Justice, not Shame!

majid-nafisi-1Editor’s Note:  Dr. Naficy is a well-known Iranian poet, writer, and human rights and political activist.  In April of this year, he wrote a brilliant essay, which Iran Press Watch was pleased to share extracts of which in translation (ipw1, ipw2, and ipw3).  Dr. Naficy has graciously provided this site with a full translation of his essay and Iran Press Watch is pleased to bring this seminal article to the attention of its readers.

By Dr. Majid Naficy

Recently, a letter was published over the signature of 42 Iranian intellectuals addressed to the Baha’i community and proclaiming “one and a half century of persecution and our silence is enough”.  The title of the letter was We are Ashamed.

Over a month ago, Mr. Khosro Shemiranie sent this letter to me to sign.  Even though from the age of fourteen I have been saddened by what Baha’is have been going through and I have written about it, I responded that I could not sign it since it was instigated by a “feeling of shame” and “collective sin” and not “seeking justice and freedom of conscience”.  I added, “If you reword this letter in which the phrase ‘We are Ashamed’ is repeated thirteen times and change it to ‘We arise to defend the rights of Baha’is’, you can be sure that I will sign it without any hesitation.”

Now that this open letter has been published and broadly disseminated, and many others have joined as signatories, I find it necessary to write my reasons for not signing it.  I hope by launching this discussion, I can bring to light the tyranny and persecutions to which Baha’is have been subjected during the rule of the three regimes of Qajar, Pahlavi and Khomeini over the past 160 years.

1. My First Encounter with Baha’is

The first time I got to know a Baha’i was in Sa’di High School in Isfahan, when I was in the seventh grade.  His name was Golestan Mossafaei, and he was in the eleventh grade.  I met him at our school’s Literature Club.  The club was managed by Mohammad Hoquqi, our teacher and resident poet.  This club did not last long; it shut down under the pressure imposed by prejudiced school officials.

Golestan always had a sweet smile, and sometimes he composed poems.  A few times I went to his house, which was located close to a stream in Darvazeh Hasanabad.  It was a modest house with one room. Even that room was barely furnished.  Golestan explained how their house had been set on fire a few times, by an anti-Baha’i group called Hojjatiyeh.

Flyers had also been thrown into their yard, pressuring them to leave their residence.

I felt deeply sad hearing about the tyranny inflicted on Golestan and his family.

I wrote a short story about it, and read it to members of my literary circle “Jong-e Isfahan”.

The vice principal of the school was furious about my friendship with Golestan, and told my father that Majid had been entrapped by Baha’is.  My father gave me a worn-out booklet called “Memoires of Prince Dolgoruki”, the Russian Ambassador in Iran from 1846-1854, who allegedly claimed that the Baha’i movement had been started by Russians in order to destroy Iran and the Shiah sect of Islam.  My mother forbade me from having a friendship with Golestan Mossafaei.  She made such a monster of Golestan that whenever my four year old sister was mad at me, she would say, “Get lost Mofassaaei”.

School teachers collaborated in pressuring me, and failed me in “calligraphy” when I was in grade 7!  I was a bright student who had passed grade six with an average above 90.  In the eighth grade, I was given failing grades in “calligraphy”, “religion”, “algebra” and “geometry”, and had to retake the exams for these subjects at the end of summer. I was not given passing grades and had to repeat grade 8 the following year.  This was the first big failure of my life, and taught me a lesson in resilience.  I left day school, and enrolled in a night school so that I would be able to complete two grades in one year.

Sa’di High School was run by a religious mafia, composed of a few teachers and a fanatically religious vice principal.  At the top of the group, there was a physics teacher whose name was Nuri and looked like a shopkeeper in the old bazaar.  His shirts were buttoned up to the chin, and his face was always unshaven.  He was the one who shut down our literature club, with the excuse that the organizer of the club disseminated the atheistic views of the prominent novelist, Sadeq Hedayat (1903-51), and caused students to drift away from Islam.  Two mullahs by the names of Rohani and Faqih-Imami were our “religion” teachers.  Another Mullah named Fazaeli, with good penmanship, taught us calligraphy. Even though he had a close relationship with the Shah’s appointed rulers in Isfahan, he also had close ties with our school religious mafia.[1]

After two years of studying at night school, I enrolled in another high school called Harati. That school was not free of staunch religious, fanatical teachers either.

