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

Dr. Farhád Asdaqí was called to Tehran and asked to serve on the National Spiritual Assembly after the arrest of the second National Assembly. He did this until the third National Assembly was disbanded in September 1983. Dr. Asdaqí went into hiding in 1983 but was finally arrested in June 1984. He was executed on November 19, 1984 – after four months of imprisonment and torture.
Farid Bihmardi was elected and served on the last National Spiritual Assembly of Iran. He was arrested in the streets of Tehran and was imprisoned a total of twenty-two months in Evin prison. During this period he was tortured and spent nearly 9 months in solitary confinement. He was never allowed visitors and was executed on June 10, 1986. It is believed that he was hung; however, since he was buried before his family was told of his execution, no proper examination was done to determine the cause of death.232
Ardishír Akhtarí was arrested by four Revolutionary Guards from Zarbat Group at Evin on September 11, 1984 at his home. He spent over three years in prison before he was finally executed on September 28, 1987.233
Amír-Husayn Nádirí was also arrested on September 11, 1984. He was imprisoned at Evin and Gohardasht where he was tortured extensively. He was held in detention for over three years before being executed with Ardishír Akhtarí on September 28, 1987.234

The IHRDC concludes from the events outlined above that the Revolutionary Courts and other agencies of the Islamic Republic pursued a deliberate strategy designed both to deprive the Bahá’í community of leadership and to criminalize an entire faith. The widespread and systematic nature of the persecution of the Iranian Bahá’ís strongly suggests coordinated action and the public statements of senior members of the Iranian regime serve only to further reinforce this impression.

5.2. Cultural and Social Repression

In addition to targeting individuals that were imprisoned, tortured or executed, the government of the Islamic Republic also launched a direct assault on the collective cultural and social fabric of the Bahá’í community in Iran through the destruction of important religious, historical and cultural sites, and the confiscation of collectively-held community property.

Destruction of Religious and Cultural Monuments

Numerous Bahá’í religious and cultural monuments were seized, desecrated and/or demolished in the post-Revolutionary period. The first step towards the identification, confiscation and destruction of Bahá’í cultural monuments was the simultaneous confiscation in February 1979 of the assets of two companies: Nawnahálán and Umaná. These were longstanding Bahá’í commercial ventures allowing Bahá’í individuals to own and invest property despite the Pahlavi-era restrictions on property ownership by the Bahá’í community.235

According to Bahá’í records, the premises of both companies were taken over by Revolutionary Guards during the summer of 1979.236 While Nawnahálán was an investment company, Umana (“Trustees”) was created to be the holding company for all Iranian Bahá’í properties, including almost all of the sites of historical or religious significance.237 The confiscation of Umana therefore allowed the government to easily and quickly identify all the sites of importance to the Bahá’ís through the inspection of the company’s records.

Between March and April 1979, a number of Bahá’í religious monuments were confiscated or destroyed. In Reza'iyeh (Urumiyeh), authorities confiscated the upper room of a building where the Báb had stayed. Another Bahá’í holy site, Síyáh-Chál, was confiscated in Tehran, and in Isfahan, a holy place known as the “House of the King of Martyrs and Beloved of Martyrs” was confiscated. The Garden of Badasht, where Bábís held their first conference in 1848, was demolished.238 The Home of Bahá’u’lláh in Darkula was demolished and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Takur, where the Bahá’í founder spent his youth, was confiscated. In December 1981, it was completely destroyed and the land sold.239 On July 24, 1979, the holy site known as “the House of the Martyrs” in Arak was destroyed by an unknown group, who also removed the remains of the people buried there.240

[232]National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD (Vol. XX, 1986-1992) [hereinafter BAHÁ’Í WORLD XX] at 385.
[233]Id. at 387; MAHMEHR GOLISTANEH, A TRIBUTE TO THE FAITHFUL (1992) 210.
[234]BAHÁ’Í WORLD XX, supra note 232, at 387; MAHMEHR GOLISTANEH, A TRIBUTE TO THE FAITHFUL (1992) 211.
[235]See, e.g., SUMMARY OF PERSECUTION DURING THE PAHLAVI REGIME, supra note 4, at 6 (asserting that “[p]roperties belonging to the Bahá’í community could neither be held under the name of the Bahá’í community nor registered for religious purposes. Such properties had to be registered under the names of individual Bahá’ís, and thus [even religious sites] became subject to property and inheritance taxes.”)
[236]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 252. Among the properties the Umana Company held were holy places, including the House of the Báb in Shiraz, the houses of Bahá’u’lláh in Tehran and Takur, a temple site, the national Bahá’í headquarters, Bahá’í cemeteries, and a Bahá’í-operated hospital in Tehran; see THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE, MESSAGES FROM THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE 1963 TO 1986: THE THIRD EPOCH OF THE FORMATIVE AGE (compiled by Geoffry W. Marks, 1986) at 753..
[237]See THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE, MESSAGES FROM THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE 1963 TO 1986: THE THIRD EPOCH OF THE FORMATIVE AGE (compiled by Geoffry W. Marks, 1986) at 748, 753.
[238]See Map of Bahá’í Holy Places Confiscated or Destroyed (March-April 1979) in National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, Attacks on the Bahá’ís of Iran (September 9, 1979).
[239]Bahá’í International Community, The persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran – Major Developments During December 1981/January 1982 (January 19, 1982) at 2 [hereinafter Major Developments During December 1981/January 1982].
[240]Letter from the Department of the Secretariat, International House of Justice to the Bahá’í International Community (August 2, 1979) (on file with IHRDC).

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