Violations of the Rights of our Baha’i Countrymen

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By Hamid Hamidi

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a talk given by Mr. Hamid Hamidi and Iran Press Watch welcomes comments and reactions to this seminal piece.  Mr. Hamidi is a much-respected Iranian journalist in Europe and a number of learned articles and informed talks on various themes of human and civil rights of Iranians have appeared from him.

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let us accept that in the third millennium the necessary conditions are set for the rite of passage towards democracy and justice, and for the fulfillment thereof in human society and in our own nation, by standing against the violation of citizenship rights and through the application of the Charter on Human Rights with all of its covenants, conventions and supplementary clauses.  I wish to commence my discourse with reference to our Baha’i compatriots whose civil and human rights have been violated ever since the inception of the Babi Movement [in 1844] and that of Baha’ism [starting in 1863].

I will begin by asking this fundamental question:

How can one define the word “citizen”?  I ask in order that within the parameters of that definition, one could attribute it to a group of people and identify the characteristics that would exclude certain people from its domain?

Who is a “Citizen” and what Rights does a Citizen Possess?

Citizens are those individuals in society who are possessed of such rights as being able to participate in compiling a set of codes for social behavior.  As such, those members of society who are not given an opportunity to participate in formulating the laws that affect them, but who are duty-bound to obey laws that are legislated by others, are not considered citizens. Some sociologists identify this group of individuals as “subjects”; while others prefer to use such terminology as “rightful citizens” versus “binding citizens” — in order to identify these two ends of the spectrum in society.

If we were to consider the attainment of one’s “rights” as the manifestation of the most common objective of the members of human society in today’s developed communities, and to credit – within the same framework — the setting of the standards for social behavior with the values of those communities; then given the visible and fundamental differences in these values we would be able to access the progressive path that leads to the acceptance of those common objectives — given the varying degrees of affectability of each of these communities by factors of geographical, economic, political and social natures. It is only through this sort of an observation that one could gain insight into the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within the developmental progress of Western Civilization.

In other words, through an analysis from this angle, one could reach the reasoning that in principle the Declaration of Human Rights should be considered – both from philosophical as well as historical viewpoints – as the continuation of a progressive social process from which have evolved the Magna Carta [Great Charter]1 of England (1215 AD), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen  in France (1789 AD)2, and ultimately the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948 AD) by the United Nations General Assembly, which today also endeavors to protect the global nature of humanity.

This does not necessarily mean that Western Civilization has consistently and from its onset championed a progressive process that has culminated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!  It only means that the process has evolved and attained this outcome.  At the same time, however, one could also ponder the idea that because the manner in which the members of society benefited from human rights have been more or less intertwined with the will of the leaders of the community, these rights have consequently been interpreted within the parameters of the powers possessed by the leaders; and therefore until recently (and in some communities even now) a person’s rights were investigated within the parameters of the rights of a citizen.

This would mean that leaders try to formulate the manner of dealing with their subjects within the limits of their own land and on the basis of the national legal order, which is sometimes influenced by the will of the leader.  Therefore, it is important to consider the position which the leader (king, emperor, caliph, etc…) defines for himself with respect to his subjects in determining the path that leads to  perfection in the development of citizenship rights; and to ponder  the aforementioned hypothesis — meaning defining the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an extension of  Western civilization.

Moreover, an analysis of the relationship between the leader and the members of the community indicates how this progressive journey of the development of human rights can be slowed down when a leader attaches the reason for his existence to ideological or divine elements, and deprives the members of the community of their citizenship rights and especially of their right to freely choose their leaders.  The same analysis from another angle — that is the relationship between citizenship rights and human rights from the viewpoint that people of all classes are affected by this relationship – will make clear the contradictions between the applicability of some citizenship rights, despite their lack of compatibility with human rights.  In view of what has been discussed so far, it can be concluded that:

“Citizenship” can be attributed to an individual who enjoys civil, social and political rights; and that having “citizenship rights” means that society would have the right to determine its own fate.   Therefore, when the members of a community do not have any right to determine their own fate and future, they cannot be considered citizens.

The political culture dominating human societies is of the “participatory” type.  In a participatory culture, members of society are key participants in determining their own fate.  Opposite to the Participatory Culture is the “Consumer” or the “Subordinate” Culture. Blind imitation of and reaction to environmental developments are among the special characteristics of a consumer or a subordinate culture.  The citizen in relation to his environment eases into a cooperative behavior.  Within the framework of social interaction, one’s civil identity is constructed and the citizen’s mind is developed in a deductive/analogical manner.  A mind strictly focused on causation is the exact opposite of a deductive mind, which evaluates his environment solely based on previously existing hypothesizes.  A citizen’s evaluation of his environment is based on reason; and the citizen prefers the use of his tongue as an instrument for persuading another person among his social interactions — instead of force and power.

Adherence to law is another attribute amongst the characteristics of a citizen.  The citizen structures his life on the basis of error-margins and majority belief.   Within this path, freedom of speech is considered an inseparable part of the civil life of a citizen.  Freedom of speech is considered the mother of all individual and social freedoms.  Freedom of speech means that the citizen is able to express – openly and officially — his philosophical, political and religious beliefs without any fear.  In principle, the observance or the lack of observance of a citizen’s rights — which include civil, social and political rights — is the determining factor for democracy and justice in human societies.

In the event that the aforementioned three-fold rights are not observed, the concept of the word “citizen” will be in question.  The observance or lack of observance of the aforementioned rights is directly related to the haecceity [“this-ness” or individuality] of political orders.  Democratization in a political environment is a significant instrument in the realization of “citizenship”.  A tendency towards despotic politics is a great obstacle for structuring citizenship rights.