I remember on cold winter days, as we heard the school bell ring, we had to stand still on the spot and listen to Mr. Parvaresh.  After the revolution when he was appointed a Minister, we found out that he had been a member of an anti-Baha’i group [Hojjatieh Society -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hojjatieh].  He would sprinkle his religious speech with aphorism from Imam Ali in three languages, English, Arabic and Persian, showing off his talent!

2. Shaykhis and Mullahs

About the same time, impressed by the book Tat Neshinha-ye Boluk Zahra [The Tat People of the Zahra County] written by Jalal Al-Ahmad (1923-69), I became interested in the rural life of Iran and in traveling to a small village called Jandaq situated on the edge of Dasht- Namak desert.  Inhabitants of this village told me that they were followers of a sect called Shaykhi Baqiri.  This enticed me to started reading Shaykhi books.  I realized that the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i (1753-1826) and his successor, Siyyid Kazim Rashti (1793-1843) had been instrumental for the appearance of Ali-Muhammad the Bab (1819-50) [co-founder of the Baha'i Faith].

After the death of Siyyid Kazim Rashti, one of the Qajar Princes, Aqa Karim Khan Kermani (1810-1871) became the Shaykhi leader.  In order to stop his followers from accepting the Bab, he turned into the most active anti-Babi mullah of his time.

Shaykhis grew in number and influence under him and his heir’s leadership.  Even Mozaffari’d-Din Shah considered himself a Shaykhi.

After Karim Khan Kermani, the Shaykhi school of thought was divided into two branches.

One branch that was in the majority considered Karim Khan’s son as their leader and the Fourth Pillar (that is, the intermediary between the Hidden Imam and his followers, which is similar to Khomeini’s idea of Velayet-e Faqih, “rule by jurists”).  The other branch, under the leadership of Mohammad-Baqir Hamadani, rejected the heredity nature of the Fourth Pillar.  They became known as Shaykhi Baqiris.

After studying Shaykhi books, I concluded that some of Shaykh Ahmad’s views seemed more logical than the views of his Shiah counterparts.  For example, resurrection at the Day of Judgment (known as Hurqalya) was the resurrection in a softer and more refined form– not a physical reconstruction.  I found the Babi movement attractive only to the extent that it was egalitarian and the fact that a courageous female poet by the name of Tahirih Zarrin-Taj (1814 or 1817-1852) was one of its prominent followers.  Other than that, from a young age, I was not interested in religious ideology.

My paternal grandfather, Abu-Torab, who had left the city of Kerman to settle in Pudeh, a small village near Isfahan, did not accept the heredity branch of the Shaykhis.  Going through my father’s library, I came across a few manuscripts of his grandfather, and once briefly read through one which explored the philosophical issue of free will versus predestination.

My father believed that there were no differences between Shaykhi and currently practiced Shiah schools, and that it was just a matter of whom each group considered to be their Source of Emulation.  However, I had the feeling that my parents were afraid of becoming known as Shaykhis and kept secret their meetings for the purpose of studying and discussing the books of Kermani and Hamadani.

Among the views of Shaykhi Baqiris, my father liked their distrust of traditional mullahs. Among contemporary Islamic thinkers, my father liked Ali Shariati (1933-77), an Iranian scholar who was against the cast of clergy.  I remember my father, while driving for picnics on Fridays, used to sing a folk song making fun of mullahs:

“I am a mullah, a mullah / Stayed overnight in a stable / A flea came and bit me / I kicked my quilt off/ Burnt my cot / And broke my teaspoon / I am a mullah, a mullah / Stayed overnight in a stable”.

In Iranian folktales, a mullah was often pictured as a “cunning fox”, and as a creature obsessed with food, overeating and sexual excesses, while pretending to be pious and self righteous.  Khomeini was well aware of how mullahs were portrayed and their reputation.  After the revolution, imitating his teacher, Abdul-Karim Haeri-Yazdi, Khomeini, in one of his speeches, changed the famous proverb “How easy to become a mullah, how hard to become a human!” to “How hard to become a mullah, impossible to become a human”.  He was trying to influence the subconscious of the masses and to overcome their innate sense of mistrust and resentment towards the mullahs.

