Abdu’l-Baha on Baha’i Persecutions in 1903 (part 6)


In short, the last information from Yazd, conveyed by the illustrious Siyyid Mahdi Afnan, the offshoot of the Divine Lote Tree, is as follows:

The number of the martyrs has reached one hundred and seventy pure souls, which we know of. Of those martyred that we have not counted, God knows. Several thousand houses, shops and stores have been robbed and plundered, and many homes have been burned. Women and children have been left helpless and neglected; left naked, hungry and homeless, without a kind protector, or a friend or an assistant or a companion. They go from door to door seeking shelter, all the while thanking God, day and night, for their mighty calamities, saying: ‘Praise be unto God that we have received such affliction and hardship in the Path of God! We have been the targets for a thousand shafts of oppression in the Path of His Love! This was the utmost desire of our hearts and souls; this was our comfort and the repose of our being.’

It was known that these events would take place, and it was heard from the lips of ‘Abdu’l-Baha several times that in a large assembly of the believers last year He stated unequivocally, ‘Yazd is in great peril. Pray for it, pray for it.’ By the will of God the fulfilment of the following passages, written by the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, will also appear:

Ere long, by the Command of God, the veils will be raised from the Face of His Cause, and its refulgence will be reflected upon the horizons of the world. The teachings of the religion will be promoted, the standards of your Glorious Lord will wave from the highest edifices; the base of superstitions will be shaken; the veils of darkness will be rent; the morn of clear evidences will appear; the Kingdoms of Heaven and earth will shine with the lights of revelation. Then ye shall see the banners of the opposing nations hauled down, the faces of the enemies darkened, the decrees of the wicked leaders abrogated, and the believers shall be in great joy while the rejecters shall be in great loss.

At any rate, on the morning of that Friday, the mob suddenly assembled from all quarters, crying while attacking, ‘Alas for our Holy law! Alas for our faith! Alas for our religion!’ Previous to this they had killed five or six persons every day, but on that day the guarding soldiers, instigated by the ‘ulama, allied themselves with the ignorant rabble, and began to pillage. The vagabonds martyred a number of the believers, beat the women with clubs, hands and whips, and looted a large number of shops, stores and homes [of the Baha’is]. Many children became fatherless. Many mothers and fathers became childless. Many sisters became brotherless. How many homes were completely destroyed! How many families were scattered and made helpless and homeless! How great the number of the affluent that became penniless! How vast the number of those reared in beds of comfort now compelled to sleep upon the cold, black earth! How numerous were the wounded and the ill, with none to care for them or dress their injuries!

At the time of their execution one would cry out, ‘Is anyone truly capable of beholding, to come and behold me?’ Another, ‘Do you find fault with us for aught except that we believe in God and in His holy verses?’[15] And another, ‘O the misery of men! no Apostle comes unto them but they laugh him to scorn!’[16] And yet another would exclaim, ‘I witness that there is no God but God!’ and ‘Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!’ And still another would shout, ‘We have kept both Baha and the khun-baha [blood-money]!’[17] One was loudly chanting the poem of Varqa, called Servitude, while another, with joy and delight, was bidding farewell to his murder, saying, ‘May God preserve you!’ upon the utterance of which he was struck so violently in the mouth that from the blow he yielded up his life. And yet another martyr, at the time of his assault by the enemies, stated, ‘No king has ever been accorded such majestic pomp and glory!’ A handsome youth, at the moment of death, cried out joyously, ‘Tonight is the night of my nuptials, and I am to obtain the Beloved of my heart and the Desire of my soul!’

Praise be unto God! What ignorance is this that the murderers take the exact last utterances of martyrs, weave them into verses to be chanted by children in the streets and bazaar, describing the place this one was martyred, what his condition was, and what he said, and how such a young man chanted such a verse, and how he was torn into pieces.

There were two gentlewomen who, while mourning in their home for their martyred kin, were attacked by a cruel mob. First they beat and tortured the two wronged women as much as they could, and then dragged them outside the home, after which they were stabbed and chopped into many pieces with swords and daggers. When the ferocity of the people reached this level, the governor, finding himself powerless to stand against the rioters, fled from the city and retired to the citadel for self-preservation.

Praise be unto God! They seized a baker and with meat axes hacked him into pieces. Throughout the time of his torture he sang in a melodious and resonant tone and with great joy announced, ‘For ten years I have been longing for this! I beseech God to forgive and to pour out upon you His bounties, that you may attain your hearts’ desire, for through you I have attained the desire of my heart and soul!’