Totalitarianism, authoritarianism, despotism or modern dictatorship reduce the definition of citizenship to “subjects” or “subordinate citizens”, in order to force the people to submit to their ruling politics.  The individual who ranks below a citizen is one whose behavior is emotional and combined with negative [conflict-preferring] individualism.  In negative individualism, one considers attaining maximum individual benefit through every possible means.  A citizen models his actions after positive [cooperation-preferring] individualism; meaning he endeavors to attain maximum individual benefit only through legitimate means.  Legitimate means here include anything that encompasses respect towards the freedom and rights of others.  The concepts of “a modern individual” and “a citizen” are closely intertwined.  A citizen is reborn through modernity.  Democratic governments create a more suitable atmosphere — in comparison with authoritarian or totalitarian governments – for the fulfillment of the aforementioned concepts.

Governments that are not democratic — while faced with the concept of citizenship and its associated rights — find themselves afflicted with a sort of a political “allergy”, because they do not consider the will of the nation as their source of power and that of their constitution.  They try to force the citizen to submit to the ruling politics rather than to help develop those politics.

Constitutionalism by political forces of an authoritarian or totalitarian nature is formed through the twin means of populism and economic/industrial growth.  Through these means citizenship rights are directed to follow a political leadership which is not democratic.

Violation of the Rights of the Baha’is

The human and citizenship rights of our Baha’i compatriots have – because of the presence of Shi’ah ecclesiastics in Iran and the Baha’is’ lack of official recognition – been visibly violated in different periods in the history in our country.  The greatest violation of these rights is that neither in the nation’s Constitution, nor in the supplements and amendments thereof, is the belief system of this group of Iranians recognized.  It was for this same reason that during the rule of Reza Shah the registration of Baha’i marriages was refused by most officials through the recommendation of religious clerics and by the direct orders of Reza Shah.

In light of the fact that I intend to speak of the violation of the rights of these fellow countrymen during the Islamic Regime, I find it necessary to make reference to the role which Shi’ah ecclesiastics played in the violation of the rights of these same people in the years preceding the Islamic Revolution.

A Historical Perspective

With the ascendancy of Reza Khan [later Reza Shah] to the rank of Prime Minister in 1923, arrests and the persecution of Baha’is were set in motion by the government and with the support of the leaders of Shi’ah Islam.

By the inauguration and establishment of the Pahlavi Dynasty, persecution of Baha’is took an entirely different shape and form.  Prior to that, these persecutions were usually instigated locally.  Sometimes the Central Government would support these instigations and sometimes it would object to them, fearing that events would spin out of control.  With the establishment of the Pahlavi regime and its determination to focus its attention on the country’s affairs, the Central Government itself gradually began to be the primary instrument of instigating persecutions.  Consequently, while it was mainly ruffians and rascals who were previously responsible for acts of violence, these actions had now taken an administrative form and were often carried out with governmental guidance and direct orders given by legal courts.  This was partly due to the fact that by then the Baha’i Community had become considerably more visible, and was establishing administrative centers, Baha’i schools and other social agencies.

Subsequently, in 1934, when a Baha’i school closed one day on a Baha’i Holy Day, the government used this fact as an excuse to close down a series of Baha’i schools (six schools in total) permanently.  Moreover, action was taken to ensure that Baha’is were banned from publishing or importing printed matter and from registering their marriages.  A great number of Baha’is were fired from their government or army positions.  By 1938, getting married became a criminal offence if the marriage was not performed under the regulations of one of the recognized religions.  Inasmuch as the Baha’i Faith in the 1906 Constitution was not recognized as an official religion, a number of young men at the time were sent to prison solely for the reason of entering into wedlock!  One of the consequences of emerging from obscurity was the fact that the Baha’is were becoming more easily recognizable, and were therefore in greater risk of being  targets of persecution.  An example of this is the fact that stones were thrown at those attending Baha’i schools throughout the length of their walking journey to school.

The most severe incident of persecution against the Baha’is during the Pahlavi Era took place in 1955.  In the course of this year, one of the lower ranking clerics, a preacher by the name of Falsafi, was provided with an opportunity to speak on national radio and deliver incitingly seditious speeches to provoke rascals and ruffians against the Baha’is.  A national outburst was the outcome, and violence against the Baha’is led to pillage, looting and a few deaths.  This event probably transpired because the Shah felt indebted to the clergy who had supported him in regaining power after the upheaval surrounding Dr. Mossadeq.  He felt that he should offer his debt of gratitude to the clergy by fulfilling any of their wishes which were devoid of any threat to his own power3.

After the 1357 [1979] Revolution, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Germany, having refuted the accusation that the “Baha’i” Faith was political, responded to the objections expressed by the leaders of the Islamic Republic against the Baha’is and – among other things – brought to the attention of the author or authors of the book “The Baha’i Faith is not a Political Movement” the sort of difficulties with which the Baha’is were faced during the rule of Muhammad-Reza Shah.