3. From Tahirih to Ezzat

From 1964 to 1981, occasionally I came upon or heard about Baha’is.  For example, I heard about Bahram Sadeqi (1936-86), a renowned storywriter from Najafabad who was a Baha’i.

However, it was on September 17, 1981, when I found myself again in a situation in which I felt that I had the same destiny as Baha’is.

It was over two years since the revolution in Iran.  Fundamentalist militant rulers were violently persecuting and executing members of the Iranian National Front and the leftist organizations.  These groups were the ones that had played a crucial role in uprooting the Pahlavi regime.

On September 16, my wife and comrade, Ezzat Tabaian, left the house.  That night, she phoned a friend and hurriedly told him that while being chased by the Islamic Militia, she had fallen and broken her pelvic bone.  My wife asked him to contact me and tell me to quickly destroy all “incriminating evidence” in the house.  The next day, the same friend asked if I had a safe place to spend the night, knowing that our home would not be spared from attacks.  When I replied that I had nowhere to go, he suggested a large house on Lashkar square that belonged to his old aunt.

I knew his aunt was a Baha’i, and her house would not be a safe place either.  However, we had no choice but to go to his aunt’s house.  A deft servant opened the door and led us in.  The old aunt told us how Islamic forces had arrested the last members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Tehran.  She was worried about her own safety as well.

That night, I had the strange feeling that Tahirih, the courageous Babi female poet was talking to me from the edge of the well into which she had been thrown after being strangled, 150 years before.  I was seeing a connection between Tahirih and the painful fate of my wife in the claws of her tormentors.  A few years later on September 18, 1986, I wrote a poem, Raftam Golat Bechinam [I Went to Find your Flower] published in a collection of poems under the same title, about the events of three days after the arrest of my wife Ezzat. The second part of the poem relates to the old Baha’i woman who offered me her home as refuge:

I have hardly fled

The slaughter place of a Marxist

To take refuge in a Baha’i’s.

Is there a lesson here for me?

In the deserted courtyard

Where the yellow leaves rustle

And the lonely goldfish

Circles in the green water,

A secret is revealed to me:

The bloody body of Zarrin Taj is still

Hanging over the prison’s well.

- Have you seen my Isaac?

The old building echoes my words.

“Ezzat”s and “Tahirih”s had the same destiny.  On January 7, 1982, Ezzat and another leftist woman, along with fifty leftist men, faced the firing squad.  Their bodies were dumped in the Khavaran cemetery located southeast of Tehran.  Two months before that, I had gone to the same cemetery with my wife to visit the grave of a relative, Sadeq Okhovat, who had faced the firing squad.  At that time, there were perhaps fewer than 30 graves at Khavaran.  The second visit was for my wife, and I was accompanied by my brother-in-law, Hosein Okhovat-Moqadam.  However, when Hosein was executed a few weeks later, I could not bring myself to visit the Khavaran cemetery again.

Later I learned that three days before my wife was executed — that is, on January 4, 1982 — six members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Tehran had been executed and their bodies had been dumped in the same cemetery.

On January 2009, this cemetery was demolished by the Islamic Government of Iran.

It was the resting place of 50 Baha’is, and thousands of other freedom-seeking Iranians.

4. The Test of the Broadmindedness of Iranians

I know about the sufferings endured by Baha’is not only from books, but also from seeing it first hand in my own day-to-day life.  Their sufferings date back to the time of the Shah of Iran, particularly in the 1950s, when with the Shah’s approval and using the national radio, Mohammad-Taqi Falsafi would deliver blistering sermons which provoked mobs to attack Baha’i holy places.

This trend has continued under the present reign of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been governing for the past 30 years, and has executed over 200 Baha’is solely on the ground that they were Baha’is.  Baha’is do not have the slightest basic human or civil rights as Iranian citizens.  In an article which I wrote in 2004 titled “Shirin Ebadi and Freedom of Conscience”, I recognized:

Defending the Baha’is must be considered a litmus test for any intellectual Iranian claiming that they honor human rights. In the Islamic government of Iran, there is no place for any Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or the like. This is because according to Article 13 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the only recognized religious minorities are Zoroastrian, Jewish, or Christian Iranians.

