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

Falsafi continued his sermons until the end of Ramadan and avoided arrest, but he was never again admitted into the Shah’s presence and was henceforth banned from preaching the Friday sermon at the Masjed-eh Shah, at the time one of the country’s most influential religious platforms.50

The Ramadan sermons inspired mob violence directed against the Bahá’í community.51 In the third week of Ramadan the Military Governor of Tehran, Teymur Bakhtiar, ordered his forces to occupy the National Bahá’í Center (Hazíratu'l-Quds) in Tehran, an important religious site.52 Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Musavi Behbehani53 sent congratulatory messages to the Shah, Borujerdi and Falsafi marking the event.54 On May 22, 1955, a delegation headed by senior army officials, Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Nadir Batmanghlich and the Military Governor, Brigadier General Teymur Bakhtiar, led the demolition of building’s dome.55 The Muslim Spiritual Community of Qom subsequently issued a statement applauding the destruction of this “house of corruption” and stated that this act had attracted “special attention from the [Mahdi] and had certainly met with the agreement of His Excellency [the Shah].”56

The well-publicized drama surrounding the seizure of the National Bahá’í Center provoked further anti- Bahá’í attacks outside Tehran. On July 28, 1955, in the village of Hurmuzdak in Yazd, seven Bahá’ís,

[50]Id. at 209. The Masjed-eh Shah is a mosque located in Tehran.
[51]Falsafi states that “[t]he speeches against the Bahá’ís in Masjed-eh Shah and their broadcast from the radio caused a strange stir in the country and people who had suffered at the hands of this wayward sect were excited. Everywhere one would go, there was talk of the necessity of suppressing the Bahá’ís who were connected to Zionism and America.” Id at 201.
[52] See Subh-i Imruz Quva-yih Intizami “Hazíratu'l-Quds” Markaz-i Tabliqat-i Bahá'íyan Ra Ishghal Kard [This Morning the Armed Forces Occupied “Hazíratu'l-Quds”, Bahá’ís’ Propaganda Center], KAYHAN, No. 3571, 16/2/1334 (May 7, 1955); Markaz-i Bahá’íyan Chigunih Viran Shud [How Was the Bahá’í Center Destroyed], TULU', 4/3/1334 (May 26, 1955). This was the national Bahá’í center where a large collection of documents and records were kept.
[53] Ayatollah Behbehani, along with Borujerdi, headed the dominant faction among the Iranian clergy during the 1940s and 1950s. See AKHAVI, supra note 17, at xvii.
[54] See Tiligiaf-i Ayatollah Behbehani bih Pishgah-i Alahazrat-i Humayuni va Hazrat-i Ayatollah ul'Uzma Borujerdi, [Telegram from Ayatollah Behbehani to Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi and His Eminence the Shah], text reproduced in SHURA, No. 52, 19/2/1334 (May 10, 1955); Payam-hayih Muhimmi Kih Bayn-ih Ayatollah Borujerdi va Maghamat-i Mu'assir Rad va Badal Shudih Ast [Important Messages Exchanged Between Ayatollah Borujerdi and Important Officials], KHANDANIHA, No. 690, 111- 112; see also AKHAVI, supra note 17, at 77 (noting that Ayatollah Behbehani suggested that henceforth the day of this attack be observed as a religious holiday.)
[55]Id. at 87. See also, e.g., Subh-i Imruz Kharab Kardan-i Hazíratu'l-Quds Aqaz Shud; Timsar Sarlashkar Batmanghlich Avalin Kulang Ra Bih Zamin Zad [The Demolition of Hazíratu'l-Quds Started This Morning; General Batmanghlich Was The First to Strike With a Pickaxe], ETTELA’AT, 31/2/1334 (May 22, 1955) (stating that Batmanghlich brought the first blow to the building, Bakhtiar was present and assisted, and Falsafi was also present). Bakhtiar was supported by the Muslim clergy; see, e.g., Mulaqat-i Timsar Bakhtiyar ba Ayatollah Borujerdi [The Meeting of General Bakhtiar with Ayatollah Borujerdi], ITTIHAD-I MILLAL, 29/5/1334 (August 21, 1955) (reporting that Borujerdi thanked Bakhtiar for his work during the month of Ramadan.)
[56]Nami-yih Jami'iyyih Rawhaniyun-i Qom [Statement from [Muslim] Clerical Community of Qom], SITARIH-YIH ISLAM, 27/3/1334 (June 18, 1955). Such language was presumably intended to emphasize that the attack on the center was approved of by both religious and secular authorities. In 1957, several years after it was occupied by the military, an order was issued for the return of the National Bahá’í Center in Tehran to the Bahá’í community. See National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD (Vol. XIII, 1954-1963) at 295 [hereinafter BAHÁ’Í WORLD XIII].

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