A few of the atrocities committed against the Baha’is are listed below:

  1. In the year 1941, a number of Baha’is in Yazd were imprisoned on the charge of being Baha’is.
  2. In 1943 Baha’i centers in provincial towns were confiscated and destroyed.
  3. In 1946 in Kashan and Shahrud a number of Baha’is were murdered, but the murderers were not pursued or arrested.
  4. In 1951 Holy War was waged against the Baha’is and they were accused of being associated with communists.
  5. After the speeches delivered in 1955 by Muhammad-Taqi Falasafi, Baha’is throughout the country were harassed and some were murdered.
  6. In 1956, the Baha’is appealed to the United Nations about these atrocities.
  7. In the years between 1956 and 1963 Baha’i gatherings were announced by the government to be illegal.
  8. In September 1978 SAVAK4 orchestrated an anti-Baha’i activity in (the district of Sa’diyyih) Shiraz with the purpose of diverting anti-government activities by creating an anti-Baha’i uprising.  More than 300 Baha’i homes (in the vicinity of Dilgusha) were looted and then set on fire. At the same time, Ayatollah Khomeini made reference to this matter in a speech in Paris.

From the inception of the Babi movement and then the Baha’i Faith in Iran some 20 to 25 thousand Iranians — young and old, women and men — were treated by the blades of ignorance and prejudice, and put to death.

The events of the year 1955, and the incidents surrounding Falsafi, served as a prelude to that which transpired after the Revolution of 1979.  After the Revolution, administrative restrictions and elements of violating human rights under the direction of the government were greatly increased.  The nature of this situation differed from what was happening before 1977 in that while in the past Baha’is were simply victims of scattered governmental activities, there was now a designed and pronounced conspiracy set in place to wipe out the Baha’i community.

Amongst the many systematic measures taken by the government of Iran against the Baha’is, one can refer to the following:

  • Official ban on all Baha’i institutions and activities
  • Arrest and execution of all the members of  national Baha’i institutions
  • Arrest and execution of many of the members of local institutions
  • Confiscation of possessions and property of  Baha’is, including children’s savings bonds
  • Confiscation, destruction and desecration of Baha’i Holy Places and cemeteries

Among the numerous forms of persecution with which a great number of these compatriots were afflicted, reference can be made to the following:

  • Torture and imprisonment
  • The expulsion of all Baha’i governmental employees on both local and national levels
  • Encouraging or pressuring other employers to expel all their Baha’i employees
  • Issuing an official ruling to the effect that governmental pension plans were not payable to Baha’is
  • Instructing the Baha’is to return the retirement funds paid to them previously
  • Mandatory closure of Baha’i businesses and places of work
  • Expulsion of Baha’i students from schools and universities
  • The absence of official marriage certificates for Baha’is led to defaming the integrity of married women and considering their children to be illegitimate
  • The absence of proper burial places for Baha’is after the confiscation of Baha’i cemeteries
  • Excluding Baha’is from rudimentary social benefits such as obtaining coupons necessary for receiving food rations; and excluding Baha’i farmers from being included in farming cooperatives
  • Confiscation of wealth and bank accounts
  • Destruction of homes
  • Deprivation of inheritance rights
  • Being denied passports
  • Forced marriages and forced adoptions
  • Incidents of kidnapping and of execution without legal proceedings

The official announcement in several instances of the country’s Judicial Sector to the effect that if an individual were to injure a Baha’i, to steal a Baha’i’s wealth and possessions, or even to kill a Baha’i, he would not be legally pursued, served in practical terms as a green light for anyone to commit such acts.  In addition to all that is mentioned above, Baha’is residing in villages have been under such immense pressure during the last three decades that even those living in such villages where Baha’is constituted the majority of the population were forced to leave the country.

The outcome of this was a mass “religious expulsion” which is comparable to the “ethnic cleansing” which took place recently in the Balkans 5, inasmuch as vast rural areas in Iran have now been wiped clean of the existence of any Baha’is.  This sorts of persecution, since it was inflicted in remote areas, has yet to be documented, and therefore is missing from many of the reports.

Persecution of Baha’is since the Inception of the Islamic Republic

By taking a look at history and at the various forms of violations of the rights of these fellow countrymen, I continue my discourse:

As mentioned earlier, in February 1979, the district of Sa’diyyih in suburban Shiraz was attacked and more than 300 homes and places of business were looted and set on fire.

In April 1980, revolutionary Guards confiscated the House of Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad, the Bab, and demolished it to the ground in August.  In 1981, this spot was turned into a public square, and a little while later a Mosque was raised in its place — dedicated to the 12th [so-called “Hidden”] Imam of Shi’ah Islam.

From early 1981, five prominent people from this community were executed.  Three more were put to death in 1982.  In the Fall of 1982, the Revolutionary Guards of Shiraz arrested, in two different series (one in Aban and one in Azar), 39 Baha’is in the first round and 41 in the second.  Among the 39 arrested in the first round, 27 were gradually freed; while there is no information on the fate of the others.

In January 1983, the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz issued the death sentence for 22 (from the 41 arrested in the second round) Baha’is.  In December 1982, one of these individuals; and in February of the same year three others from the same group were executed.

In May 1984, the other Baha’is remaining in prison were given four opportunities to recant their Faith and return to Islam in order to save their lives.  All of these individuals refused6. On 16 June, six male prisoners and on 18 June of the same year ten women prisoners were taken to the Polo Field in Shiraz and hanged on a gallows.  Of the remaining two prisoners, one was executed in July 1984, and the other passed away in prison due to illness.

In 2006, the Ministry of State of the Islamic Republic of Iran heinously issued an express directive to the authorities nationwide to increase with greater intensity their activities for keeping the Baha’is under observation, and in particular controlling their social activities.

The Ministry of State requested from the provincial authorities across the nation to prepare a detailed questionnaire on the condition and activities of the Baha’is – including their “financial status”, “social interactions” and “their associations with foreign assemblies”.

