Towards a History of Iran’s Baha’i Community During the Reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, 1941-1979

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By Mina Yazdani

Moving away from simplistic and monolithic narratives, this paper investigates the multi-layered, multi-faceted history of the Baha’i community of Iran during the reign of the last Pahlavi monarch. It argues that the situation of Baha’is during Mohammad Reza Shah’s reign (1941-1979) went through different phases. The first phase, from1941 through 1955, was a period characterized by physical danger, during which Baha’is were scapegoated in the interactions among the government, the clerics and the people, and experienced several bloody incidents, the culmination of which was the 1955 anti-Baha’i campaign and its aftermaths. The second phase, from the late 1950s to around 1977, marked almost two decades of relative respite from physical attacks, during which Baha’is enjoyed more security than before, without ever being officially recognized as a religious community and while their existence as Baha’is was essentially ignored or denied. The last two years of the reign of the Shah comprised the third phase, the revival of a bloody period. It must be added that given the rather long span of the period under study, and the multi-faceted nature of the subject, this article can do no more than provide an overview.

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