Among the many minority groups that are legally deprived of their right to freedom of conscience, the situation of the Baha’is has been in particular the bleakest.

From the inception of this religion, dating back to the era of Mohammad Shah Qajar, the Iranian Shiah clergy have been leading open attacks on this community [i.e. Babis and Baha’is].  The clergy imagined that the appearance of the Bab robbed them of their messianic claim to the expected Hidden Imam, Who is suppose to appear at the “end of time” to fill the world with justice.  They believe that the appearance of the Bab took away from them the raison d’etre of Shi’ism.

During the final decade of the Shah’s regime, rumors began to be spread by fanatical groups known for their anti-Baha’i stance, aimed at provoking the people with mentally-sick hatred against the Baha’is, that Baha’is were supporters of the Shah.  These false rumors became so widespread that even after the 1979 revolution, when in 1981 the regime began to intensely suppress the opposition including the Baha’is, Iranian intellectuals hesitated to defend the Baha’is against oppression – even when they could see perfectly well that Baha’is were being imprisoned, tortured, and executed merely for being Baha’i.  It is for this reason that I consider the single most important quality of a democratic-minded Iranian is to be a supporter of the right of Baha’is to their religion and not heed the fictitious excuse that “Baha’is are members of a political party and not a true religion”.

5. The Test of the Broadmindedness of Baha’is

After the publication of my article on Shirin Ebadi and the freedom of consciousness referred to above, I was asked: if the test of broadmindedness of an Iranian is in his defense of the rights of Baha’is, then what defines the broadmindedness of a Baha’i?

In my opinion, a democratic Iranian Baha’i must not only defend the rights of all heterodox thinkers in Iran, but must first and foremost defend the rights of the followers of Azal who call themselves by the name Bayani.  Only then can a Baha’i be worthy of the title of free and democratic.

To make this matter more clear, I will explain something that happened in 1987 in Los Angeles.  I was invited to a poetry night, and recited the poem raftam golat bechinam, from which a stanza was quoted above.  Among the attendees was a Baha’i couple.  At that time, in this poem I had used the word Babi instead of Baha’i.  Afterwards, the Baha’i woman asked, “Why did you use the word Babi?  Today there are no Babis and they all have become Baha’is.”

Her question and comment not only demonstrated the narrow-mindedness and exclusivity of some Baha’is towards the minority group of the Babi-Azalis, but it also illustrates the narrow-mindedness of many Iranian leftists, of which I had been one, as well.

At this point is it necessary to briefly look at the history of the emergence of the Babi movement and the divisions that took place within it.

6. The Azalis and the Baha’is

At the age of 24, Ali-Muhammad Shirazi in 1844 declared himself to be the Bab, which means he was the gate to the Promised One of Shia Islam.  He later confirmed that indeed He was the Promised One himself.  Shortly before His execution in 1850 in Tabriz, He named one of His followers, a 14-year-old youth named Mirza Yahya Nuri, to be His successor and gave him the title Subh-i Azal.[2]

After the premiership of Amir Kabir, efforts to eradicate the Babis increased in intensity and many of them were compelled to leave their native land.  In 1863, Mirza Husayn-Ali, known as Baha’u’llah, declared himself to be “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest”, Whose appearance was foretold by the Bab.  Baha’u’llah was a step-brother of Mirza Yahya (Subh-i Azal) and was 13 years his senior.  At the time, both brothers lived in Edirne, a town in the Ottoman Empire.

Mirza Yahya did not accept his brother’s claim and the differences between the two caused enmity and bloodshed among the Babis.  Eventually, in order to alleviate the situation, the Ottoman government was forced to exile Yahya to Cyprus and Baha’u’llah to Palestine.