This recent directive was issued by the Ministry of the Interior in a letter dated 19 August 2006 addressed to the Provincial Deputies of the Department of Politics and Security throughout Iran.   This letter was among a series of threatening papers and documents which unveiled the hidden efforts of the Islamic Republic to identify the Baha’is and monitor their activities.  Ms. Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, in connection with these letters, indicates:

The emergence of this new letter highlights the gravity of the situation facing Iranian Baha’is!

She adds:

This letter further confirms that Iran’s government has targeted the Baha’is for covert surveillance… It also reveals for the first time the type of information the government strives to collect on both individuals and the Baha’i community as a whole — information that in most societies would be considered private and highly sensitive.

Ms. Dugal also indicated that:

The letter also contains elements of misinformation. For example, the letter asks for information on the ‘socio-political activities’ of Baha’is — even though it is well known to authorities that Baha’is are entirely non-political in their activities, inasmuch as the Baha’i sacred writings stress the importance of non-involvement in politics, as well as non-violence.

The letter of the Islamic republic dated 19 August and addressed to the Provincial Deputies of the Department of Politics and Security followed the release earlier that year of a secret letter dated 29 October 2005 from the Iranian Military Headquarters to various Revolutionary Guards and Police Forces instructing them to “identify” the Baha’is and “monitor” their activities.

News of the 29 October letter was first publicized by Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in March 2006; and stirred intense alarm among international human rights groups. Ms. Jahangir herself expressed concern that “the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Baha’i Faith.”7

Another letter, dated 2 May 2006, unveils the depths to which the Islamic republic has gone in implementing such surveillance at the local level. That letter, which is written by the Trades, Production and Technical Services Society of Kermanshah to the Iranian Union of Battery Manufacturers, instructs the Union to provide a list of the members of “the Baha’i sect” among their members.

Some observers have compared the Islamic Republic’s effort to identify and monitor Baha’is to the situation of the Jewish Community at the onset of the Nazi terror. For example, in April of that same year, it was announced that the orders issued in the 29 October letter were “reminiscent of the steps taken against Jews in Europe and a dangerous step toward the institution of Nuremberg-type laws.”8

In recent months, Iranian authorities have continued their efforts to arrest and detain Baha’is throughout Iran, and to subject them to a sequence of imprisonment and release that is intentionally designed in such a manner as to harass and oppress the Baha’i community.

Over the last two years, more than 150 Baha’is have been arrested throughout the nation; and although some of these individuals have been released on bail – set at exorbitant amounts often including huge amounts of money, property deeds or business licenses —  they are still  awaiting trial.

On 18 June 2007, a report was released of the arrest of a 70-year-old poor man in Kirmanshah.  The charge against him was the possession of 3 compact discs containing Baha’i music.  He was tried on 22 April 2007 for the charge of “propagating Baha’ism and insulting the Holy Imams”.  His defense attorney was given only ten minutes to look at his client’s files, become familiar with the charges and prepare his defense.  While there was yet no written verdict, the judge verbally sentenced him to one year in prison and 70 lashes of the whip.

On 17 June 2007, a 34-year-old Baha’i individual was arrested in a hardware store in Tabriz and was taken to an unknown place.  He was able to contact his family two days later and inform them of his well-being.  Upon contacting the authorities, the Baha’is in Tabriz were told by a Security Officer that some of the detainee’s neighbors had indicated that he had insulted Islam.  Ultimately, his family members were able to visit him, and discovered that he had put a 2-day interrogation process behind him.

On 27 May 2007, a couple in Abadih, near Shiraz, were arrested in their home by the Ministry of Information authorities.  The authorities also confiscated the couple’s books, family video tapes, music compact discs, phone books, personal records, mobile phones, and notes pertaining to some other Baha’is in the area who unofficially took care of certain aspects of the Baha’i Community.  They were both interrogated for some time.  The wife was released after 8 hours, but her husband was transferred to Shiraz and was finally released on bail after being detained for a whole month. The charge brought against him was propagating the Baha’i Faith.

On 7 May 2007 a court in Mazandaran refused the appeals of 3 women and a man who were arrested in Qa’emshahr in 2005 under the charge of “propagation in favor of the opposition to the Islamic Regime”, and their files were referred to the Supreme Court.  The accused were released on bail.

On 24 April 2007, the Revolutionary Court of Sari sentenced a Baha’i to one year in prison and 4 years of exile to the town of Bijar.  The charges against him were “propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran and in favor of groups and associations acting against the Regime.”

In April 2007, a great number of Baha’is residing in various areas were called in for questioning; and some were interrogated on the telephone by the Ministry of Information or by Office of Security authorities.  Some of these areas were Babulsar, Bandar-‘Abbas, Bandar-Turkman, Bijnurd, Gilavanad, Damavand, Hamadan, Karaj, Lahijan, Shahinshahr, Tihran and Yaftabad.  The interrogations concerned the activities of the Baha’i Community and individual Baha’is.  According to one report, a bank in Jiraft was instructed to report account details for its Baha’i clients to the relevant authorities.

The Baha’i Community has recently come into the possession of copies of a letter issued by a governmental agency in charge of caring for Iran-Iraq war veterans and of providing for their expenses.  In this letter, it is clearly indicated that a certain individual, despite having been disabled during the war and survived being a war-prisoner in Iraq, would not be allowed to benefit from any sort of pension due to his membership in the “Baha’i Sect”.

