Editor’s Note: The following is a translation of an interview conducted by Ardavan Roozbeh, a reporter for Radio Zamaaneh, with Faris Ataian, whose father, Masoud Ataian, is one of the Baha’is illegally abducted and imprisoned in Mazandaran. This interview appeared in Persian under the heading, “I don’t know why my father is imprisoned!”
Introduction by Ardavan Roozbeh
At the beginning of the year, six [should be seven – translator] individuals responsible for coordinating the affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran were arrested. The Baha’is of Mazandaran have also come under pressure, and a number of Baha’is in such places as Sari, Qa’emshahr, Shiraz and Isfahan have been detained and are presently incarcerated.
Masoud Ataian, Soheila Motallebi and Anvar Moslemi are the Baha’is who were apprehended in Qa’emshahr and Sari. To learn more about the new wave of seizures of Baha’is, I spoke with Faris Ataian, the son of Masoud Ataian.
Q: We have learned that during the course of the recent arrests of Baha’is, your father, Masoud Ataian, was also detained. Please tell us about the manner of his arrest and the reason for it.
A: Five agents of the Ministry of Intelligence of Mazandaran –that is, from the provincial office – came to our home at 4 pm on 17 November. They did not present us with a court warrant. They entered our residence in the most discourteous and offensive manner, using the most abusive, rude, violent and hateful language. They pulled down all the framed photographs on the walls which had sacred pictures in them and tore up the pictures. The seized all our religious books, other printed materials on diverse topics and our computer. They also took away our father. It is now six weeks since his arrest and we have been able to meet with him in person only once. We have spoken with him three or four times by telephone. During our last two conversations, it was clear that they were forcing him to say that we should not pursue his case and not to refer the matter to anyone. In this manner they conveyed their intent through our father.
Q: Has your father learned what charges are pending against him?
A: I don’t think so. If he has, we don’t know. We have learned absolutely nothing despite our many visits to the prosecutor handling this case and to the inspectors. No matter how we pleaded with them to guide us a little about the reason for this arrest, unfortunately no response or cooperation has been given.
Q: Is this the first time that your father was arrested?
A: No, in 1984 when many Baha’is in Iran were imprisoned, he was incarcerated for four and a half months. During that time, he endured bodily tortures. From that time, we have been deprived of many rights. He was dismissed from his job even though my father was well educated prior to the revolution, and had a responsible position at the National Oil Company. My paternal uncle is a pharmacist, and for this reason, my father joined him in working at his pharmacy. However, they closed my uncle’s pharmacy and cancelled his work license, so once again my father was without work. He then found another job; but now he is also separated from that job too.
Q: We know more or less the attitude of the government towards the Baha’is. However, how is the attitude of other people, meaning the Shi’ah Muslims, who are the majority of people, towards the Baha’is?
A: Actually, this issue was also interesting for me as well. The first time that my father was arrested, the atmosphere was completely different. At that time, people and Muslims were not sympathetic towards us and would maintain their distance. Perhaps to some extent they even considered that we deserved that persecution. However, now I feel that a new wave of support by our countrymen is washing over us. I should mention that in addition to my father and some others who have been imprisoned, they have desecrated the Baha’i cemetery [in Darzikola, near Qa’emshahr] also. Twice they have attacked the cemetery and using bulldozers have completely destroyed Baha’i graves. I think this persecution continues in our town and the surrounding areas.
Q: In which town did they destroy Baha’i graves with bulldozers?
A: It was in Qa’emshahr, the same town where they arrested my father. One night they assaulted the cemetery and destroyed many graves. Baha’is learned of this attack and prevented any further assault, meaning they formed a human shield. However, during the second attack individuals who had covered their faces entered the cemetery with 5 bulldozers at 4 o’clock in the morning. They had cut off the electricity and phone lines for that region and were wearing masks. When one of the Baha’is learned of their intention, they tied his eyes, hands and feet, but let him free after they had completed their destruction.
[The original interview was published on Monday, 29 December 2008, at: http://zamaaneh.com/ardavan/2008/12/post_188.html and also appears at http://www.agahee.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=566&Itemid=28. The audio tape of this interview in Persian is attached. Mr. Roozbeh can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Translation into English is by Iran Press Watch: The Baha’is.]