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Religion Library: Baha'i

Exploration and Conquest

Written by: Moojan Momen

In Mazindaran a vast number of the servants of God were exterminated. The Governor, under the influence of calumniators, robbed a great many of all that they possessed. Among the charges he laid against them was that they had been laying up arms, whereas upon investigation it was found out that they had nothing but an unloaded rifle! Gracious God! This people need no weapons of destruction, inasmuch as they have girded themselves to reconstruct the world. Their hosts are the hosts of goodly deeds, and their arms the arms of upright conduct, and their commander the fear of God. Blessed that one that judgeth with fairness . . . this people that they have become the exponents of justice, and so great hath been their forbearance, that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, and this notwithstanding that these whom the world hath wronged have endured tribulations the like of which the history of the world hath never recorded. . .

Do thou ponder on the penetrative influence of the Word of God. Every single one of these souls was first ordered to blaspheme and curse his faith, yet none was found to prefer his own will to the Will of God. (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 74-5)

Although the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 was intended to bring constitutional government and civil rights to all of the citizens of Iran, the actions of the Islamic religious leaders led to the exclusion of the Baha'i Faith from among the religions to be recognized in the Constitution and paved the way for subsequent human rights abuses. It caused problems for Baha'i institutions, including schools and medical facilities, and meant that local officials could harass Baha'is at will. As the country became more centralized and bureaucratic under the Pahlavi dynasty, the obstacles placed before the Baha'i community increased. The community was prevented from printing its own books and journals and even from importing Baha'i books. The large network of Baha'i schools that had been established was closed down by government order in 1934-5. Even marrying under the Baha'i marriage ceremony became a criminal offence, resulting in many young Baha'i men spending the first few months of their marriage in prison.

The abuses suffered by Baha'is under the Pahlavi regime fades into insignificance, however, when compared with what happened after the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. A government-directed systematic campaign attempted to eliminate the Baha'i community of Iran by placing them under such pressure as to drive them to become Muslims. All communally-owned Baha'i properties were confiscated and membership lists used to identify individual Baha'is. Baha'i holy places and cemeteries were destroyed. The Baha'i national leadership, many local Baha'i leaders, and other Baha'is were executed in the first few years of the Revolution. Baha'is were expelled from all government employment and it was decreed that they would have to repay all wages or pensions that they had received from the government. Private businesses were also put under pressure to expel their Baha'i employees. The larger Baha'i businesses were confiscated and the smaller ones put under pressure by having operating licenses refused or boycotts organized against them. All Baha'is were effectively excluded from higher education and Baha'i children discriminated against in schools. There has been a constant stream of invective and disinformation about the Baha'is from the pulpits of the mosques and in the government-owned media.

The Baha'i community does not enjoy full freedom of human rights in any of the Arab states and there have been periodic campaigns against the Baha'is in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Indonesia, and Brunei. Apart from Muslim countries, there was, for varying periods of time, some harassment and persecution of Baha'is by the governments of countries where Orthodox and Catholic Christianity were powerful, especially in the Portuguese colonies in Africa in 1960s, where there were also Baha'i martyrs. Baha'is were also persecuted in Communist countries in the twentieth century and under authoritarian regimes like that of Nazi Germany.


Study Questions:
     1.    Why is it unlikely that anyone will ever start a war in the name of the Baha'i Faith?
     2.    Describe the persecutions of the Babi community.
     3.    Describe the persecutions of the Baha'i community up to 1979.
     4.    In what ways has the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked the Baha’is of Iran since 1979?

 

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