Attacking the beliefs of these compatriots in all forms of public media, including the Internet, is still continuing.  Newspapers in Khurasan and Mazandaran have recently printed insulting articles about the Baha’is; and anti-Baha’i booklets have been distributed in Shiraz amongst the public.  These publications have also been distributed in schools in Shahinshahr, Ahvaz and Babulsar.

According to reliable information, banks have refused to grant loans to Baha’is; and authorities have refrained from granting them business licenses or renewing their existing ones.

In Sanandaj, a Bank official has claimed that he has received 14 loan applications from Baha’is, all of which have been refused.  A Bank employee in Sari has admitted that:  “we have been directed to refrain from issuing loans to Baha’i applicants.”

In Hamadan, the owner of a grocery store that had been in business for 48 years had tried, after his father’s passing, to change the store’s business license from his father’s name to his own name.  One of the authorities had told him that the Baha’is would not be given business licenses for operating grocery stores.  He had said: “No matter where you turn to appeal, even if you go the United Nations, you will have to come back  here eventually, and this is clearly the answer you will receive.”

The destruction of a Baha’i Cemetery was another expression of the policies of the Islamic Republic in creating a negative atmosphere and inciting the public against the Baha’is.  The destruction of this cemetery, on the outskirts of Najafabad, was carried out overnight between 8 and 9 September by a band of mischief-makers fully equipped with heavy machinery.  In January 2007, similar incidents took place in Yazd, where bulldozers and heavy machinery were used to demolish another cemetery.  The numbers of these sorts of anti-Baha’i activities, as well as those of the violation of human rights of other citizens, are steadily increasing.

A few days prior to the destruction of the cemetery in Najafabad, threatening letters were sent to about 30 Baha’i families in the area.  In the province of Mazandaran, six houses belonging to Baha’is were set on fire.  In Abadih, graffiti and slogans containing hate messages and curse words were written all over the doors and walls of Baha’i homes and businesses.

In April 2008, Baha’is were summoned for questioning in more than 17 cities; subsequent to which the arrest of six more Baha’is were announced…

On the morning of Wednesday 14 May, the Security Authorities of the Islamic Republic arrested 6 Baha’is in Tihran and transferred them to the Evin prison.  Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr.Behrouz Tavakkoli and Mr. Saeid Rezaie were arrested in their own homes after a thorough search of the premises.

The six individuals arrested are members of a seven-member group in charge of the leadership of the Baha’i Community in Iran.  It should be specified that Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, the other member of this group, had been arrested in February 2008 and was already in prison.9

The Iranian News Agency IRNA, while covering a press conference by Mr. Elham10, reported that the six Baha’is were arrested for security reasons and not for religious reasons.  IRNA also quoted Mr. Elham saying that these individuals “were somehow connected with foreigners and especially with Zionists.”

A report dated October 3, 2008, from Human Rights Activists in Iran indicates:

The leaders of the Baha’i Community in Vilashahr (near Isfahan) by the names of Hushmand Talibi and Mihran Zayni, together with another member of this community by the name of Farhad Firdawsiyan, were arrested by the Security Police Force for burying their dead in a place they have been using for this purpose for 15 years.  They were sent to Isfahan prison without a trial, and their present condition is unknown.

It is noteworthy that in addition to these seven leaders of the Baha’i Community [named above], three other Baha’is by the names of ‘Ali Ahmadi, Changiz Dirakhshaniyan and Mrs. Simin Gurji were arrested in Qa’imshahr in recent days.

Nowhere in the articles of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution is there any restriction noted on the right to education by Baha’i individuals; however, what is taking place in reality is contrary to that. Baha’i youth are faced with a violation of their most rudimentary rights and without a reasonable excuse are not allowed to continue their education. This denial of education included the preliminary phases of registration, when receiving the report [of their entrance exam], or selecting a course of study, or ultimately during their first term of study!

Article 19 of the Constitution states:

The people of Iran, regardless of the ethnic group or tribe to which they may belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, language and the like do not present any sort of a special advantage.11

In August 2008, four Baha’i youth who had been deprived of higher education, by the names of Armin Rahmani, Samim Pizishki, Navid Khanajani and Hisam Mithaqi, referred to the Office of Hujatu’l-Islam Rahbar, Member of the Parliamentary Commission on Education, to appeal their status of having been expelled from university and of having been deprived of their right to higher  education.12

After continuous, but futile, attempts to appeal to the Ministry of Sciences and the Organization for Assessment and Evaluation, they had now considered coming to the office of Mr. Rahbar, who was also a member of the Cultural Sub-committee of the Parliamentary Council and the Imam Jum’ih of Isfahan at the time, to regain their violated right to an education.

When these young students first arrived at the Office of the Hujjat’l-Islam, a man in plain clothing by the name of Qandi, who appeared to be from the Security Forces, told them that a directive had been received to the effect that the Hujjatu’l-Islam was not to interfere in the matter of the education of these youth.  A little while later, other Security Officers arrived and, while threatening these youth, instructed them to leave the premises.  It is necessary to explain that Mr. Rahbar himself had earlier — in a brief, initial, response — indicated his lack of ability to be of any assistance in the matter.   The youth, however, had insisted on a meeting, expressing clearly that under the law, the proper course of action for regaining their rightful privileges would be for them to appeal their situation to their member of the Islamic Parliamentary Council, and for him to bring it to the attention of the Council.  However, while  they were waiting for the meeting, the Security Forces present forcefully made them leave the premises.

