We are all Iranian Baha'is

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By Ali Keshtgar
[On Friday, 15 August 2008, the online journal Gooya News published the following analysis by the non-Baha’i Iranian journalist, Ali Keshtgar. The original Persian text may be accessed at: http://news.gooya.com/politics/archives/2008/08/075377.php Ahang Rabbani, translator]

The criminal scheme of Baha’i-killing, of which the Hojjatieh Society was the standard-bearer and promulgator before the [1979] revolution – a scheme whose carriers came to power with the emergence of the Islamic Republic – is at its foundation a felonious thought intended to bring about religious cleansing through the murder of all Baha’is.

During the past 30 years under the Islamic Republic, our Baha’i countrymen have persistently been the subject of dual discrimination – threat and repression. Their only offense has been that they believe in the Baha’i teachings. In their own native land, they are barred from many occupations, nor are they allowed to openly worship in accordance with their religious percepts – and indeed the government has treated these Iranian brothers and sisters as criminals.

From the very beginning this perilous thought existed among some leaders of the Islamic Republic: that the Baha’is were mahduru’d-dam – meaning, that their blood could be shed with impunity. Indeed, the same leaders considered that the killing of Baha’is was a necessity and would win Divine Rewards. Until the present time this felonious thought, which in its essence encompasses the most abject criminal intentions and has such figures as Ali Khamenei as its prime designers and supporters, has resulted in the savage murder of many of our Baha’i countrymen.

Periodically during the past thirty years, in such towns as Shiraz, Kerman, Mashhad, Tehran, Karaj and other locations throughout the country, a number of our Baha’i fellow-citizens have been murdered by the most brutal means. In none of these heinous events, were the murderers – who were always agents and authorities of the security agencies of the Islamic Republic – prosecuted, and no governmental agency heeded the complaints of the family of those thus exterminated.

If there had been no barriers to this planned genocide, such as international laws or global reaction, then no doubt by now the leaders of the Islamic Republic would have fully implemented their atrocious scheme.

At different periods during the past 30 years, we have witnessed the mobilization of certain pressure groups associated with the [Islamic] regime for the implementation of this plan. We must, however, remind the leaders of the Islamic Republic that their plan is indeed the same fascist scheme which has led to racial and religious genocides, for which some instigators have been tried in international courts on the charge of “crimes against humanity.”

The policy of the leaders of Islamic Republic towards suppression of religious minorities in general, and of Baha’is in particular, has always been to advance their intentions [for genocide] through agents and officers of the Security and Basij agencies, so that they can claim that their crimes had been committed by people [not by the government] and had come about as a result of public religious biases.

However, during these three decades:
• Never has anyone been brought up on charges of murder, persecution or threat against the Baha’is.
• Never have the leaders of the Islamic Republic condemned these crimes.
• Unceasingly, the policy of discrimination and suppression of Baha’is has been followed.
• Great threats have been instantly leveled against every lawyer and human rights organization which has spoken in defense of the civil rights of Baha’is.

Because of the intense sensitivity of this regime towards the Baha’is in  Iran, when it comes to defending the civil rights of Baha’is, human rights activists and organizations have either remained silent or have not engaged the issue to any notable measure. In truth, the intensity of the government’s discrimination against the Baha’is has been to such an extent that human rights activists have also come to accept this discrimination and have routinely conducted themselves in accordance with the same discriminations.

In the course of recent waves of suppression of the Baha’is, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi [Iran’s only Nobel Prize laureate] has agreed to defend the imprisoned Baha’is. After she announced her readiness to provide legal defense to these Baha’is, the official news organs of the Islamic Republic, including the newspaper that speaks for the Islamic Republic, claimed that this undertaking by Mrs. Ebadi is due to the fact that her daughter had accepted the Baha’i religion. It should be clear that the claims of official news organs of the Islamic Republic is to instill fear in Mrs. Ebadi and to discourage her and her colleagues from defending the imprisoned Baha’is.

Unfortunately, the reaction of Mrs. Ebadi to this allegation was as if she considered being a Baha’i or becoming a Baha’i a shameful act and equated this accusation against her daughter as a “curse.” In a radio interview with the Persian segment of Radio France Internationale on the last Thursday, 17 Murdad [7 August 2008], three times Mrs. Ebadi referred to the allegations of the Islamic Republic against her family as a “curse.” In fact, she could have  dismissed these baseless accusations – which no one believes anyway – without insolence towards the Baha’is.

Considerable evidence proves that we have not come to view religious freedom and equity to such a degree that we would respect the religious beliefs of others to the same extent as our own beliefs. Until it remains so, governments can continue with their policy of discrimination and suppression of religious minorities.

In view of the government’s antagonistic policy toward Baha’is, the protection of the civil rights of Baha’is and opposition to official or extralegal discriminations against this segment of Iranian society has gained a particular significance in the arena of human rights. The most effective way to break religious discrimination against the Baha’is is that all human rights activists and organizations should adopt the defense of complete religious rights and equality, and opposition to all forms of religious bias, as their foremost principle. Moreover, this message should not be limited to ad hoc measures of human rights defenders.

When the regime attacks the Baha’is, we must all write and say, “We are all Iranian Baha’is!”

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