dialog with you is not with respect to specialized political matters. Our discussion concerns issues that you brought up a few weeks ago when you announced your stand with respect to human rights and the civil rights of the citizens of our country. These announcements sparked the light of hope in the hearts of all Iranians. You brought out points such as: “forbidding any leader, government, parliament, or any power other than God to limit or violate human rights”; you mentioned rights that should not be contravened, including “the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to ownership of property, the right to security, the right to growth and happiness – God given rights and a right to oppose tyranny”. You added: “it is the responsibility of the government to support and guarantee these rights, through the establishment of necessary means in an organized and effective manner.” You have said “I will respect the privacy of citizens; I will support freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; I will revive the committee in charge of ensuring the implementation of these articles of the constitution; I will support the right to education; I will eradicate discrimination against citizens because of their political and religious convictions”.

Among the various cases of human rights violations, we would like to highlight an infringement that has escalated over the past few decades. We are certain that you are aware of this violation, since the record of your activities with respect to this aspect of human rights is available. We request that you continue reading to the end of our letter; perchance these comments will provide you with some suggestions in the path you are treading with respect to human rights.

In your speech on the subject of human rights, you commented: “I will recognize the nobility of human beings, the civil rights of religious minorities, the freedom to believe, and the freedom of conscience; I will disavow and prohibit interrogation and disrespect to individuals because of their belief systems”. As you are aware, our Baha’i countrymen have been under the most severe pressure and oppression for a long time. The question is: “Why are the slightest rights of members of the largest religious minority in our county being completely disregarded?”

In the few years succeeding the Revolution, the Baha’is were among the first groups of citizens to be subjected to the most brutal persecution (executions, confiscation of their property, expulsion from universities, imprisonment, etc.). Due to the particular sensitivity of the Islamic regime’s security organizations and religious establishment, very few were able to point out this oppression. In addition, the government has continuously attempted to label defenders of the “rights of Baha’is” as “defenders of the Baha’i faith” in order that no one would take a stand to uphold their rights!

We should be aware that it is not a crime to defend other religions, and that it is among the rights of human beings to do so. For example, we continuously question the legitimacy of limitations imposed on Muslims in some Western countries or we question restrictions inflicted on Shi’ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. However, when Iranian authorities are questioned about imposing restrictions on the rights of religious minorities, these critics even are denied the right to pose their questions. These victimized minorities have committed no transgression other than to believe in their own religious convictions.

It is heartwarming that, contrary to the first years after the revolution, the discussion has shifted from the Baha’is’ right to life to a discussion regarding Baha’i civil rights. Despite all the forms of oppression which have been applied against them, we witness that the Baha’is have never acted against the law, have never associated with any parties or political groups, and have always been advocates of benevolence toward the government and its citizens. The goodwill of the Baha’i community, in their widespread cooperation with the security establishment of the country, has repeatedly been proven. However, during the ninth government of the Islamic Republic, not only has their situation not improved, but with the establishment of the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the pressure on them has escalated. Only four days after Ahmadinejad’s inauguration as the President of the county, the government-backed newspaper, Kayhan, started publishing a series of articles comprised of historical rumors, conspiracy theories about espionage activities, and disinformation about the immoral conduct of Baha’is. Narrating the details of the escalating oppression during the ninth government is not the subject of this letter – for that you can refer to the reports published by human rights organizations.

We sincerely wish you success in the implementation of your human rights proposals. We also hope that you will not be dismayed by the attacks of government-backed newspapers. These same papers launched an attack against one of the supporters of Mehdi Karroubi [Speaker of the Iranian Parliament from 1989-92 and from 2000 to 2004, and a Presidential candidate in 2005 and now again in 2009 – translator] for considering Baha’is to be human beings entitled to civil rights. Be assured that a large number of Iranian citizens will support you in your endeavor to uphold the rights of the followers of this religion. As an example, in the suffocating atmosphere of the pre-election days over 500 intellectuals, political activists and writers signed a letter and announced their shame that they had been silent while witnessing all the atrocities inflicted upon Baha’is. As another example, a few months ago, when three Baha’i students were expelled from Sahand Tabriz Technical University, their classmates condemned this act of violation of the constitution. A few days ago, when you were in Isfahan, the Iran Human Rights Activist’s committee for the Right to Education carried signs to silently voice their demand for the return of expelled Baha’i students to their classrooms. However, these students were immediately attacked by undercover members of the secret service.

It is befitting to note that all those who are attempting to reinstate the rights of Baha’is are well aware of the slanders and accusations launched against this religious minority. We have all heard: “Baha’is are not a religious group, but a political group disguised as followers of a religion. They intend to bank on the sympathy of international organizations.” We all know that the authorities justify the ill-treatment of Baha’is by falsely accusing them of being puppets created by Britain and other colonizing countries, for the purpose of causing dissention and disunity among Muslims. We all have heard that, “Baha’is are spies for Israel, Baha’is had close connections with the Pahlavi Regime and the Iranian Secret Police (SAVAK) during the era of the Pahlavi Dynasty…”

However, which of these accusations have been proven in legal venues?

You mentioned in your letter number 11-4462, dated February 1, 1989: “spies should be strongly confronted based on the established laws and regulations, but with regards to other citizens, with respect to the latter part of Article 23 of the Constitution, they should be treated as ordinary citizens, irrespective of their beliefs. However, attempts should be made to correct their belief system. No authorities of the Islamic Republic are permitted to deprive citizens of their civil or social rights unless they have been proven to be spies, or as stipulated by laws established by the official legal authorities of the country”.