The Security officers present at the Office, who were trying eagerly to drive the youth away from Mr. Rahbar’s Office, called in armed guards and other plainclothes officers, all of whom were equipped with automatic weapons.  They closed the doors and windows, asked all others to leave, and — lining up the four youth and roughing them up — tried to create an intimidating atmosphere of extreme fear for them. At this time, Mr. Rahbar had come out of his private office and again announced that he was unable to help the students despite the fact that they all had very high grades and impressive educational records, but that he was willing to hold back the security officers if they left quietly.

The four Baha’i youth, being confronted with armed guards, had no choice but to leave.  They continue to be deprived of their right to education despite their exemplary academic credentials.

These basic human rights are being violated in a country in which the Universal Covenant of civil, political, economic and social rights were approved in 1975 (about 35 years ago) by the country’s Parliament at the time; and while matters of adhering to such laws go beyond a country’s internal regulations.

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.13

In the second article of the same declaration, we read:

Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set forth in this Dispensation, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social, property, birth or other status.14

Why is it that citizenship rights and human rights, despite being legally recognized in Iran, are not being practiced?  I invite you all, at this Sixtieth Anniversary of the passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to come together so that we could exert all that is in our power to meet the appropriate conditions for attaining democracy and justice by standing against the violation of the rights of our fellow countrymen; by so doing we would not stand in shame by the history we make!

Footnotes

1 The Great Charter of English liberty granted (under considerable duress) by King John at Runnymede on June 15, 1215

2 The Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen, along with the decrees of 4 & 11 August 1789 abolishing feudal rights, was one of the fundamental texts adopted by the Constituent Assembly of France formed in the wake of the meeting of the Estates General.

3 For full details surrounding this episode the reader may wish to refer to an article by Bahram Choubineh (translated by Ahang Rabbani) entitled Sacrificing the Innocent http://www.iranian.com/main/2008/sacrificing-innocent

4  SAVAK is the acronym of the Persian name of the highly feared Civil Security Organization, which operated during the Pahlavi Era.

5 Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia during the mid 1990s was the outcome of  mass expulsions of civilians. It escalated to atrocities such as internment in concentration camps, mass executions and rapes; and there appeared to be a clear policy to exterminate Muslim Bosnians as a group.

6 One of the women prisoners at the time actually did recant her belief in the Baha’i Faith and went home with her husband and children.

7 Details concerning these letters can be read at http://news.bahai.org/story/432

8 ibid

9 For a complete report on this event please see, http://news.bahai.org/story/634

10 Ghulam-Husayn Elham, Iranian Government spokesperson

11 http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution_ch03.php

12 For a full report on this event please see: http://www.iranpresswatch.org/2008/09/friday-19th-of-september/

13 http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/eng.htm

14 ibid

Baha’is killed since 1978
(Name, date of death, town, manner of death)

1978
Mr. Ahmad Isma’ili, 1978, Ahram, Killed
Mr. Diya’u’llah Haqiqat, Aug 13, Jahrum, Killed
Mr. Shir-Muhammad Dastpish, Dec, Buyr-Ahmad, Mobbed
Mrs. ‘Avad-Gul Fahandizh, Dec 14, Shiraz, Mobbed
Mr. Sifatu’llah Fahandizh, Dec 14, Shiraz, Mobbed
Mr. Khusraw Afnani, Dec 22, Miyan-Duab, Mobbed
Mr. Parviz Afnani, Dec 22, Miyan-Duab, Mobbed

1979
Mr. Ibrahim Ma’navi, early 1979, Hisar, Killed
Mr. Haji-Muhmmad ‘Azizi, Jan 9, Khurmuj, Beaten
Mr. Husayn Shakuri, Apr 2, Ushnaviyyih, Killed
Mr. ‘Ali-Akbar Khursandi, Apr 12, Tehran, Hanged
Mr. Bahar Vujdani, Sep 27, Mahabad, Executed
Mr. ‘Ali Sattarzadih, Oct 28, Bukan, Killed
Mr. ‘Azamatu’llah Fahandizh, Dec 14, Shiraz, Executed

1980
Mr. Habibu’llah Panahi, Feb 4, Urmia, Assassinated
Mr. Ghulam-Husayn A‘zami, May 6, Tehran, Executed
Mr. ‘Ali-Akbar Mu‘ini, May 6, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Badi’u’llah Yazdani, May 6, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Parviz Bayani, May 11, Piranshahr, Executed
Mr. Mir-Asadu’llah Mukhtari, May 18, Andrun, Stoned
Mr. Hasan Isma’ilzadih, June, Sanandaj, Killed
Mr. Yusuf Subhani, Jun 27, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Astani, Jul 14, Tabriz, Executed
Dr. Faramarz Samandari, Jul 14, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Muhammad Akbari, Jul 16, Rasht, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Mahbubiyan, Jul 30, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Dhabihu’llah Mu’mini, Aug 15, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Nuru’llah Akhtar-Khavari, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. ‘Azizu’llah Dhabihiyan, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Firaydun Faridani, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Mahmud Hasanzadih, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. ‘Abdu’l-Vahhab Kazimi-Manshadi, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Jalal Mustaqim, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. ‘Ali Mutahari, Sep 8, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Rida Firuzi, Nov 9, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Muhammad-Husayn Ma’sumi, Nov 23, Birjand, Burned
Mrs. Shikkar-Nisa Ma’sumi, Nov 23, Birjand, Burned
Mr. Bihruz Sana’i, Dec 17, Tehran, Executed

