[EDU RIGHT, 18 Sep 2011] 18 September 2011 ( 27 Shahrivar 1390 )
Association for Freedom of Education – Natoli Derakhshan, a poet and a Baha’i, in an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, while recounting the mistreatment of Baha’i citizens, which is contrary to Islamic values and the teaching of Quran, has questioned the reasons for such mistreatment. The full text of the letter is as follows :
“Treat those who come before you with such patience and tenderness that they will tell you all that is in their hearts, and seek justice for their woes. Rest assured that Almighty God will bestow immeasurable bounties on the Righteous.” (Imam Ali)
In the name of God, the Most Just
Your eminence, esteemed Ayatollah Khamenei:
Many years ago, when my school teacher asked us to write an essay as an “open letter to God”, and empty our hearts to Him, we all wrote what we could at the time, and as far as I remember, no one was imprisoned on the charge of “writing to God”, or for complaining or laying bare their inner thoughts and emotions. However, these days it seems writing to a Servant of God, your esteemed personage, one who is responsible for the safety and security of the lives and the honor of the Iranian People, can be construed as an attack on public opinion and an insult to the Supreme Leader, earning one many months or years of imprisonment. But be that as it may. My heart is so full of pain that I decided, on pain of imprisonment, to write this open letter to you, so that you may be fully aware of how far the burning flames of injustice have arisen in Iran.
Dear Mr. Khamenei, I am a Baha’i. My family is from the small village of Ivel in Mazandaran. In my vein flows the blood of Shalizar, and it is my intention to irrigate the vast meadows of our land from the stream of harmony, and with the help of equality, sow the seeds of unity and watch it grow. So at first, I must remove the stones of ignorant prejudice from this fertile and magnificent land.
A few hours ago I received news which left me bewildered and dazed. I staggered to the home of my dear teacher, Mr. Enayatollah Sanaei, to find out the truth of what I had just heard from himself. I rang the bell. My wonderful teacher, who is the embodiment of virtue, wisdom, love and sacrifice, opened the door, and with a face beaming with joy, embraced me. Methinks nothing had happened. We embraced, and as I kissed him, I could feel the heat of where he had been slapped on his face. I had gone to their home at a bad time. He, and his beloved wife, whom he calls his “imprisoned angel”, had been on their way to the ear specialist to try to avert a serious infection. Agents of the Ministry of Information had paid the couple a visit and, unable to withstand his erudite and convincing answers, with utmost brutality and without any shame, had taken it upon themselves to teach him a lesson, and had slapped him around so badly that his eardrum had ruptured. He was hit so hard that his frail body had fallen to the ground, his glasses had flown to the end of the room in pieces, and he was subjected to unimaginable vulgarity and inhumane indignities. It seems that these agents, knowing full well that they could not answer his logic and knowledge of the Islamic Holy Book, had planned ahead of time to cover their ignorance with the force of their fists. I shall not recount the indignities they heaped upon him.
Your eminence, esteemed Ayatollah Khamenei,
These days, injustice and brutality is so pervasive that our own little province of Mazandaran has no shortage of grim tales. A seventy-one year old man of great character and virtue, Mr. Vaji’u’llah Mirza Golpur (2), a loving and caring teacher who was fired in the early years of the Islamic Revolution for simply being a Baha’i, was tortured [by agents of your government]. With his hands tied together, and his feet bound with chains, he was led through the town of Tankabon as if he were a wonton criminal, for simply having a belief system that differs from the rest of the people. When they released him after two weeks of incarceration, the many people who came to visit him and pay their respects saw with their own eyes what had been done to him, and how badly his feat had been injured. And now they have incarcerated his elderly wife, who suffers from myriad ailments, for three weeks, on the charge of writing an open letter (3) and telling people what happened, and bringing shame on the government. I wonder what Honor they think they still have?
Not too long ago, one of my relatives, Mr. Houshang Fanaian (4), because of the many injustices he and his family suffered, and the deprivation of his children from their universal right to pursue their education, wrote an open letter to your esteemed personage. He spoke what was in the heart of many of your Baha’i citizens, and we thought that perhaps this time your eminence would shed a glance of mercy upon these victims, and bid your government to behave better.
However, not only did that not come to pass, but instead he was charged with “propaganda against the regime”, “insulting the supreme leader”, “membership on Facebook”, and “attendance at Baha’i feasts”. This is only an excuse to add more time to his jail sentence, which should tell you what sort of justice is being practiced in our country today. And so they sentenced this innocent man, on the charge of “revealing state secrets”, to four and half years of jail time, so that no other Baha’i would dare write such an open letter to you anymore!
Esteemed Ayatollah Khamenei,
It has been decades since we have been barred from institutes of higher education. You know better than anyone that no human being should be denied access to education, even if we were to seek it from the lands of the infidels. But for thirty years, we have been denied access to it. How painful it is to see when in international gatherings representatives of the Islamic Republic speak of “Human Rights under Islam”, and speak falsely of the right of Baha’is to attend colleges and universities.
Yes, in the last few years, due to immense global pressure, a few token Baha’i youth have been allowed to register in state Universities. But when no one is watching, they have been summarily discharged, using fictitious excuses with no reason or justification. Another group is temporarily installed for a short while. This is done not only to demoralize the young Baha’is, but also to have a list of names for the benefit of international human rights organizations. Is it possible to beguile the international human rights organizations this easily? Will they not want to know where the Baha’i graduates are, after so many years of an alleged “open door” policy ? How many Baha’i students have become engineers or doctors? Beyond these organizations, how do they answer to God?
