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

Other parallel government institutions such as local Revolutionary Committees, the Revolutionary Courts, and the Revolutionary Guards all helped to implement Khomeini’s agenda. The Revolutionary Committees, or Komitehs, were Islamic groups organized around mosques in communities around the nation.130 The backbone of the anti-Shah strikes and demonstrations in 1978, the Komitehs became a rival authority to the police after Khomeini’s return, and without any central oversight or control began enforcing what they viewed as the dictates of Shari' a law by arresting and punishing private individuals.131 The Revolutionary Courts emerged in the revolutionary period to put an end to the executions ordered by the individual Komitehs, and asserted control over the judicial authority of the state.132 Run by militant clerics, the Courts often operated beyond the scope of the government.133 The Revolutionary Guards, or Sepah-eh Pasdaran, served as the military arm of the Revolutionary Council. The Guards were a paramilitary force that also answered directly to the clerics, not the state.134

Khomeini and the Revolutionary Council gradually consolidated their control over all three institutions.135 To consolidate control over the Komitehs, Khomeini appointed Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani to impose and administer the Komitehs, which were merged into major district committees headed by clerics.136 Although he was an original member of the Revolutionary Council, Bazargan was unable to prevent the Council, the Revolutionary Guards, or the Revolutionary Courts from undermining his cabinet.137

The Islamic Constitution and the Bahá’í Community of Iran

The protégés of the most prominent anti-Bahá’í clerics of the 1950s and 1960s were now represented in the highest echelons of the nation’s government and so were able to enact many of the anti-Bahá’í bills and policies that had been blocked under the Pahlavi regime. Bahá’ís would soon lose what little informal recognition they received as a religious minority and find themselves firmly categorized by the new regime as political opponents and counter-revolutionaries.

In an interview with Professor James Cockroft published in the magazine Seven Days on February 23, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini made clear his views on Bahá’ís:

Cockroft: Will there be either religious or political freedom for the Bahá’ís under an Islamic government?
Khomeini: They are a political faction; they are harmful. They will not be accepted.
Cockroft: How about their freedom of religion – religious practice?
Khomeini: No.138

Within two weeks of Khomeini’s arrival in Iran, his spokesman in America, while reassuring American Jewish representatives that religious minorities would retain full political, cultural and religious rights, emphasized that the Bahá’ís would not receive the same guarantees.139 Other senior members of the regime echoed similar sentiments.140

[130]Id. at 82; THE IRANIANS, supra note 101, at 289.
[131]Id. at 82; THE IRANIANS, supra note 101, at 289.
[132]THE TURBAN FOR THE CROWN, supra note 71, at 136; MENASHRI, supra note 119, at 83.
[133]THE TURBAN FOR THE CROWN, supra note 71, at 136; THE IRANIANS, supra note 101, at 290.
[134]Id. at 288-90; MENASHRI, supra note 119, at 82.
[135]Id. at 31; THE TURBAN FOR THE CROWN, supra note 71, at 135.
[136]THE TURBAN FOR THE CROWN, supra note 71, at 135.
[137]THE IRANIANS, supra note 101, at 288-91; MENASHRI, supra note 119, at 82.
[138]The interview from December 1978 was published in the February 23, 1979 issue of SEVEN DAYS, cited in MARTIN, THE PERSECUTION OF THE BAHÁ’ÍS IN IRAN, supra note 1, at 31.
[139]See 2 U.S. Jews Hold Talk With Khomeini Aide on Outlook For Rights, N.Y. TIMES, Feb. 13, 1979 (describing interview with Shahriar Rouhani). The article explained that “the Ayatollah is said to regard [the Bahá’ís] as a political rather than a religious movement.”
[140]See, e.g., MARTIN, THE PERSECUTION OF THE BAHÁ’ÍS IN IRAN, supra note 1, at 43.

 

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