Room of the Báb's home in Shiraz, Iran, where He declared His mission, May 1844.
On May 23, 1844, in Shiraz, Persia, a young man announced the imminent appearance of the Messenger of God awaited by all the
peoples of the world. Although the young man's given name was Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, He took the name "Báb," a title that means
"Gate" or "Door" in Arabic. His coming, the Báb explained, represented the portal through which the universally anticipated
Revelation of God to all humanity would soon appear. The central theme of His major work--the Bayán--was the imminent
appearance of a second Messenger from God, one Who would be far greater than the Báb, and Whose mission would be to usher in
the age of peace and justice promised in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and all the other world religions. This event marks the
start of the Baha'i Era. For the Baha'is the House of the Báb, where the Báb delared his mission is a Holy site.
The boldness of the Báb's proclamation--which put forth the vision of an entirely new society--stirred intense fear within
the religious and secular establishments. Accordingly, persecution of the Bábis quickly developed. Thousands of the Báb's
followers were put to death in a horrific series of massacres. The extraordinary moral courage evidenced by the Bábis in the
face of this onslaught was recorded by a number of Western observers. European intellectuals such as Ernest Renan, Leo
Tolstoy, Sarah Bernhardt and the Comte de Gobineau were deeply affected by this spiritual drama that had unfolded in what
was regarded as a darkened land. The nobility of the Báb's life and teachings and the heroism of His followers became a
frequent topic of conversation in the salons of Europe. The story of Táhirih, the great poet and Bábí heroine, who declared
to her persecutors, "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women," traveled as far
and as quickly as that of the Báb Himself.
This Promised One was Baha'u'allah ("The Glory of God"), and His followers are the Bahá'ís. Throughout the past century, the
Bahá'ís of Iran have been persecuted. With the triumph of the Islamic revolution in 1979,
this persecution has been systematized. More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been
imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. All
national and local Bahá'í administrative institutions have been banned by the Government, and Bahá'í holy places,
cemeteries and community properties have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed.
Bayt-al-Mahdi, Shiraz Iran (2002)
After the authorities demolished the House of the Báb, they decided to construct a Islamic religious center on that
site. Ironically the new structure is named "Bayt-al-Mahdi" or "The House of the Mahdi (Promissed One)".
In 1993, a secret Iranian Government document surfaced. Written in 1991 by the Secretary of the Supreme Revolutionary
Cultural Council, the memorandum outlined a government blueprint for the quiet strangulation of Iran's Bahá'í community,
stating specifically that their treatment should be "such that their progress and development should be blocked" and
spelling out a series of guidelines for achieving such a goal.
As of yet, there is no evidence that conditions for the Bahá'í community in Iran have changed. The Bahá'ís of Iran continue
to be denied fundamental human rights, including the right to practice their religion freely. The full emancipation of this
peaceful, law-abiding community therefore remains a central concern of Bahá'ís around the world.
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