Edward Browne (1862-1929), an English scholar who visited both brothers, writes about this bloodshed which resembles the enmity between Shiah and Sunni in Islam or Trotsky and Stalin at the time of Bolshevism.[3]

The followers of Baha’u’llah proclaimed their mission to be for the entire world and quickly grew in numbers. However, the followers of the younger brother [Mirza Yahya], returned to or stayed in Iran to fight against the political system and to reduce the influence of the Qajar dynasty.  Two of Mirza Yahya’s sons-in-Law, Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi, emerged at the forefront of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-11).

They gave their life in this path in Tabriz.  During the 1909 interval in which the Iranian Constitution was suspended, the successor of Mirza Yahya by the name of Yahya Dawlatabadi was collaborating with the prominent writer Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda (1879-1959) to publish the freedom-fighting newspaper Sorush in Istanbul.

Today, Azalis who continue to call themselves Bayani, that is, followers of the book of the Bayan written by the Bab, are a small minority community in Iran.  Because of their practice of dissimulation, they hide their beliefs.  By contrast, the followers of Baha’u’llah have their center in Haifa, have worldwide recognition and number several million.

7. The Dualistic Approach of the Leftist Movement

During the 1970s, leftist intellectuals in Iran revisited the Bab’s movement and grew attracted to it as a social uprising against feudalism — they also acknowledged the contributions of Azali thinkers during the Constitutional Revolution.[4]  However, as Iranian Marxists on one hand did not respect the necessary role of freedom of conscience, and on the other hand believed the fictitious rumors about Baha’i collaboration with the government during the premiership of Amir-Abbas Hoveyda (and the evidence they had in this regard was that the notorious Parviz Sabeti ran the SAVAK’s televised shows), they had a negative view of the Baha’is.  This negative attitude increased, particularly after the revolution.

The Soviet-oriented Tudeh party, which considered itself a main backer of the Islamic regime, started helping the fundamentalist clergy in their anti-Baha’i activities.  As written by Reza Fani-Yazdi, “Suddenly, in spring 1982, the Tudeh party sent a circular letter to all its regional offices throughout the country instructing that all Baha’is were to be expelled from its membership rolls.”[5]

The members of the Tudeh party were asked not only to expel the Baha’is, but also to divulge the identity of any members of the independent leftist groups who were anti-regime.  Though the Tudeh party had played an important role in creating the new Islamic regime, it was not long after the revolution that they fell prey to the oppressive regime they had helped build.

On February 11, 1981, an independent Marxist and anti-establishment group, Peykar Organization had arranged a demonstration in Tehran’s Enqelab Square to mark the anniversary of the anti-Shah revolution.  There I was identified by two medical students supporters of the Tudeh Party) with whom I had used to go hiking at the time of the Shah.  The Islamic security guards had turned Capri, a movie theatre into a centre for interrogating demonstrators.  They seized me, and were dragging me to the interrogation center when I managed to escape with the help of a few friends who started fighting with the vigilante.  (Two of my rescuers are still alive and live in North California.)  When I made it home, I found my wife Ezzat very worried; she had seen me captured, but had not seen my escape.  Alas, only a few months later it was I who had to witness my wife leaving home and never coming back.

8. Appeal for Justice not Collective Shame

With 300,000 followers in Iran, the Baha’i community is the largest minority group after the Sunni sect of Islam.  Nevertheless, Baha’is are deprived of all basic human and civil rights, including the freedom of belief, access to higher education, and employment in any government sector.

In a secret memorandum issued in 1991 and signed by the leader, Khamenei and President Rafsanjani, the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council instructed all its lower bodies regarding the principle policy of the government towards Baha’is: “prevention of their progress and advancement” at all levels of society.[6]  This was also the policy of Khomeini before and after the revolution.  While residing in Paris in the summer of 1978, Khomeini was interviewed by James Cockrof, a professor at Rutgers University. Khomeini was asked about his stance regarding the Baha’is and whether they would enjoy freedom of belief and action in an Islamic regime. Instead of a direct response, Khomeini stated, “Baha’ism is not a religion.  It is a political party and a misguided sect”. The interviewer again asked if Baha’is would be allowed to practice their religious duties. Khomeini responded, “No”.[7]

In Khomeini’s terse responses, one can find two justifications for the Shiah fundamentalist’s suppression of the Baha’is.  The first justification is that the Baha’i faith is not a religion, but a political party associated with the government of the Shah and colonialism, and which gives support to Israel.  Therefore, the Baha’is should be suppressed for the sake of the country’s security.  The second justification is that the Baha’is are condemned for apostasy.  According to Article 5 of the Criminal Code regarding the “law of apostasy” presented to the Islamic Parliament in February 2008, apostates (which includes the Baha’is) will be sentenced to death if they are male, and life imprisonment if they are female.