The number of those martyred, up to that day, is reported to have been more than one hundred and fifty persons within the city of Yazd. In the surrounding villages, numerous personages were martyred in each hamlet. The details have not reached us, except a short report of a telegram received in Tehran to the effect that the governor, being pressed by the rioters and compelled by the vagabonds of the city, was forced to blow one of the friends from the mouth of a cannon, and to behead another in the town-square. Briefly, the boorish mob put a woman in a sack, over which they poured kerosene, and burned her alive. They tightly tied and nailed another believer to a tree, poured kerosene over him and burned the tree and the man together.

In Ardakan, a village near Yazd, lived the honoured Sadr, the esteemed Mu’tamidu’sh-Shari’ah, the adored Nizamu’sh-Shari’ah, and the beloved Diya’u’sh-Shari’ah, with all their families, kinsmen and relatives. They were of the venerable ‘ulama and were sayyids, and all had received titles from His Imperial Crown. Yet the ‘ulama issued a fatwa demanding the blood of these honourable souls to be spilled. The ignorant mob, incited by the ‘ulama, attacked those gentle beings with guns, arms and weapons of war. Though these believers had sufficient number to stand against the crowd, could have resisted easily and were provided with ample means of defence, yet, in accordance with the command, ‘it is better to be killed than kill,’[18] they yielded their lives to the blood-thirsty wolves who, stretching out their claws of tyranny, martyred seventeen persons with the utmost cruelty. Among the victims there was a young child who fell into a well, and he has survived and remains alive. None other was left standing. The orchard and mansion where they resided were utterly destroyed. The trees were uprooted. All that could be pillaged was taken away, including a considerable amount of wealth.

The number of martyrs in Ardakan has reached nineteen by now and in the village of Taft the number was twenty-eight. In other villages, each suffered one or two martyrs. In Manshad there were ten. In Dih-Bala they threw a believer, alive, into a baker’s oven and roasted him to death. To date, six women have been martyred. While these many have been martyred, a great many more have been injured and wounded.


[15] Qur’an 5:59

[16] Qur’an 36:30

[17] Translation from Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 73.

[18] God Passes By, p. 198, a statement attributed to Baha’u’llah. For a similar proclamation see, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, (Haifa: Baha’i World Centre, 2002) 110.


7 Responses

  1. Farid Rohani

    August 8, 2009 7:31 pm

    My Great Grandfater was martyred in Yazd at that time and my grandfather who was seven at the time, was left at the mercy of his Moslem mother who fed him broken glass to have him killed also.
    Some fellow Bahai’s from Shahrood and Mashad took my grandfather to Shahrood and cared for him and he ended up raising children that have served the faith of Baha’u’llah since then. What the tried to extinguish in Yazd is shining all over the world now.
    I am very proud to remember my Great grandfather today with honor and pride.

  2. Nonagon1947

    August 9, 2009 10:19 pm

    The pogrom at Ardakan, described in detail in the last couple of paragraphs, is well documented practice in several Middle-Eastern countries. I’m unsure where it originated, but it certainly does not befit the cultured, educated people of Iran. This whole series – taken rightly – provides insight into what’s going on today. The persecution of the Baha’is of Iran is not isolated to that country – but the greatest surprise to the outside world is that it continues even today. Even to this moment. Thanks to IPW, and the source of this series of documents. Keep sending them!! The world needs to know!!

  3. sb

    August 10, 2009 2:22 pm

    More and more, the world learns the true value of peaceful coexistence. Ultimately, the Divine Command will be the Code by which mankind shall live . . . that nothing justifies the taking of human life. How brave the immortal souls of Yazd! Truly they “witnessed” (the etymological meaning of the English word “martyr” and the Arabic “shahed”) for their beloved Faith and will be remembered forever. IPW, thank you so much for this stunning series.

    “I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes.”
    -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

  4. Afsoneh

    June 9, 2015 6:21 am

    I just found this post today. I’m 5th generation Baha’i and half Persian. I was born in the US, and have never been able to travel there. My father’s family is from Yazd, he still has one brother there. His brother has done tremendous investigation into our family, and many others in the city. I’ve just recently learned of my grandfather’s uncles’ martyrdoms (3 of them) and am trying to learn all that I can. This is the first and only thing I’ve found, and was wondering if I could get the exact source if you have it please. The martyr in Dih-Bala in the last paragaph. He was the baker, he was one of my grandfather’s uncles. I have his name, and his brothers’ names but not much else. Any information would be extemely appreciated.


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