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

Ruling 59/70

In 1980, the Revolutionary Court in Yazd passed “Ruling 59/70” which empowered the local authorities led by Ayatollah Saduqi to confiscate privately-held Bahá’í property following the death of the owner.276 The actual text of this ruling has remained secret and inaccessible, although its implementation sheds much light onto its contents. At first, the damaging effects of this ruling were not immediately apparent, and its implementation proceeded very gradually. In the initial stages, individual Bahá’ís would be summoned to the Revolutionary Court, where it was confirmed that the individual was indeed Bahá’í and determined what property he or she held. From that hearing onwards, the property was considered to be confiscated.277 However, the ruling permitted the owner to remain, with his or her family, in the residence for the remainder of the owner’s life. Upon the owner’s death, however, the property could not remain in the family unless it was inherited by a Muslim family member.278 If no Muslim relative could be found, the property automatically transferred to the ownership of Imam Khomeini’s Charitable Organization (Komitiyyih Imdadih Imam Khomeini).279 A copy of a letter from the Property Office of the Province of Yazd to the Registrar’s Office of Yazd illustrates how Ruling 59/70 was enforced:

According to verdict number 73/861/D/R-23/6/73 issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd, considers the accused, Mihrabán Ahurá'í, son of Jamshíd, as applicable to the ruling 59/70. Therefore, an ownership deed is in the process of being issued in the name of the Commerce Complex of the Imam Khomeini’s Charitable Organization in Yazd for the orchard… The aforementioned individual’s deed of ownership [for this property] is therefore void and if the deed is presented to you by anyone, first, you are to refrain from doing any transaction with that individual and second, take possession of the presented deed and send it to this office.280

IHRDC has obtained several letters of this type, each detailing a near identical story. The court rulings include such language as “in light of the content of the file and the report… which indicates that the aforementioned and his wife have passed away and that their children are also Bahá’ís – hence this case is subject to ruling 59/70 of this court, and therefore an order in favor of the confiscation of their properties for the benefit of the Commerce Complex of the Imam’s Charitable Organization is issued and announced.”281

Ayatollah Saduqi proved particularly assiduous in his persecution of the Bahá’í community of Yazd. In a Friday sermon delivered on June 20, 1980, Ayatollah Saduqi denounced the Bahá’ís as heretics and announced that the Bahá’ís “were plotting in all the towns of Iran.” He invited the “faithful” to “seek out the Bahá’ís and deliver them to the revolutionary prosecutor’s office.”282 His remarks provoked a mob attack resulting in the destruction of hundreds of Bahá’í homes and the dismissal of several hundred Bahá’ís from their jobs.283

Purging Committees

On June 12, 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed a Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution (SCCR), tasked with “Islamizing” the universities, training and selecting professors and students, and bringing the university curriculum and management policies in line with the goals of the Cultural Revolution.284 The SCCR was initially composed of six members,285 but over time it expanded to include “the heads of the three branches of government”, which at the time included Khamenei (Executive), Ardebili (Judiciary) and Rafsanjani (Legislative),286 as well as the Ministers of Education and Culture and other members of parliament.287

[276]Namiyyih Bahá’íyan-i Yazd [Letter from Yazd], 25/9/1374 (December 16, 1995) at 1 (on file with IHRDC).
[278]Dadgah-i Inqilab-i Islamiyyih Yazd, Barg-i Bazju'i va Suratmajlis, Darbariyyih Amval-i CA [Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd, Record of Interrogation and Proceedings regarding the property of CA], dated 2/12/1372 (February 21, 1994).
[279]Namiyyih Bahá’íyan-i Yazd [Letter from Yazd], 25/9/1374 (December 16, 1995).
[280]Namih bih Daftarkhaniyyih Asnad-i Rasmiyyih Yazd Darbariyyih Mihrabán Ahurá'í [Letter to Registrar’s Office of Yazd, regarding Mihrabán Ahurá'í] (on file with IHRDC).
[281]Dadgah-i Inqilab-i Islamiyyih Yazd, Barg-i Bazju'i va Suratmajlis, Darbariyyih CB [Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd, Record of Interrogation and Proceedings, regarding the case of CB], dated 22/8/1373 (November 13, 1994) (on file with the IHRDC) [attached as Appendix 4].
[282]Eric Rouleau, Des militaries de haut rang sont arrêtés pour complot [High-ranking military officers are arrested for plotting], LE MONDE, June 24, 1980; see also Letter from the Bahá’í International Community to Dr. Mansour Farhang, Permanent Representative to the UN (June 26, 1980) (on file with IHRDC) and THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 256.
[283]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 256.
[284]Ra'is-i Jahad-i Danishgahi az Shura-i A'liyyih Inqilab-i Farhangi Miguyad, Paksazi Nabud, Tasfiyyih Bud [The Head of the University Jihad Committee Talks About the Supreme Counsel of the Cultural Revolution; “It Was Not Cleansing, It Was Filtering.”], SHARGH (online), 21/10/1384 (January 11, 2006), available at: http://sharghnewspaper.com/841013/html/societ.htm#s351291 (accessed November 1, 2006) [hereinafter SHARGH]; Official website of Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution [Shura-i A'liyyih Inqilab-i Farhangi], available at http://www.iranculture.org (accessed December 8, 2006) [hereinafter SCCR website].
[285]Khomeini appointed the six original members of the SCCR in his order of June 1980. They were: Dr. Bahonar, Dr. Hassan Habibi, Dr. Shariatmadari, Dr. Abdol-Karim Soroush, Jalaleddin Farsi, Mahdi Rabbani Amlashi and Shams Al-Ahmad. SHARGH, supra note 284.
[286]SCCR website, supra note 284, states that the addition of these members was announced by Khomeini in 1984.
[287]SHARGH, supra note 284. The SCCR website, supra note 284, states that in 1983, Khomeini responded to a proposal made by then-president Khamenei to restructure the committee, and added the following members: Prime Minister, Ministers of Culture and Higher Education and Culture and Islamic Guidance, two students appointed by University Jihad and Mr. Ali Shariatmadari. Then, in 1984, the heads of the three branches of government were added, as well as Mahdavi Kani, Seyyed Kazem Akrami (Minister of Education), Reza Devri, Nasrollah Pourjavadi and Mohammed Reza Hashemi.

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