Baha’is Under Widespread Attack in Semnan

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“I have been ordered to do so. Please believe me.” “Please pardon what I’m doing.” These are what agents of the Ministry of Intelligence sometimes say when they attack Baha’i homes – this time, a widespread and well-coordinated attack on Baha’i homes in Semnan [in northern Iran].

The attack started at 7:15 A.M. on Monday, 15 December 2008, and it targeted 20 different Baha’i families. (The first reports incorrectly mentioned that only 12 Baha’i families were assaulted.) As many as 12 officers were involved in some of the raids on these homes.

The agents arrived at Baha’i homes in private cars with Tehran license plates. In some instances, the attackers refused to show official orders for these raids and searches.

Upon arriving, agents first collected all mobile phones and disconnected telephone lines, so that news of the raid would not be shared with others. They even prevented some of the Baha’i children from going to school.

The search of the Baha’i homes and confiscation of personal property continued until about 11:30 in the morning. They searched through family pictures, books, mobile phones, computers, satellite equipment and in some cases, checkbooks, bank accounts and property titles. When the home of Behfar Khanjani was raided, the agents even confiscated all the cash and property titles in his security box, plus his work permits and licenses.

After a thorough search and close interview of every household member, confiscating the said property and preparing a video of the house and its contents, the agents arrested Mrs. Sahba Rezvani, who was the only Baha’i detained during this attack. At 7:30 in the morning, she was apprehended by two officers of the Intelligence Ministry – a man and a woman wearing a face-cover and a chador. Mrs. Rezvani was taken to the prison facility of Semnan’s Intelligence offices. Even though the agents promised to release her about noon of the same day, no news has been received that she has been allowed to leave.img_0919

It appears that plans against the Baha’is of Semnan were set in motion four months ago. During the past several months, work permit applications for 5 Baha’is of Semnan were rejected although they had completed all administrative steps and adhered to all regulations..

Moreover, two weeks prior to this latest raid, the Ministry of Intelligence issued instructions to all Baha’i shop-owners of Semnan that they must dismiss their Muslim employees, as (they were told) no Muslim can take orders from a Baha’i supervisor or business-owner.

In addition, a week before this latest attack, many mullahs went to all the schools in Semnan so that they could spread misinformation and lies about the Baha’is – and this was considered as yet another sign that a carefully devised plan against the Baha’is was underway. The governmental agencies coordinated these recent raids with widespread propaganda to warp students’ views of the Baha’is, coupled with exerting great pressure on Baha’i school children.

During same days, the shop of Siamak Iqanian, one of the khademin [a coordinating group for the Baha’i community of each town – translator] in Semnan was defaced by graffiti on the wall, which said “This place is ritually impure!” However, this action caused many questions (about the truth of the Baha’i Faith) to be raised by visitors to the store, which resulted in the perpetrators cleaning their graffiti after only a few days.

Another action against the Baha’i community of this city was a seminar under the title Sayih Shum [“sinister shadow”] by the organization Rahpouyan Vesal. This seminar took place on 25 November 2008 at the invitation of the Society of the Devotees of Fatemeh Zahra with the objective “to investigate and critique the relationship of the wayward sect [i.e. Baha’is] with Zionism.” This session was held at the Halal Ahmar lecture room of Sanan. The speaker – and in reality, the initiator of this anti-Baha’i organization – was Muhammad Anjavinejad, who denigrated and derided the Baha’is in his presentation. They had specifically brought in many teachers, religious instructors and invited many youth to this event.

A broad look at these activities makes it clear that a widespread and coordinated plan [against the Baha’is] is underway in many cities of Iran, which is being implemented in stages.

It is noteworthy that many agents involved with the recent raids said that they were completely unaware why they were conducting these attacks and offered as an excuse the fact that they were instructed to do so – or if they were completely ignorant about their conduct, they thought they could confiscate the US dollars that they imagined were being sent in support of Zionist activities. One of the agents was even ashamed over the inhumane raid of Baha’i homes and in Turkish stated, “For God’s sake, do not think that Islam is perpetrating these acts!”

His worry is well placed. Woe betide the day when on the decadent body of politics and power the garment of religion is placed, and when in the name of religion they would kill, steal, rob and lie. What then can we think of that religion?

[Published in Persian on Friday, 19 December 2008, at: http://khabarnavard.blogspot.com/2008/12/blog-post_19.html and translated to English for Iran Press Watch by Ahang Rabbani.]

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