Publishing such a letter in the stultifying atmosphere of the 1980s is testimony to your courage in defending human rights. Possibly mentioning “attempts should be made to correct their belief system” was a way to calm objections by religious leaders of that time.

Even though principals 14, 19, 20, 22, 23 and items 8, 9, and 14 of Article 3 are relevant to the deprivation of rights of Baha’is, the Attorney General of the Islamic Republic of Iran [Ayatollah Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, in 2009], has declared: “… Baha’is have benefitted from all opportunities provided to citizens of the country, and have even been treated more favorably than others…”. Toward the end of the presidency of Mohammad Khatami [1997-2005], a letter was sent to him on behalf of the Baha’i community of Iran, requesting the reinstatement of the rights of which its members had been deprived. This request was followed by a series of unwarranted arrests and imprisonments, ordered by the civil authorities of the country.

We are all well aware that in our country, whenever the cry of a wronged one is raised, he will be subjected to punishment! We also know that the wrongful persecutions of this religious minority have negatively affected our country’s public image worldwide. If time were to permit, we would present you the 18-page report documenting the present lack of educational opportunities for Baha’is, the infringement of international covenants, the tyrannies inflicted upon Baha’is – nevertheless, the Baha’is have responded to the government with goodwill and purity of motive. This report also includes activities of High Consul of Cultural Revolution and the famous approved document number 1327/m/s dated February 25, 1991, much more.

Mr. Mousavi, your supporters are well aware of the rights of religious minorities (especially the rights of Baha’is). They know that because of the political structure of the government, the issue of the Baha’i Faith (and in general all religions except Shi’ite Islam) is judged as a security risk to the country. However, there is no justification for robbing Baha’i citizens of their legal rights by branding them as spies or as followers of a fabricated religion. This is not acceptable, and we condemn such views. We hope that you put into practice your pledge and covenant to the nation: “I will make the necessary modifications to the laws regulating legal rights so that the law will be respected and followed by governmental institutions…”

We wish you success. We would like to note that on May 23, 2009, a summary of this letter was forwarded to Dr. Tufiqi, the former Minister of Sciences during the government of Mr. Khatami.

In conclusion, if you are elected president in the upcoming election of the tenth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the authority in charge of implementation of the constitution, we request that you take the necessary steps to reinstating the civil rights of Baha’is. We, as students of Urumiyeh University, wish to show in writing our support for your activities in this regard.

Wishing you divine confirmations,

Signed,

A Group of Students at Urumiyeh University

[Source: http://javanblog.co.cc/post-104.aspx.  Translation by Iran Press Watch.]

Download: Original Persian

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6 Responses

  1. AR

    June 8, 2009 7:06 pm

    Very well-written letter. I hope whoever is the next president will bear in mind that we, all, are the children of one God. Talking about “freedom and human rights ” are not enough. It is time to put the words into action.

    Reply
  2. Kenneth R Jeffers

    June 9, 2009 8:41 pm

    As an American BAHA1I for the past 49 years i am not involved in partisan politics. Candidates who are truthful and honest and are strong supporters of human and civil rights get my support. A new era in world politics and citizenship may be dawning.

    Reply
  3. sb

    June 9, 2009 9:10 pm

    Interest in Mir Mousavi seems driven by his perceived reformist leanings. As I write, reports of a human chain 20 kilometers long in Tehran is being broadcast around the web in support of this man.

    Iranian Baha’is by themselves cannnot successfully confront the issue of equal access to higher education for all Iranians. How astounding, how backwards the exclusion of Baha’is from higher education has made Iran look to the world!!

    Iranians are by nature progressive, and thankfully its appears that the old attitude toward the human rights of Iran’s largest religious minority has become becoming insupportable because Muslims themselves see it for what it is – a denial of the brotherhood of man.

    Who can dare deny this? Thank you Urumiyeh University students, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are helping to make the world a better place!

    Reply
  4. Dr. Don Addison

    June 10, 2009 6:05 pm

    I would love so much some day to begin reading that the “promises” that human rights are being preserved and guaranteed in Iran ARE ACTUALLY BEING
    SAFEGAURDED to the Baha’is of Iran.

    How can leaders of a government (in this case, Iran) “claim” that they protect human rights in their country AND YET ALL folks understand that no Baha’i in Iran is considered eligible for enjoying the same human rights privileges that government leaders and politicians CLAIM all Iranians enjoy.

    I wish I could shout from a mountain top so all Iranian Muslims would hear my message: I am an American Indian (a racial or cultural minority within the borders of my own country) and I have NEVER been denied human rights assurances because I have been a dedicated Baha’i since 1961. In fact, as a whole, it is well known that the USA has had a dismal record of trampling all over Native American human rights . But as a Baha’i American Indian, I feel doubly blessed and free to be a Baha’i.

    Reply
  5. Joshua Lederer Jones

    June 14, 2009 7:49 pm

    It is amazing that some people, as a group of students of Urumiyeh University have done, will put themselves in real risk in order to speak out for truth and justice. You are my real heroes dear students. May you be greatly blessed!

    Reply
  6. Maury Miloff

    June 18, 2014 3:23 am

    Does anyone know if Mir Hossein Mousavi responded to this letter or in any way publicly took a stand on the situation of the Baha’is of Iran?

    Reply

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