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

By the late 1980s, a combination of increasing international pressure and the internal stresses caused by the Iraq-Iran war seems to have led to a reduction in the overt acts of persecution directed against the Bahá'ís. In 1988, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl reported that, although 152 Bahá'ís were still in prison, the “intensity of the campaign of the persecution against the Bahá'ís had somewhat diminished in the first half of 1988.”329

6.2. Renewed Focus on the Bahá'í Question

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini on June 3, 1989, the constitution was amended and the Assembly of Experts elected a new Supreme Leader.330 Hojjatolislam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who had held the office of the presidency from 1981-1989, was elevated by the Council of Experts to the rank of Ayatollah and chosen to be their Supreme Leader.331 Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was elected as the new President.

Evidence of a renewed regime focus on the Bahá’í community came in a confidential memo dated February 25, 1991, written by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi Golpaygani, Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.332 The memo summarizes the steps taken towards the development of a new government policy on “The Bahá’í Question” before enumerating the actual policy initiatives that resulted from the process. In December of 1990, Ayatollah Khamenei instructed President Rafsanjani to address “the Bahá’í Question,” and the issue was referred to the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution (SCCR).333 It is clear from the text of the memo that Ayatollah Khamenei was seeking concrete policy proposals “devised in such a way that everyone will understand what should or should not be done.”334 The SCCR took into consideration the contents of the IRI constitution, religious and civil laws and general policies of the country before developing the following policy guidelines:

A. General status of the Bahá’ís within the country system:
1. They will not be expelled from the country without reason.
2. They will not be arrested, imprisoned, or penalized without reason.
3. The Government’s dealing with them must be in such a way that their progress and development are blocked.
B. Educational and cultural status:
1. They can be enrolled in schools provided they have not identified themselves as Bahá'ís.
2. Preferably, they should be enrolled in schools which have a strong and imposing religious ideology.
3. They must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Bahá'ís.
4. Their political (espionage) activities must be dealt with according to appropriate Government laws and policies, and their religious and propaganda activities should be answered by giving them religious and cultural responses, as well as propaganda.
5. Propaganda institutions (such as the Islamic Propaganda Organization) must establish an independent section to counter the propaganda and religious activities of the Bahá'ís.
6. A plan must be devised to confront and destroy their cultural roots outside the country.

[329]Report of the Economic and Social Council on the Situation of human rights in Iran, October 13, 1988, U.N. Doc. A/43/705, ¶¶ 36 and 41.
[330]Khomeini’s initial successor was to be Ayatollah Montazeri, but after Montazeri publicly denounced the mass prison executions which took place in 1988, he was no longer in consideration for this position. See ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN, TORTURED CONFESSIONS, supra note 6, at 219-221; see also Letter from Ayatollah Khomeini to Ayatollah Montazeri (November 22, 1997), available at: http://www.irvl.net/Translation%20of%20Ayatollah%20Khomeini's%20Letter%20Dismissing%20Montazeri.htm (accessed October 23, 2006.)
[331]LIFE OF THE AYATOLLAH, supra note 38, at 309-310.
[332]Namiyyih Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi Golpaygani, Dabir-i Shurayih A'liyyih Inqilab-i Farhangi [Memorandum by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi Golpaygani, Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, dated 6/12/1369 (February 25, 1991)] [hereinafter SCCR Memorandum] [attached as Appendix 7]. The document also appears to contain a note from the Supreme Leader (see IRAN’S SECRET BLUEPRINT, supra note 186, at 51). This document was brought to the attention of UN Special Representative Reynaldo Galindo Pohl in 1993; see http://info.bahai.org/article-1-8-3-14.html. The IRI, however, claimed the document was a forgery. In 1991, members of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution included President Rafsanjani, Abdullah Ja'far Ali Jasbi, Ahmad Ahmadi, Hassan Ibrahim Habibi, Ali Akbar Velayati, Iraj Fazel, Ali Shariatmadari, and Reza Davari Ardakani.
[333]SCCR Memorandum, supra note 332.
[334]Id.

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