Persecution of Baha’is and the Iranian Presidential Elections


In the run-up to to the so-called presidential elections in Iran, the persecution of Baha’is has become a political issue. Jamila Kadivar speaks of the rights that members of the religious community of Baha’i have as Iranians. In the meanwhile, during an election rally in Isfahan young Baha’is demanded their right to be admitted to college and university.

In Iran, only four Islamists from the group of the founders compete for the position of the Iranian President: current officeholder Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Mohsen Rezai, ex-general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and “moderate conservative”; Mehdi Karroubi, co-founder of the Association of Combatant Clerics Party; and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, ex-Prime Minister.

There can be no question of free elections. Rather, the so-called presidential elections point to the fact that the Islamist establishment of the totalitarian dictatorship of Iran does not always agree regarding tactics about how to achieve the goals of the Islamic revolution.

It is interesting that the persecution of Baha’is has become an issue prior to precisely these pseudo-elections in Iran.

Jamile Kadivar defends the rights of Baha’is as Iranians

The freedom of Baha’is has become an issue with reformist Islamist intellectuals. For example, Mrs. Jamila Kadivar, a professor of political science who is campaigning on behalf of the election of the cleric Mehdi Karroubi for President, has expressed: “Baha’is have rights as Iranian citizens which the government has to recognise and officially acknowledge.”

Ayatollah Montazeri has expressed himself in a similar vein. Yer he has furthermore argued that it is necessary to nevertheless fight the Baha’is politically, because as a Muslim he does not accept the Baha’i religion.

For Mrs. Diane Alai, spokesperson of the Baha’i International Community, the statements made by Mrs. Kadivar are to be assessed very positively, because through them it becomes apparent that the violation of human rights is in fact being discussed in Iranian society. It must be added that the human rights of Baha’is are nevertheless violated systematically by the totalitarian Islamist state.

Diane Alai emphasized that just as the Baha’is stand up for human and women’s rights or the freedom of study for all Iranians, there is also solidarity within Iranian society with the Baha’is. Diane Alai accentuated that today many Iranians disapprove of the state oppression of Baha’is. Iranian Baha’is merely want to practise their religion, like all other Iranians, and to be of service in promoting the progress of their country as Iranians, Alai said in an interview with Radio Zamane.

Ayatollah Khomeini: Baha’is have no rights in Iran

Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the newspaper Kayhan and an advisor to the Iranian “leader”, however, portrays Jamila Kadivar as a traitor. Kayhan, a newspaper which is regarded as the mouthpiece of the second Supreme Leader  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, repudiates the Baha’i-religion. In Iranian legislation, the Baha’i religion also is not acknowledged as a religion. Shariatmadari is of the opinion that Baha’is are a “political party, the fifth column of Israel and a terrorist group”.

Shariatmadari also quotes the first Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who already demanded in the year 1962 that “Baha’is should have no right to conduct religious meetings”. Today this has become state law.

Supporters of Ayatollah Borujerdi defend Baha’is

Adherents of the arrested Ayatollah Kazemeini Boroujerdi in a statement have criticized state oppression against members of the Baha’i religion.

The state of health of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who is imprisoned, is at present particularly critical. This Shiite cleric calls for the separation of religion and state,  which indeed would undermine the ideological basis of the prevalent Khomeinist state ideology of the “absolute reign of the clergy” (wilayat-e faqih).

State persecution of Baha’is is against the law

The dissident Iranian journalist Hossein Kashani believes that, when dealing with Baha’is, not even the prevailing criminal legislation is being considered. For example, it is stated in paragraph 570 of the Iranian criminal legislation that all “state authorities that – other than stipulated by law – violate the personal rights of individuals” must be punished.

In Iran, however, they are being rewarded.

To Kashani, even according to the prevailing Iranian law the treatment of Baha’is is illegal.

Kashani points out that Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven men and women who are imprisoned as members of a national ad hoc committee of the Baha’i community, had already been arrested on March 5, 2008. She had – as with many other Baha’is – been asked unofficially to report to the secret service, and had then been arrested. The reason for her arrest was that she had taken care of the funeral of a Baha’i in Mashad. Arbitrarily, Baha’is are prevented again and again from burying their dead. Recently, the compound of a Baha’i cemetery in the northern province of Mazandaran was even offered for sale by Iranian authorities. The cemetery had been destroyed beforehand, according to a Human Rights Activists Iran report.

