BIC GENEVA — June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out a chilling act of oppression: 10 Bahá’í women were hanged in a single night in a public square in the city of Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality—absent and even criminalized in Iran—along with unity, justice, and truthfulness.
The women were hanged one by one, each forced to watch the next woman’s death in a harrowing attempt to coerce them into recanting their faith. One was only 17; most were in their 20s. Human rights groups and ordinary citizens around the world were shocked and outraged at this barbaric act by the Iranian authorities.
Global leaders at the time led a wave of appeals for condemned Bahá’í women and men to be released from their death sentences. But to no avail.
The Bahá’í International Community is now launching a global campaign, called #OurStoryIsOne, to honor the executed women and the long struggle for gender equality lived by women of all faiths and backgrounds in Iran for many decades and which continues to this day.
“The story of the 10 Bahá’í women is not over. It was a chapter in the unfolding story of Iranian women’s resilience and sacrifice for equality,” says Simin Fahandej, Representative of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) to the United Nations in Geneva.
Ms. Fahandej adds: “Today, in the blood, tears and wounds of thousands of young women in Iran seeking equality, we can see echoes of the injustice suffered by the 10 women of Shiraz whose tragic death touched the lives of many. We see the same spirit, the same choice being made: to stand up for the principles of justice and equality with utmost effort. Though mistreated and imprisoned, today’s women—just like those before them—are bravely striving for a just and prosperous Iran.”
In some cases, the executed Bahá’í women were arrested on charges of providing moral education to young children, both girls and boys. Since the 19th century, the Bahá’ís in Iran have promoted gender equality through efforts at every level, including the establishment of schools for girls.
“The Bahá’í community in Iran has always called for the full participation of women in all spheres of life in society, including decision-making processes, and has paid a heavy price for it,” Ms. Fahandej adds. “Bearing more than 40 years of systematic persecution, which has now sadly been extended to all Iranians, the Bahá’í community has insisted on its right to serve Iran, which it regards as a sacred land, by promoting gender equality, justice and access to education, regardless of the consequences to their lives.”
Following the execution of the 10 women and for the four decades that have followed, hundreds more Bahá’í women have been severely persecuted, facing discrimination both as women and as Bahá’ís. After the Revolution, Bahá’í women serving in prominent social positions in the country were dismissed from their jobs, arrested and imprisoned, tortured, or executed. Those left to live were barred from universities, public employment and virtually all aspects of social life.
In honor of the 10 women of Shiraz and the cause of justice and equality for which they gave their lives, the BIC now invites people around the world, whether as artists, musicians, filmmakers, or in other creative areas, to pay tribute in their name. Contributions can include: songs about the 10 women, short videos about their lives, a memory of the women themselves, graphic arts, written work, social media posts, or public events and memorials, to honor the longstanding struggle and efforts towards gender equality in Iran.
“More and more Iranians are uniting in a search for social justice, and they have focused on the equality of women and men as one of the most pressing challenges facing the country,” added Ms. Fahandej. “We hope that together we can honor not only the 10 Bahá’í women of Shiraz, but all women across Iran who cherish the principle of the equality of women and men, and who have contributed to building a better future for the country through their perseverance in the face of oppression.”
“Let us stand together, united by our shared experiences of resilience and our collective efforts and sacrifices for Iran, to show that we are inextricably linked regardless of faith and background. We hope that remembering the execution of these 10 women will illuminate and reinforce conversations around justice and gender equality in Iran. Our story is one and we will raise our voices until our shared ideals are realized.”
Further background on the circumstances surrounding the execution of the 10 women as well as brief bios on each of these women can be found in this BIC article.