Bahai News - Davis Baha'is react to recent persecutions in Iran
Thursday October 22nd 1998
Davis Baha'is react to recent persecutions in Iran
By Manish Daftari
Aggie New Writer
With the recent arrests and executions of members of the Baha'i Faith in
Iran, Davis Baha'is are being forced to react to a situation that has
been given limited national and international attention.
In early October, James Rubin, the spokesperson for the United States
State Department, said that death sentences were confirmed against three
prisoners on death row in Mashad, Iran. They were all members of the
Baha'i Faith and arrested in October or November of last year for
holding "family life" meetings.
More recently, the state department reported a widespread assault on
Baha'i educational activities in Iran. According to the report, 36
faculty members of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education were
arrested in 14 cities across the country. These actions, including the
confiscation of textbooks, 70 computers, scientific papers and documents,
were orchestrated by the Ministry of Information, an intelligence agency
of the Iranian government.
Along with these events, Ruhollah Rowhani, an Iranian salesperson of
medical supplies and health products, was imprisoned in Mashad in
September 1997. He was charged with converting a Muslim woman to the
Baha'i Faith and was subsequently executed July 21, 1998.
Rubin condemned the recent events and urged the Iranian government to
re-evaluate its policy toward members of the Baha'i Faith.
"We have urged, publicly, the government of Iran to protect members
of the Baha'i Faith and...ease restrictions on the practice of
religion," Rubin said in a release.
In Davis, members of the Baha'i Faith reacted to the latest news with
David Mackill, a professor in the agronomy department and a member of
the local spiritual assembly of the Baha'is of Davis, said the Baha'i
community in Davis has been personally affected by the recent
persecutions in Iran.
"These events have affected the Baha'is in Davis because of the close
bonds that unite the Baha'is throughout the world," Mackill said.
"There are Iranian Baha'is in the U.S. who personally know
individuals who are suffering or have been killed, but the feeling of
loss is shared by all members of the Baha'i community," he added.
Though a clear motive has not been defined for the recent events,
Glenn Fullmer, the assistant to the coordinator for internal affairs of
the national spiritual assembly of the Baha'i, said the reason behind
the recent persecutions is based primarily on religious differences
rather than politics.
"The motive is based entirely on religion, " Fullmer said. "The
Baha'is have never sided with any faction in government. Their sole
desire is to exist as a religious community in Iran, regardless of who
is in power."
Fullmer also said the recent events do not show an existing animosity
between the Muslim majority and the Baha'i community in Iran.
"The average Iranian Muslim has no animosity against Baha'is,"
Fullmer said. "In fact, there's a lot of friendships, there's a lot of
family relationships and even marriages."
"There's been a lot of misinformation on the part of the government
about the Baha'i community in that country," he continued. "I think that
might lead to some of the prejudices."
Fullmer went on to say that persecutions of Baha'is in Iran have been
instigated by the government as a way of diverting attention from
"None of the legal proceedings are public and there are no paper
documents produced," Fullmer said.
"In other words, the charges are not public and there are no court
records that are available on paper," he continued. "The consensus is
that all these things are being conveyed orally...apparently, the legal
proceedings are all taking place in secrecy."
Because the creed of the Baha'i Faith does not allow members to
participate in party politics, Baha'is of Davis are finding other means
to respond to the current situation in Iran. Pejman Naraghi-Arani, a
graduate student in the department of plant pathology, said local
members are primarily trying to educate and inform the community on the
"We have written letters to our congressmen and senators, and we have
tried to contact newspapers," Naraghi-Arani said.
"The Baha'i International Community, located in New York, has brought
the situation to the attention of the United Nations, and the National
Spiritual Assembly has brought this to the attention of the White
House," he added.
Despite the relative distance of the events, Naraghi-Arani said the
Baha'is of Davis have stressed how important it is that Davis students
acknowledge and understand international affairs.
"It is important because today's university students are tomorrow's
leaders, educators and industrialists, and it is important for them to
understand the importance of a world view," Naraghi-Arani emphasized.
©Copyright 1998, The California Aggie
Page last updated/revised 120300
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page