Bahai News - Baha'is: We continue to suffer persecution in Iran Tuesday, July 18 2000 10:01 15 Tammuz 5760

Baha'is: We continue to suffer persecution in Iran

By David Rudge

HAIFA (July 18) - More than 200 Baha'is in Iran have been executed for their beliefs in the past 20 years, Douglas Samimi-Moore, spokesman for the Baha'i International Community, said yesterday.

The most recent execution was carried out two years ago. Scores remain in prison and some are still facing execution.

"Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, there has been a wave of persecution targeted against the Baha'is with the aim, in recent times at least, of bringing about the slow death of the Baha'i community," said Samimi-Moore.

"The Baha'i faith is not a recognized religion in Iran. It does not enjoy constitutional protection or any of the human rights, even those that are minimally extended to other minority groups, even though it is the largest religious minority in Iran, with 350,000 people.

"Since 1979, more than 200 members of our leadership, people who had served on our national governing councils, have been executed, usually without trial - summary executions on the basis of charges of the most specious kind.

"The United Nations Human Rights Commission has come out with resolution after resolution which have been endorsed by the General Assembly over the years. Other countries have raised their voices in protest, so that indeed the eyes of the world are on Iran.

"Despite all that, we still have Baha'is in prison and some under sentence of death. Bahai's are still not allowed to conduct normal lives - go to school or enter into business for instance - while public gatherings of Baha'is are still severely restricted," he said.

The faith originated in Iran in the mid-19th century and is based on the writings of the founder, Baha'u'llah. He taught the unity of religious truth, the oneness of God and the human family, equality between men and women, and that humanity is in a period of transition which will ultimately lead to a peaceful, global civilization.

Baha'u'llah was exiled from Iran and eventually imprisoned in Acre, then a prison colony of the Ottoman Empire. He spent the remainder of his days in Palestine and died in 1892. His remains are interred at a shrine north of Acre.

Shortly before his death, Baha'u'llah visited Haifa and instructed his oldest son and designated heir, Abdu'l-Baha, to construct a shrine in the city that would house the remains of "The Bab" - the forerunner of the Baha'i faith who had proclaimed the coming of Baha'u'llah.

The shrine was constructed in 1909 and now forms part of a massive complex on the face of the Mount Carmel, which is the world center for the faith, which has six million followers in 200 countries and territories.

"We are very hopeful, but until now there has not been any official recognition of the [Iranian] Baha'i community," said Samimi-Moore, in a meeting with journalists yesterday to preview the scheduled opening to the public in May next year of the terraced gardens that form part of the Baha'i complex.

"There haven't been any recent crackdowns, but there was an execution of one of our members as recently as late 1998, and there are ongoing appeals for Baha'is still under death sentence.

"The reasons for their arrests are various. The Baha'is in Iran have been contributing toward the buildings, terraces and supporting the world center here in Israel virtually since Baha'u'llah was exiled here, and one of the charges against them is that they are supporters of Israel and agents of Zionism.

"Baha'is are also charged with prostitution, primarily because Baha'i marriages are not recognized by the Iranian regime and therefore the Baha'i women are living in sin. Baha'is are also accused of been agents or spies for what the Iranians describe as the Western imperialist powers. Basically, Bahai's in Iran are regarded and treated as heretics.

"For us the real litmus test of the movements for reform in Iran will be their attitude to the Baha'i faith. This will show whether they are progressive and forward-oriented or not," Samimi-Moore added.

©Copyright 2000, Jerusalem Post
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