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

These allegations were corroborated by a public statement released by the National Organization of the Universities of Iran (Shiraz Division), on December 16, 1978, which stated:

In the last two or three days a number of suspicious individuals, using the religious emotions of the bereaved people and employing professional mobs, have engaged themselves with careful planning in destroying, burning, and looting the houses and shops of individuals who are associated with Bahá’ísm. It is strange that all through these incidents, the police and the military Government have not interfered at all!122

Although martial law was announced by the Shah’s government in November 1978 in an attempt to bring public unrest under control, the attacks against the Bahá’ís continued with impunity. On January 12, 1979, four days before the Shah fled Iran, a Bahá’í community was attacked in the tribal region of Boyer Ahmad, near Isfahan. Several hundred non-Bahá’í members of the Sadat-Mahmoudi tribe surrounded the homes of their fellow tribesmen who were Bahá’ís in the village of Kata. They fired at the Bahá’í families, destroyed their homes, burnt the town’s mill, uprooted orchards, and forced them to flee to the mountains. As attacks on the Bahá’ís in the region continued for weeks and extended from village to village, a number of clerics came to Kata to ask the Bahá’ís to recant their faith if they wanted to save their lives and property.123

On May 8, 1979 an article in Ayandegan described a demonstration held by 300 residents of Boyer Ahmad province who went to the Gata area near Yasuj demanding that the Bahá’ís in that area convert to Islam. They warned the Bahá’ís that if they did not convert, their homes and belongings would be looted. However, the demonstrators were apparently prevented from carrying out their violent threats by the arrival of Ayatollah Malak Husseini, a local cleric and spiritual leader, accompanied by Lieutenant Baqiri, a senior local law enforcement official.124 Nonetheless, by the end of May 1979, the continuing violence had forced Bahá’ís in the area who refused to recant to leave home and set up refugee camps in the Isfahan area for a number of weeks. They were not able to return to their villages until mid-July.125

4.3. 1979 and the Victory of the Islamic Revolution

The Shah departed from Iran on January 16, 1979. With the Shah gone, the government of Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar collapsed. On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 15 years in exile and appointed Mahdi Bazargan, a religious nationalist, as provisional prime minister. Bazargan was the former deputy prime minister under Mohammad Mossadegh, and as such his appointment was intended to appease other members of the anti-Shah opposition. The official government led by Bazargan was composed of mostly men from the National Front and prominent leaders of the anti-Shah movement.126

Before returning to Iran, Khomeini had established a secret Revolutionary Council.127 The purpose of this Council was to establish a government-in-waiting that could lay the groundwork for a new regime based on Islamic principles.128 The Revolutionary Council ran parallel governmental agencies, intervened in the conduct of public affairs, and soon began to eclipse the official government led by Bazargan.129

[122]Public Statement Made by the National Organization of the Universities of Iran (Shiraz Division), 25/9/1357 (December 16, 1978), on file with IHRDC.
[123]BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 271-274.
[124]See 300 Tazahur Kunandihgan Tahdid Kardand; Bahá’ían Gata dar Yasuj Tahdid Shudand Agar Musalman Nashavand Amvalishan Gharat Khahad Shud [A Protesting Mob of 300 Threatened Bahá’ís of Gata in Yasuj That Their Belongings Would Be Looted if They Do Not Convert to Islam], AYANDEGAN, Issue No. 2351, 18/2/1358 (May 8, 1979).
[125]BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 273-274.
[126]MENASHRI, supra note 119, at 78.
[127]Id. at 81.
[128]Id. at 114-5; THE TURBAN FOR THE CROWN, supra note 71, at 134.
[129]MENASHRI, supra note 119, at 81-82.

 

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