Officials in Iran have buried another deceased Baha’i citizen without notifying the family or allowing for a Baha’i religious ceremony.
The body of Maryam Moinipour, a 92-year-old Baha’i citizen who passed away in Tehran on April 11, was buried in the Khavaran cemetery, southwest of the capital Tehran, by officials on Wednesday, May 3, after being kept in the morgue for three weeks. Officials had also prevented the deceased’s family from claiming the remains.
Moinipour’s family was also prevented from then burying the remains at the the Baha’i-owned Behesht Zahra cemetery. Officials there demanded a payment of 30 million tomans ($600) to release the body.
In addition, Masoud Momeni, a Ministry of Intelligence official who has claimed to be the head of the Baha’i cemetery in Tehran, threatened to bury Moinipour’s body in a mass grave without the family’s knowledge if they did not comply with his demands.
The burial was one of six carried out by Momeni since March – with four just in the past several days. A statement by the Baha’i International Community (BIC) said that Momeni “is continuing to forcibly bury more deceased Baha’is without the knowledge of their families and in violation of Baha’i burial practices,” adding that “news of four more deceased Baha’is being buried in this way has now been received—following two previous incidents at the end of March. Three more bodies remain in the morgue while the families continue to persevere in their efforts to hold dignified burials for their loved ones.”
The BIC has also said that Momeni took control of the cemetery in 2021 without the consent of Baha’is in Iran.
“The cruelty of the forced burials and the unjust arrest of these four innocent Baha’is is beyond belief,” said Simin Fahandej, Representative of the BIC to the United Nations in Geneva. “Families who are already grieving the death of their loved ones now have the added burden of being barred from burying them according to Baha’i burial practices in their own cemetery, and in some cases, seeing their family and fellow Baha’is being taken into custody simply for seeking their basic rights. These coldhearted and grotesque atrocities must stop.”
Despite refusing Momeni’s demands for payment, Moinipour’s family was unable to prevent the improper burial of their loved one in Khavaran.
This is the fifth time a Baha’i citizen has been buried without their family present by agents in Khavaran, a burial place for hundreds of political prisoners who were executed in the 1980s.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Baha’is in Iran have faced systematic discrimination and harassment, including deportation, restrictions on education, property confiscations, imprisonment, torture, and executions.
Baha’i cemeteries in Iranian cities and villages have also been confiscated and destroyed, and new buildings have been constructed on the burial grounds to leave no traces of the remains of Baha’is.
Baha’is number some 300,000 in Iran and an estimated 5 million followers worldwide. Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran, and the constitution recognizes a number of minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism but not the Baha’i faith.