Also for the other six leading Baha’is who have been imprisoned since 14th May, there are only absurd accusations – no concrete ones. They are accused of being spies, plotting conspiracies and campaigning against the State. Meanwhile they have been charged with “mofsed fel-arz”, “being spreaders of corruption on earth”. Islamic law stipulates the death penalty for this “crime”. Kashani writes that magistrates often deliver their judgments out of pure “religious fanaticism”.

The seven Baha’is have hardly seen daylight for one year. They live in small cells that have no window. During the week, they only have a possibility to receive a little daylight for a few minutes when they leave the room. According to Kashani, they must sleep for over one year on a hard concrete floor, so that their bodies already show painful wounds.

Kashani also mentions the fact that during regular arbitrary arrests Iranian state officials literally steal the private property of the Baha’is, ranging from cash to valuable objects to sacred books.

It has often happened that during arrests even children have been tortured.

Baha’i-students protest

As Iran Press Watch reported on 29th May, young Baha’is meanwhile protested in favor of the right of Baha’is to be admitted to college and university. During a speech of the presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi at Isfahan University on Saturday 22nd May, young Baha’is silently held up banners, on which the right of Baha’is to pursue academic studies was demanded.

Plainclothes members of the secret service immediately confiscated the posters. Candidate Mousavi, however, did not even react to this incident.

[Source: Welt Debatte at; Translation by Polly Janitzky]


6 Responses

  1. sb

    June 5, 2009 8:57 pm

    A wonderful summation, Mr. Wahdat-Hagh. Thank you for speaking out for human rights, thank you for speaking out for the freedom of Bahai’s in Iran.

  2. fhayden

    June 7, 2009 3:57 am

    Thank you for this summary. We are quite content to be opposed. It is unacceptable from a moral perspective to eliminate us. I am quite confident that the Iranian people will recognize this. What exactly it will take I do not know but we have faith it will happen, it is destiny for justice to be done, somehow.

  3. Dawn Adams

    June 12, 2009 12:51 am

    It is a shame that in this day and age of the new milennium we still have to fight for human rights. But, what must be done, must be done. I have written to my state senator, and received a letter back, stating that they have been aware of this problem, and that they are fighting to have legislation passed. It seems that the wheels of justice tend to move slowly in this country–the genocide in Rwanda is a good case in point. How many Bahai’s, I wonder, must be executed or tortured before anyone comes to their defense? This country doesn’t seem to mind going to war over oil, but draws the line when it comes to saving innocent human beings who are being persecuted by their own countries. What in the world was the United Nations formed for if not to intervene in emergencies such as this, and the Rwandian catastrophy. They had better rethink their policies, or we’re all it trouble. God help us all!

  4. Dave Menham

    June 13, 2009 7:10 pm

    This is one of the most interesting and balanced accounts I have so far read about the plight of the Baha’i Community in Iran.

  5. David Flint

    June 24, 2009 7:52 am

    Events in Iran may be compared to some of those that occurred in the English Revolution of the 17th. cent. Although the word fatwa was never used the Council of Divines had the power of issuing fatwas upon religious matters, even ordering executions, but all fatwas had to be considered by Cromwell before enacted. This use of fatwas in English law arose from the reign of Mary Tudor who introduced the Spanish Inquisition into England and Wales. Fatwas were issued by Christian clerics after the expulsion of Muslims in Spain.

  6. David Flint

    June 24, 2009 8:01 am

    I forgot to say: human rights cannot be seperated from human responsibilities, for example the human rights of women in the west are not accompanied by human responsibilities, such as the right of western women to copulate with whoever and whenever they choose, the result is abortions, spread of sexually transmitted diseases, divources, and so on. May be the Ayotollahs are too strict, but no one talks about sexually transmitted diseases in Iran, divources, etc., are they increasing or decreasing? Has the Iranian revolution helped Iranians to live cleaner and more honest lives or not? If the Bahais want to westermise my advice would be don’t. Modernisation need not be westernisation!


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