Bahai News - Persecution said to grow harsher for Iranian Bahai's
Persecution said to grow harsher for Iranian Bahai's
By CLARK MORPHEW
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Thursday, November 5, 1998
There is no question now that the Baha'is who live in Iran are in for
severe persecution by their government.
Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, 36 members of the Baha'i Institute of Higher
Education were arrested without cause. All but seven have been released.
Officers of the government's intelligence agency, the Ministry of
Information, carried out the arrests. The government officials seized 70
computers, textbooks, scientific papers, and records and school furniture.
All those arrested were asked to sign a document declaring the Baha'i
Institute for Higher Education no longer existed as of Sept. 29.
All 36 detainees refused to sign the declaration.
Intelligence officers then raided 500 homes of Baha'is throughout Iran and
confiscated household effects such as television sets and furniture. The
officers said they had permission to carry out the raids from the attorney
Baha'i officials say these arrests and raids are proof of a "centrally
orchestrated campaign" to nullify the Baha'i community and force its
members to convert to Islam. This campaign became widely known in 1993 when
a secret document was released from the Iranian Supreme Revolutionary
Council, which earlier had adopted a policy on "The Baha'i Question." The
document contained the following instructions:
The government must deal with them (Baha'is) in such a way that their
progress and development are blocked.
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
A plan must be devised to confront and destroy their cultural roots
outside of the country.
Deny them employment if they identify themselves as Baha'is.
Deny them any position of influence, such as in the educational sector.
The government has carried out most of those declarations. Officials
have ordered businesses and government offices to fire Baha'i employees.
They have interrupted the moral education of Baha'i children. They have
confiscated property, denied pensions, and kept youth from entering
institutions of higher learning.
But the Baha'i Spiritual Assembly believes the situation in Iran will
escalate rapidly and will become even worse for the faithful living there.
The irony of this situation is that the Baha'i religion is one of the
gentlest on the Earth. The faith was founded in Persia, now Iran, during
the mid-19th century by a young merchant who called himself the Bab, which
means "gate" in Arabic. The Bab called together people to prepare for the
arrival of a new messenger from God; he was executed by Iran's
Muslim-controlled government in 1850. Among the Bab's followers was a
nobleman's son who is known today as Bahaullah, or The Glory of God. The
latter part of Bahaullah's life was spent in prison, where he wrote many
of the sacred scriptures of the religion.
The Bahai faith stresses the unity of all religions and humankind. They are
opposed to any kind of prejudice, and they are pacifists who believe that
someday world peace will be achieved. They insist on equality of the sexes
and sharing material goods with the poor.
Obviously, this is not a religion that invites hatred.
Yet for the century and a half the religion has existed, the Muslim
community in Iran has viciously persecuted Baha'is, restricting the
practice of the faith and subjecting followers to torture and execution
by firing squad. Various legislative bodies around the globe have
condemned the Islamic vendetta against Baha'is and as a result the
persecution was reduced for a time.
But now Baha'is fear they will be subjected to a far worse round of
torture and persecution than ever. And the only defense is prayer. So all
over the world, Baha'is are praying for their brothers and sisters in
Iran. Many younger people have escaped from Iran secretly but the process
is arduous and expensive.
Therefore, if you are a praying person, I beg you to ask the Almighty to
intervene in Iran. The Baha'is believe that God will come to their aid in
Iran, that freedom to worship will someday be theirs, and that all
humankind will live together in harmony.
Clark Morphew is an ordained clergyman and is religion writer for the
St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Write to him at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 345 Cedar St., St. Paul
©Copyright 1998, Bergen Record Corp.
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