1981
Dr. Manuchihr Hakim, Jan 12, Tehran, Assassinated
Mr. Mihdi Anvari, Mar 17, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Hidayatu’llah Dihqani, Mar 17, Shiraz, Executed
Mrs. Nuraniyyih Yarshatir, Apr, Shiraz, Assassinated
Mr. Sattar Khushkhu, Apr 30, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Ihsanu’llah Mihdi-Zadih, Apr 30, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Vahdat, Apr 30, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Muhammad (Suhrab) Habibi, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Mr. Muhammad-Baqir (Suhayl) Habibi, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Mr. Husayn Khandil, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Mr. Tarazu’llah Khuzayn, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Mr. Husayn Mutlaq, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Dr. Firuz Na’imi, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Dr. Nasir Vafa’i, Jun 14, Hamadan, Executed
Mr. Buzurg ‘Alaviyan, Jun 23, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Hashim Farnush, Jun 23, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Farhang Mavaddat, Jun 23, Tehran, Executed
Dr. Masih Farhangi, Jun 24, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Badi’ullah Farid, Jun 24, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Pustchi, Jun 24, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Varqa Tibyaniyan (Tibyani), Jun 24, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Kamalu’d-Din Bakhtavar, Jul 26, Mashhad Executed
Mr. Ni’matu’llah Katibpur Shahidi, Jul 26, Mashhad, Executed
Mr. ‘Abdu’l-‘Ali Asadyari, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Husayn Asadu’llah-Zadeh, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Mihdi Bahiri, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Dr. Masrur Dakhili, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Dr. Parviz Firuzi, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Manuchihr Khadi’I, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Allah-Virdi Mithaqi, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Habibu’llah Tahqiqi, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Isma’il Zihtab, Jul 29, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Husayn Rastigar-Namdar, Aug 5, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Habibu’llah ‘Azizi, Aug 29, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Bahman ‘Atifi, Sep 11, Isfahan, Executed
Mr. ‘Izzat Atifi, Sep 11, Isfahan, Executed
Mr. Ahmad Ridvani, Sep 11, Isfahan, Executed
Mr. Ata’u’llah Rawhani, Sep 11, Isfahan, Executed
Mr. Gushtasb Thabit-Rasikh, Sep 11, Isfahan, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Sipihr-Arfa, Oct 23, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Mihdi Amin-Amin, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Jalal ‘Azizi, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Dr. ‘Izzatu’llah Furuhi, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Mrs. Zhinus Ni’mat Mahmudi, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Dr. Mahmud Majdhub, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Qudratu’llah Rawhani, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Dr. Sirus Rawshani, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Kamran Samimi, Dec 27, Tehran, Executed

1982
Mrs. Shiva Mahmudi Asadu’llah-Zadeh, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Iskandar ‘Azizi, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mrs. Shidrukh Amir-Kiya Baqa, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Fathu’llah Firdawsi, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Khusraw Muhandisi, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Kurush Tala’i, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Ata’u’llah Yavari, Jan 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Ibrahim Khayrkhah, Feb 22, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Husayn Vahdat Haqq, Feb 28, Tehran, Executed
Mr. ‘Askar Muhammadi, Apr 2, Kerman, Assassinated
Mr. Ihsanu’llah Khayyami, Apr 12, Urmia, Executed
Mr. ‘Azizu’llah Gulshani, Apr 29, Mashhad, Executed
Mrs. Ishraqiyyih Faruhar, May 8, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Mahmud Faruhar, May 8, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Badi’u’llah Haqpaykar, May 8, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Agahu’llah Tizfahm, May 10, Urmia, Executed
Miss Jalaliyyih Mushta il Usku’i, May 10, Urmia, Executed
Mrs. Iran Rahimpur (Khurma’i), May 12, Dizful, Executed
Mr. Nasru’llah Amini, May 16, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Sa’du’llah Babazadeh, May 16, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Ata’u’llah Haqqani, Jun 1, Tehran, Killed
Mr. Muhammad Abbasi, Jul 9, Qazvin, Executed
Mr. Jadidu’llah Ashraf, Jul 9, Qazvin, Executed
Mr. Manuchihr Farzanih Mu’ayyad, Jul 9, Qazvin, Executed
Mr. Muhammad Mansuri, Jul 9, Qazvin, Executed
Mr. Manuchihr Vafa’i, Jul 9, Tehran, Assassinated
Mr. ‘Abbas-Ali Sadiqipur, Jul 15, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. ‘Ali Na’imiyan, Aug 11, Urmia, Executed
Mr. Habibu’llah Awji, Nov 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Dhiya’u’llah Ahrari, Nov 21, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Husayn Nayyiri-Isfahani, Nov 29, Isfahan, Died in Prison
Mrs. Guldanih ‘Alipur, Dec 24, Sari, Mobbed

1983
Mr. Hidayatu’llah Siyavushi, Jan 1, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Mahmudnizhad, Mar 12, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Rahmatu’llah Vafa’i, Mar 12, Shiraz, Executed
Mrs. Tuba Za’irpur, Mar 12, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Adadu’llah (Aziz) Zaydi, Apr 1, Miyan-Duab, Killed
Mr. Jalal Hakiman, May 1, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Suhayl Safa’i, May 1, Tehran, Executed
Dr. Bahram Afnan, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. ‘Abdu’l-Husayn Azadi, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Kurush Haqbin, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. ‘Inayatu’llah Ishraqi, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Jamshid Siyavushi, LSA, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Bahram Yalda’i, Jun 16, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Shahin(Shirin) Dalvand, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Mrs. ‘Izzat Janami Ishraqi , Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Ru’ya Ishraqi, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Muna Mahmudnizhad, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Zarrin Muqimi-Abyanih, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Mahshid Nirumand, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Simin Sabiri, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Mrs. Tahirih Arjumandi Siyavushi , Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Miss Akhtar Thabit , Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Mrs. Nusrat Ghufrani Yalda’i, Jun 18, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Suhayl Hushmand, Jun 28, Shiraz, Executed
Mr. Ahmad-‘Ali Thabit-Sarvistani, Jun 30, Shiraz, Died in Prison
Mr. Muhammad Ishraqi, Aug 31, Tehran, Died in Prison
Mr. Akbar Haqiqi, Sep 19, Khuy, Mobbed
Mr. Bahman Dihqani, Nov 19, Muhammadiyyih, Mobbed
Mr. ‘Abdu’l-Majid Mutahhar, Dec 15, Isfahan, Died in Prison

