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A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran

Hojjatiyeh members were able to infiltrate Bahá’í groups throughout the country in the years leading up to the Islamic Revolution; Iranian scholar Eliz Sanasarian notes that “the sweeping tide of Bahá’í arrests, imprisonment and executions after the revolution is often attributed to Hojjatiyeh infiltrators’ access to Bahá’í registration books and confidential correspondence.”80

At various points during the Pahlavi era, anti-Bahá’í organizations appear to have cooperated with the government’s intelligence agency, SAVAK.81 Halabi reportedly requested SAVAK to gather information on the religious affiliation of every citizen through their enforcement of the Civil Service Code, requiring every employee and applicant to identify their religious affiliation.82

By the late 1970s, Hojjatiyeh grew to include more than 12,000 members,83 and its mission expanded to include the repression of other minorities, such as Christians.84 Many individuals trained by the Hojjatiyeh eventually held powerful positions in the Islamic Republic during the early years of the Revolution, particularly in the judiciary system and Ministry of Education and Training.85

After the Islamic Revolution, IRI leaders began to voice doubts about a future role for the group. In a sermon in 1981, the Friday prayer leader of Qom, Hojatolislam Jannati issued a series of critical questions to the “anti-Bahá’í groups”, commenting:

Previously you were working in connection with the anti-Bahá’í movement and were saying they [the Bahá’ís] are a danger to Islam, and we too were saying we know they are a danger. You were saying that they are connected to Israel, and we knew that, too. Every thing you said, we agreed with. Then we said that their roots must be destroyed. But you were only cutting off their leaves and branches… Very well, today there is no place for [the Bahá’ís] in the Islamic Republic. The atmosphere of the Islamic Republic would not even allow Bahá’ís and any anti-Islamic group to breathe. What is your mission now in this establishment [the Islamic Republic]. Your previous goal is long established, what is, then, your present goal?86

The group was soon disbanded by the authorities and it faded from the political scene, at least overtly, though it continued to have influence among conservative elements.87 However, since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad there have been reports suggesting the possible reemergence of Hojjatiyeh, as well as what is alleged to be a more violent offshoot calling itself Mahdaviyyat (belief in the messianic tradition of Mahdi, the hidden Imam and general messianism).88

[80]SANASARIAN, supra note 16, at 120
[81]See BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, THE BAHÁ’Í S OF IRAN: A REPORT ON THE PERSECUTION OF A RELIGIOUS MINORITY 83
(1982) [hereinafter BIC REPORT ON THE PERSECUTION OF A RELIGIOUS MINORITY] for a copy of a letter sent by a secret service
official to the director of SAVAK regarding Anjuman-i Tablighat-i Islami [the Islamic Propaganda Organization], dated
November 1972 (stating that the head of the organization “has requested necessary assistance from SAVAK to attack the Bahá’ís
in a reasonable [logical] way”, and emphasizing the need to “make them understand that their actions must not be of a provocative and disruptive nature." See also letter sent by Parviz Sabeti to Minister of Court, Darbariyyih Ta'sis-i Markaz-i Barayih Maslak-i Zalliyyih Baha'i [Regarding establishing a center for the wayward sect of Bahá’í], reproduced in MARTIN, THE PERSECUTION OF THE BAHÁ’ÍS OF IRAN, supra note 1, at 35 (agreeing that the Anjuman-i Tablighat-i Islami should be allowed to carry out their anti-Bahá’í activities “so long as they do not create public disorder.”) SANASARIAN, supra note 16 at 120, notes that SAVAK also possessed information on the Bahá’ís that fell into the regime’s hands); see also Kazemzadeh, supra note 76 (stating that Hojjatiyeh and SAVAK worked together.)

[82]See MARTIN, THE PERSECUTION OF THE BAHÁ’ÍS OF IRAN, supra note 1, at 26 (describing a “series of discriminatory regulations against Bahá’ís adopted by the government and enforced by SAVAK: a new Civil Service Code required applicants for government jobs to state their religion, and attendant regulations made it clear that candidates could be accepted only if they professed one of the recognized faiths.”)
[83]Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Ethnic and Religious Groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran: policy suggestions for the integration of minorities through participation in public life, 13 UN SUB-COMMISSION ON PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: WORKING GROUP ON MINORITIES, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.5/2003/WP.8 at 13 (May 5, 2003).
[84]For example, Hojjatiyeh set up branches in India and Pakistan; see Bahman Nikandish, Nabard-i Najavanmardanih, Anjuman-i Hojjatiyeh [An Unfair Battle: the Hojjatiyeh], available at http://www.iranbozorg.com/Articles/Hojjattiyeh.pdf (accessed July 13, 2006).
[85]See Hojjatiyeh entry, ENCYCLOPEDIA IRANICA 427, available at http://www.Bahá’í.org/persecution/iran/iranica2 (accessed June 28, 2006) (stating that “between the early 1950s and 1970s a great number of the future elite of the Islamic revolution were trained… in pedagogic and practical venues provided by Hojjatiyeh.”)
[86]Sermon quoted in article Anjuman-i Zidd-i Bahá’íyat Bayad Muzi' Khud ra Nisbat bih Vilayat-i Faqih Rushan Kunad [Anti- Bahá’í Organization Must Clarify Their Stance Regarding Supreme Leadership] ETTELA’AT, Issue. No. 16565, 10/8/1360 (November 1, 1981.)
[87]See RUBIN, supra note 71, at 25-31.
[88]See RUBIN, supra note 71, at 25-31.

 

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Baha'i, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Illegal Search and Seizure, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience