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

Attorney General Musavi-Tabrizi stated in an interview with the government-funded newspaper Kayhan Hava'i:

[The Bahá’ís] agitate and sabotage in some affairs, and spy for others... All of these problems have caused us to announce right now that all the collective and administrative activities of Bahá’ísm in Iran are, and have always been, banned. The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Constitution of the country does not recognize them.225

Before the Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly complied with the ban, they released an open letter to Iranian leaders refuting the government's allegations. The letter detailed the abuses faced by the Bahá’ís in the Islamic Republic, and appealed to the Iranian people, to the Islamic government and to God to restore their rights as Iranian citizens and as human beings. This letter was the final act of the National Spiritual Assembly before they voluntarily disbanded.226

Despite the dissolution, IRI authorities continued to harass and intimidate the former National Spiritual Assembly members, former members of Local Spiritual Assemblies and other administrative officials around the country, as well as every individual who had signed the open letter defending the Bahá’í community. Between late 1983 and early 1984 over 500 Bahá’ís – most of whom were former council members or related to former members – were arrested without charge.227

In time, seven former members of the third National Spiritual Assembly were arrested and eventually executed by the government:228

Jahángír Hidáyatí, who had already attracted much hostile attention from the Islamic regime as a board member of the Bahá’í-run Nawnahálán Corporation (see 5.2), was arrested on June 30, 1983, and held in solitary confinement in Evin prison for eleven months, during which time he was repeatedly tortured in an effort to persuade him to recant his faith on public television. He refused. Hidáyatí was executed on May 15, 1984.229
Shápúr (Húshang) Markazí was arrested in September 1983. During the course of his imprisonment, torturers broke his ribs and damaged one eye so badly that it seriously impaired his vision. Their goal was reportedly to force him to admit to false charges implicating the Bahá’í institutions as a network involved in espionage and himself as a spy.230 He was executed on September 23, 1984.
Ahmad Bashiri was arrested in July of 1983 for serving on several Local Spiritual Assemblies in different towns and eventually on the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran. He was severely tortured during his 15 months in prison and finally executed on November 1, 1984.231

[225]Id.
[226]See Open Letter from National Spiritual Assembly of Iran to various IRI officials, dated 12/6/1362 (September 3, 1983) (on file with IHRDC). In this letter, which was delivered to some 2,000 government officials and prominent persons, the NSA called on the IRI to end the persecution, arrest, torture, and imprisonment of Bahá’ís “for imaginary crimes and on baseless pretexts, because God knows—and so do the authorities—that the only ‘crime’ of which these innocent ones are guilty is that of their beliefs... .” Emphasizing the implausibility of the espionage allegations, the letter asked: “What kind of spy is an 85-year-old man from Yazd who has never set foot outside his village? … How could students, housewives, innocent young girls, and old men and women… be spies? How could [village farmers] be spies? What secret intelligence documents have been found in their possession? What espionage equipment has come to hand? What ‘spying’ activities were engaged in by the primary school children who have been expelled from their schools?” The letter further emphasized that “spying is an element of politics, while noninterference in politics is an established principle of the Bahá’í faith.” Responding to the accusation that Bahá’ís had been “hoarding” spare automobile parts, the NSA objected: “[i]f the Prosecutor chooses to label the Bahá’í administration as a network of espionage, let him at least consider it intelligent enough not to plan the overthrow of such a strong regime by hoarding a few spare parts!” The letter also drew attention to the fact that while Muslims were praised for sending money abroad (e.g. to Iraq and Jerusalem) for the upkeep of religious shrines, when a Bahá’í did the same, it was considered “an unforgivable sin and… proof that he has done so in order to strengthen other countries [particularly Israel].”
[227]CAMPAIGN TO ELIMINATE A RELIGIOUS MINORITY, supra note 154, at 4.
[228]Id. at 3.
[229]National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD (Vol. XIX, 1983-1986) at 205 [hereinafter BAHÁ’Í WORLD XIX].
[230]Id. at 208.
[231]Id. at 211.

 

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