The first justification mentioned above is based on collective punishment. That is, if a member of a group is alleged to have committed a crime, then all members of that group, whether male, female, elderly, or child, are guilty through association, and will be subject to punishment.  The second justification is based on sheer disregard for human rights, freedom of belief and of the right to choose a religion or no religion.

This justification has its roots in the obscurantism of the middle ages.

In both the above justifications, the right and individual responsibility is completely absent, and instead emphasis is placed on collective belief and group ideologies.

In contradistinction to the above, if we were to accept the principle that all humans, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, social status and religious belief, are equal before the law and that they have natural rights to freedom of belief, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and such natural liberties, then the above two justifications for oppressing Baha’is and other minorities will have no foundation whatsoever.  Therefore, it is necessary to recognize individual freedom in the country’s Constitution in order to open the door of justice to all Baha’is and other minorities.

This appeal for justice has two inseparable parts:

1. Complete alignment of the country’s Constitution with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, which calls for the separation of religion and state

2. Activities of the anti-Baha’i group Hojjatiyeh should be considered illegal and forced to end. All those who have been involved in the persecution of Baha’is and other minorities should be brought to justice in a court of law, in the presence of a jury and defense attorneys.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this essay, the greatest shortcoming of the open letter to the Baha’i community of Iran titled “We are Ashamed” is that instead of demanding justice for the Baha’is (that is, insisting that freedom of belief must be enshrined in the Constitution and that anti-Baha’i groups be made illegal), it proposed a collective shame upon all Iranian intellectuals for allowing 150 years of oppression against the Baha’is.  Instead of calling on people to accept human rights, this open letter has established its foundation on collective shame and group repentance.

Without a doubt, when it comes to human and civil rights, the Baha’is of Iran are the most deprived.  As I have mentioned earlier, the test of Iranian broadmindedness must be measured by his sensitivity to the cruelty perpetrated against this group of our countrymen.

However, first, it is incorrect to accuse all intellectuals of “silence against crimes perpetrated against the Baha’is”.  Each person is responsible for his own actions and not for the oversights of others, whether in the past or at the present.  Second, feeling ashamed or guilty for wrongdoings committed in the past is a personal matter and should be sincerely communicated directly to the individuals or families adversely affected by the acts of oppression.  As I wrote in my July 2006 essay titled “Behazin and right of silence” published in “Shahrvand” magazine, I clearly explained that asking individuals to feel ashamed or to repent publicly for their beliefs is an old method of religious inquisition, dating back to the reigns of dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Khomeini.

The main objective of such practices is to undermine and destroy the individual’s self-worth.

A liberated and broadminded intellectual would instead defend the rights of individuals, and would not allow public pressure to curtail individual beliefs and actions.  They would insist on personal responsibility and choice.

Public shaming and public confession is a method used by Franciscan monks in their inquisition period and employed in fanatical environments for the purpose of extracting acknowledgment and breaking down personal will.  In a similar manner, party administrators in the Stalinist era or under Mao’s regime employed “self-critical sessions” which used such techniques, and Khomeini used them in his televised public “confessions”, or for compulsory group meetings in Evin prison.

I say no to the so-called “original sin” of a group.  I say no to metaphoric “baptism” by signing a letter that confesses to shame.  We must fight for the freedom of belief and demand that anti-Baha’i activities be banned in Iran.  Let everyone tell their own personal stories, and if one feels ashamed about keeping silent while crimes were committed, let him or her take personal responsibility and deal with it as he or she sees fit.

20 February 2009

Notes

1. In September 2000 I published my memoir of this period in a detailed essay “avalin-haye man” (My Firsts) in Shahrvand magazine.  This essay has also been included in my book “man khod iran hastam va si-o-panj maqaleh-ye digar” (I am Iran Alone and Thirty-Five other Essays Toronto, Afra-Pegah publishers 2006

2. Dr. Naficy is mistaken in this regard.  While the Bab consented to Baha’u’llah’s request for Mirza Yahya to be named a temporary head of the community, there is no evidence whatsoever that Mirza Yahya was named a successor. The title Subh Azal was not given by the Bab and was self-adopted by Mirza Yahya Nuri. [Translator]

3. For an example of this discussion, refer to Edward Granville Browne, A Year Amongst the Persians, Cambridge University Press, 1927, pp. 559-62.  In that book, Browne refers to the killing of seven Azalis in Akka by the followers of Baha’u’llah.

4. For instance, see Mohammad-Reza Feshahi, Vapasin Junbesh Qurun Vusta’i: Akhbari, Usuli, Shaykhi and the Babi. Javidan Publications, Tehran, 1977.

5. Reza Fani-Yazdi, “Baha’i-setizi Pish va Pas az Enqelab” [Anti-Baha’ism before and after the Revolution”, Iran-Emrooz, 6/11/2008.

6. This document was uncovered by Reynaldo Pohl, the United Nations’ special representative on human rights in Iran, and published by him in his report of 1993: http://bic.org/assets/Pohl%20Iran%20report%20E.CN4.1993.41.pdf.  The passage related to the instructions issued after a joint meeting of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of Iran, and the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council is on p. 55, paragraph 310. [Translator]

7. See The Denial of Higher Education to the Baha’is of Iran, by Geoffrey Cameron.

[The Persian version of this essay was first published on Thursday, March 12, 2009, at http://fa.shahrvand.com/2008-07-14-20-49-09/2008-07-14-20-49-46/2284-2009-03-12-17-58-08.  Translation by Iran Press Watch and Dr. Majid Naficy.]

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5 Responses

  1. Soraya says:

    Dear Dr. Nafici, you wrote “in my opinion, a democratic Iranian Baha’i must not only defend the rights of all heterodox thinkers in Iran, but must first and foremost defend the rights of the followers of Azal who call themselves by the name Bayani.” You further sated that “Only then can a Baha’i be worthy of the title of free and democratic.” Dr. Nafici, I’m not as intelligent as you are so forgive me for posing this question but what exactly do you mean when you say “worthy”? Also curious as to how you dreamed up the idea that Azal’s son-in-laws actions years later or Yahya Dawlatabadi collaborating with Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda years later to publish a newspaper redeems Azal’s poisoning of Baha’u'llah? Isn’t your logic like saying Shemr’s successors’ digging a well to water the camels in the desert and build a carvansarai to earn money and fame redeems Shemr’s actions against Imam Hosayn and so all Shiehs should accept Shemr?

  2. Bombadil says:

    My heartfelt thanks to Mr Naficy for this article supporting Baha’i human rights in Iran. This is very brave and noble of him.

    Baha’i's are for everyone’s human rights regardless of religious or political beliefs.

  3. Bill says:

    I think the statement by a Baha’i, that all Babis became Baha’is, stems from ignorance, not prejudice. The number of Azalis, being very small, can cause some people to overlook them. While Baha’is do not associate with individuals who have been expelled from the Baha’i community, Baha’u'llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice are clear that Baha’is must never deprive anyone else of their civil rights – their right to earn a livelihood, participate in public life, get an education, and so forth, free from harassment or interference. This extends to Babis, Azalis, Shiis, Sunnis, Aliyulahis, leftists, or anyone else in Iran. The Baha’i way of defending rights is not by partisan political methods, but by honorable practice of their religious obligations and the living of their principles, petitioning for redress, and openly advocating for the poor, weak, and oppressed.

  4. Anahid says:

    “The Mind Is Like A Parachute, It Only Works When It’s Open ”

    Dear Majid Naficy,

    Recently I read one of your books ( “من خود ایران هستم” ).I appreciate your
    open-mindedness .You are among Iran’s treasures .Thank you!

  5. BA says:

    IranPressWatch, thank you for “freedom of speech”!!! and elimination of discriminations!
    “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men.That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”
    -Judaism

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