How sad! They do not content themselves with this either. If, after all this persecution and deprivation, should a few Baha’i kids get together and try to study together, they are rounded up like criminals and charged with “sedition against the State”, and our students are sent to jail (6).
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei,
Anyone who is familiar with the conduct, manners and beliefs of the Baha’is of Iran knows only too well that the Baha’is are well-wishers of all. Their purpose is to establish harmony and unity among all the peoples of the world. His eminence Baha’u’llah has written: “In this Day, noble is he who ariseth to serve mankind”.
Yet for many years a steady stream of lies, misinformation and hate-speech has been unleashed on the Baha’i community through official television channels, radio stations and print media. Even after thirty-three years, will justice not demand that we be given a chance to defend ourselves? Has justice been redefined in Iran? Have the rights of citizens been limited to only a certain subgroup? No – inasmuch as God, in the Holy Qur’an, has addressed these words “Verily, we have bestowed our mercy on the Children of Man” to all mankind. All of us, irrespective of our race, ethnicity or creed, must be allowed our basic human and civil rights. We must have access to higher education. We should be able to sit together and share our views and thoughts in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, without prejudice which “destroys the foundation of human societies”. Whether Turkish or Lore (from Lorestan), Kurdish or Baluch (from Baluchestan), Jewish or Baha’i, Christian or Muslim, we should all be able to rely upon God, and with his help arise to elevate and improve the lives of all Iranians, and in fact, all the citizens of the World.
“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians – whoever believes in God and the Last day, and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.”
(Qur’an 2: 62 The Cow, M. H. Shakir translation*)
Esteemed Ayatollah Khamenei,
I learned from my mentor and teacher, Mr. Enayatollah Sanaei, that sweet man whose ear drum was shattered by the agents of your ministry of Information, that Islam is a religion of justice and mercy. It is the defender of freedom of thought and freedom of speech. He would recite the verses of the Qur’an, and his positive interpretation instilled in us admiration for the sacred religion of Islam. Among the verses he read to us was this verse in which God commands the Muslims:
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear God, for God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.”
(Qur’an 5:8 The Table,Yusuf Ali tr.*)
And others verses where God has referred to the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon Him) as the Mercy to the World, not just to Muslims : “We have sent you not but as a mercy to the World” (Qur’an 21:107 The Prophets). Whenever we observed unjust and baseless rulings from some of the leaders and judges in Iran, and were heartbroken and grieved, our esteemed teacher would reassure us with the erudite and eloquent words of wisdom from Imam Ali (upon Whom be peace) and bring some measure of peace to our hearts. However, last year, on the anniversary of the birth of Imam Ali (upon Whom be peace), a crowd of Muslim-pretenders burned my home along with forty-nine other Baha’i families in our ancestral village of Ivel, and then tore them down with bulldozers so that there is nothing left of them. Even more amazing was that when, in the early hours of the mob attack, we appealed to various government and police officials, not only did they not try to stop the mod, but instead came up with various excuses about the “legal proceedings” and “procedures” which allowed them to sit by for four days and allow the mob to destroy all our homes, to the horror of all fair minded people who saw what was happening, and even despite the sympathy of some government and international observers. It seems that these four days of destruction did not fit within the framework of government regulations, and the authorities just waited long enough to ensure that the destruction was complete. In the process of the legal appeals, we met some very fascinating fellow Iranians, some of whom did not deem us to be human, and found no reference to human rights for a Baha’i in their guidelines, specially one from a small village.
After more than one year of follow-up and appeals since that heinous event, and after writing to many governmental agencies and various courts, we discovered that an on-call judge, and not the main judge assigned to the case, issued a summary judgment to vacate the claims and forbid any more investigation of the perpetrators of this crime. The unashamed and unabashed villains are so secure in their reliance on the courts that they have told us unabashedly that should they even kill every single one of us, nothing will be done about it by the courts. How sad a condition this is!
Dearly esteemed Ayatollah,
Tyranny will not endure. You who are the Supreme Leader of the Muslim community [of Iran] no doubt have read this famous saying of Imam Ali (upon Whom be peace) to Governor [Malik] Ashtar [of Egypt]: “Whenever there is injustice in your realm, at first it will be blamed on you.”
Please be aware of these injustices. We have said what needs to be told, despite all the threats of imprisonment and hardship, so that once again you may be made aware of how badly we are being treated and how unjustly we have been oppressed. What I have written is only the tip of the iceberg of injustices and oppressions that have plagued the Baha’i community for thirty-three years.
In the hope of a day when the light of Justice may once again embrace our ancient land.
Peace be upon you
(1) Reporters of Human Rights: Physical abuse of Enayatollah Sanaei
(2) BBC-Persian: a Baha’i was taken on foot around town
(3) Office of Human Rights in Iran: Open letter of the wife of Mr. Golpour
(4) HRNA: Houshang Fanaian sentenced to 4.5 years
(5) Open letter of a Baha’i: by Houshang Fanaian
(6) Office of Human Rights in Iran: Arrest of faculty and staff of Baha’i Institute of Higher Education in Iran
(7) HRNA: Destruction of 50 Baha’i homes in Ivel
(8) HRNA: Continuation of the destruction of Baha’i homes in Ivel and in Sari
*Translator’s note: the word Allah is in every case translated as “God”.
Translation by Iran Press Watch [Please note that the translation was revised and updated on 28-Sep-2011]