Editor’s Note: Iran Press Watch is deeply pleased to share a translation of this important essay by one of the best informed voices from Iran during the past half century. Mr. Farahi is one of the most eminent thinkers, writers and journalists of modern Iran, and has been a defender of the Baha’i community his entire life.
It is the responsibility of all of us with Iranian hearts beating in our chests to defend the Baha’i Community of Iran with all our strength
By Farhang Farahi
I have special respect for the Baha’i community of Iran, despite all the severe pressure and oppression in the past 165 years; they have remained in their homeland to fulfill their responsibilities and duties.
A gentleman from Switzerland announced that we should reconsider what the Seven Wonders of the World should be, because first, except for the Pyramids, the rest of the wonders have been destroyed, and second, the ancient wonders seem small and insignificant in comparison to the newer ones. This announcement was widely publicized in the media all over the world, and ultimately put to public vote across the globe. UNESCO participated in this important nomination and started valuating the votes. From the 200 structures that had received the highest number of votes, UNESCO selected 70-80 structures, among them: Hagia Sofia (Turkey), Eiffel Tower (France), Taj Mahal (India), Statue of Liberty (United States), Acropolis of Athens (Greece) and Alhambra de Granada (Spain).
However, there were no edifices selected from Iran. There was no mention of Persepolis, Sheikh Lotfullah Mosque, Isfahan’s Jami Mosque, Naqsh-e Jahan Square, etc. The question is, why?
Is there any reason other than the fact that the Islamic government over the past thirty years, with policies based on hatred and revenge, has distanced itself farther and farther from the rest of the world? Isn’t it that with ideologies based on prejudice and enmity, the government has instigated the Islamic militia to confront the Iranian nation? Isn’t it that the Islamic regime has negated and considered worthless any signs of achievement, wealth of history, culture and civilization of Iran?
This is why we see great and famous Iranian leaders, thinkers, and achievers throughout the history of our civilization introduced to the world as “Arabs” or “Turks”.
Isn’t it that the Islamic Republic, by disrespecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by disregarding personal and social freedoms, and by being heedless to the world’s objections, imprisons, tortures, and executes group after group of free thinkers?
Isn’t it that the Islamic Government by creating insecurity and limiting healthy activities, not only oppresses those who think differently, but also those who have different belief systems? The followers of various religions are, by the direct order of the Islamic regime, imprisoned and tortured. With its Fatwa (religious ruling), the clergy incites the sentiments of the mob to attack, terrorize and even kill those with different beliefs and views.
Looking at the Islamic government’s report card, we find that during the 30 years of their damned rule, over 200 Baha’is have been murdered solely on the grounds of their religious beliefs. In addition, hundreds of our Baha’i countrymen have either been imprisoned or subjected to aggression and brutality, and their homes or businesses have been set on fire.
Not only have Baha’i employees been fired from their jobs, but hundreds of Baha’i children and youth have been expelled from schools and universities.
It is no coincidence that Iranian university professors, writers, artists, reporters, and political activists residing inside and outside of their country, as citizens of Iran, have expressed their feelings of shame in an open letter to the Baha’i community of Iran.
I too, as a responsible reporter, am dumbfounded and ashamed of the merciless and vicious attacks on the 300,000 member Baha’i community of Iran. I agree with the letter on which the Iranian intellectuals put their signature, admitting their shame of being silent while atrocities were inflicted upon Baha’is.
Truly, we should be ashamed of the silence of our intellectual predecessors. At the time of the Qajar dictators, when the possessions, lives, honor, personal and social freedom of Baha’is were violently transgressed, when their homes and businesses were mercilessly burning in the fire of hatred and animosity of tyrannical authorities and prejudiced militants, intellectuals remained silent.
When I read the poems of Tahirih, that courageous, resilient woman and famous poetess, who was brutally and viciously put to death because of her beliefs, I can’t help but say I am ashamed.
My Baha’i countrymen studied and worked alongside me, achieving the highest marks in university, completing their tasks at their workplace as responsible, devoted and hardworking citizens. When I think of them, condemned and deprived of their most basic civil and human rights because of their belief system, I feel ashamed.
I have special respect for the Baha’i community of Iran, despite all the severe pressure and oppression over the past 165 years, of which I have mentioned only a few, they have remained in their homeland to fulfill their responsibilities and duties. As an Iranian, I am proud of them.
If we accept that there are 300,000 Baha’is residing in Iran, we should immediately accept that these tens of thousands of Baha’is need to elect individuals to attend to their administrative and spiritual needs. In other countries, even with much fewer numbers, Baha’is have elected spiritual assemblies. Baha’is even have a seat at the United Nations as the representative of 179 National Spiritual Assemblies across the globe. However, the members of the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies of Iran have either been executed or have been subjected to attacks and the theft of their possessions.
Even at the time of the Shah, with provocations and unfounded allegations by the National Intelligence and Security Organization (SAVAK), Baha’is were subject to aggression of which we are all more or less aware of. After the Revolution and in the same year, nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran were kidnapped and executed. During all these years, the Islamic government has instigated well organized official campaigns against Baha’is via media, radio, government television, internet sites, and even movie productions.
In 2005, the representatives of the International Baha’i Community presented a secret memorandum to the United Nations which was an order from the “Armed Forces of Iran”, instructing the intelligence and information services, police forces and Islamic militia to identify and closely watch the activities of all Baha’is across country. This document caused immense concern among members of worldwide human rights organizations.
In 2008, the Ministry of Education, Research & Technology ordered 81 universities to expel all Baha’i students from these institutions of higher education. Employment in government offices, foundations, and even private companies continues to be forbidden for Baha’is. Aggression is imposed by landlords of Baha’i tenants, in the form of cutting off their electricity or natural gas lines and stealing their mail deliveries. These atrocities occur with the support of the police forces.
It is the responsibility of all of us with Iranian hearts beating in our chests to defend the Baha’i Community of Iran with all our strength.
[Published in Iran Times, 39th year, issue 1949, on March 20, 2009. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]
Download: Persian Original (PDF)