1984
Mr. Rahmatu’llah Hakiman, Jan 11, Kerman, Died in Prison
Mr. Ghulam-Husayn Hasanzadih-Shakiri, Mar 10, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Muhsin Radavi, Mar 13, Tehran, Died in Prison
Mr. Nusrat’ullah Diya’i, Mar 19, Kerman Died in Prison
Mr. Kamran Lutfi, Apr 9, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Rahim Rahimiyan, Apr 9, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Yadu’llah Sabiriyan, Apr 9, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Asadu’llah Kamil-Muqaddam, May 2, Tehran, Died in Prison
Mr. Maqsud ‘Alizadih, May 5, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Jalal Payravi, May 5, Tabriz, Executed
Mr. Jahangir Hidayati, May 15, Tehran, Executed
Mr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Zamani, May 15, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Nusratu’llah Vahdat, Jun 17, Mashhad, Executed
Mr. Ihsanu’llah Kathiri, Jun 27, Tehran, Executed
Dr. Manuchihr Ruhi, Aug 16, Bujnurd, Executed
Mr. Aminu’llah Qurbanpur, Aug 25, Tehran, Died in Prison
Mr. Rustam Varjavandi, Sep 15, Tehran, Died in Prison
Mr. Shapur (Hushang) Markazi, Sep 23, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Firuz Purdil, Oct 30, Mashhad, Executed
Mr. Ahmad Bashiri, Nov 1, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Yunis Nawruzi-Iranzad, Nov 1, Karaj
Mr. ‘Alirida Niyakan, Nov 11, Tabriz, Died in Prison
Mr. Diya’u’llah Mai’i-Usku’i, Nov 13, Tabriz, Died in Prison
Dr. Farhad Asdaqi, Nov 19, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Firuz Athari, Dec 9, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Ghulam-Husayn Farhand LSA Dec 9 Tehran (Karaj) Executed
Mr. ‘Inayatu’llah Haqiqi, Dec 9, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Jamal Kashani, Dec 9, Karaj, Executed
Mr. Jamshid Pur-Ustadkar, Dec 9, Karaj, Executed
Dr. Ruhu’llah Ta‘lim, Dec 9, Tehran (Kirmanshah), Executed

1985
Mr. Ruhu’llah Hasuri, Jan 21, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Ruhu’llah Bahramshahi, Feb 25, Yazd, Executed
Mr. Nusratu’llah Subhani, Mar 5, Tehran, Executed
Mr. ‘Abbas Idilkhani, Aug 1, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Rahmatu’llah Vujdani, Aug 31, Bandar-‘Abbas, Executed
Mr. Nur’ud-Din Ta’ifi, Oct 12, Gurgan (Kirmanshah), Died in Prison
Mr. ‘Azizu’llah Ashjari, Nov 19, Tabriz, Executed

1986
Mr. Payman Subhani, Apr 28, Saravan, Mobbed
Mr. Sirru’llah Vahdat-Nizami, May 4, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Fidrus Shabrukh, May 9, Zahedan, Executed
Mr. Farid Bihmardi, Jun 10, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Habibu’llah Muhtadi, Aug 27, Tehran, Killed
Mr. Babak Talibi, Sep 2, Karaj, Beaten
Mr. Iraj Mihdi-Nizhad, Sep 4, Bandar-‘Abbas, Mobbed

1987

Mr. Ahmad Kavih, Jan 26, Isfahan, Killed
Mr. Surush Jabbari, Mar 3, Tehran, Killed
Mr. Abu’l-Qasim Shayiq, Mar 3, Tehran, Killed
Mr. Ardishir Akhtari, Sep 28, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Amir-Husayn Nadiri, Sep 28, Tehran, Executed

1988

Mr. Bihnam Pasha’i, presumably Nov, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Iraj Afshin, presumably Nov, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Mihrdad Maqsudi, Feb 16, Urmia, Killed

1992
Mr. Bahman Samandari, Mar 18, Tehran, Executed
Mr. Ruhu’llah Ghedami, Jun 17, on Qum Highway, Killed

1995
Mr. Shirvin Fallah,  Some time in Dec, Arak, Killed

1997
Mr. Mansur Dawlat, Apr 4, Kerman, Killed
Mr. Shahram Reza’i, Jul 7, Rasht, Killed
Mr. Masha’llah Enayati, Jul 4, Isfahan, Beaten to death in prison

1998
Mr. Ruhu’llah Rawhani, Jul 21, Isfahan, Executed

2005
Mr. Dhabihu’llah Mahrami, Dec 15, Yazd, Dec 15, Death in prison

[Posted on Saturday 20 December 2008 at: http://asre-nou.net/php/view.php?objnr=1547. A summary of this article was presented on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights in Brussels, Belgium.]

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