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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Baha'i Persecuted in the Islamic Republic of Iran

"One reason clerics in Iran have targeted the group with such zeal is the fact devout Muslims see the Baha’i faith as heresy and an insult to the teachings of Islam. The religion started in 1844 in the southern city of Shiraz when a man named Bab announced the coming of a messenger of God. In 1863, one of Bab’s followers named Baha’ullah declared himself to be the messenger and began preaching a message of unity among faiths. His followers were attacked and he spent years in exile, dying in the city of Acre, in what was then Palestine, in 1892."
"The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims."
"Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."
Reuters Staff
(Multiple pictures of Baha’i religious leaders arrested in Iran are seen during a protest at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2011. Picture taken June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

The Baha'i assemble seven of their faithful as leading members of their religious community; they are called the Yaran, the "Friends" and represent the needs of Baha'is in Iran, for in their tradition there is no clergy and the Friends serve as a kind  of administrative group to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran. All seven of the current Friends are languishing in Iranian prisons. Previous groups were "disappeared" during the 1979 Iranian revolution under the Khomeinist regime. And in 1981 the last eight members of the Spiritual Assembly were executed by firing squad.

The current seven Friends were charged and tried singly for espionage, insulting religious sanctity, collaboration with Israel, propaganda against the regime and "spreading corruption on Earth". Convicted, they were sentenced to twenty years in prison, and have now been incarcerated for ten years. Baha'i originated out of a schism with Shia Islam and unlike Islam the Baha'i religion places its emphasis on human unity, equality between men and women, the alleviation of poverty, and respect for science.

They preach world peace, and unlike most other religions, including Islam that do likewise, world peace is their actual goal which they work assiduously toward achieving. As for religious devotion, it is meditation, teaching and good works that spur them to honour their religious dedication. An estimated six million faithful live around the world, half of whom live in India. Canada has 35,000 Baha'i faithful. Although Baha'i faithful originally came from Iran, an estimated 300,000 are left there and remain persecuted and despised.

Baha'i are considered under Iranian law to be "unclean". They are not permitted to work in specific employment categories and nor are they within the Islamic Republic of Iran legally persons; there their legal protections have been severely attenuated. Government services are withheld from them, marriages in the Baha'i religion are unrecognized in law, and their progeny are considered to be illegitimate. They may not enrol in post-secondary education. In short, these beleaguered people of peace live with unrelenting fear.

They are arrested and placed in jail for being Baha'i. Baha'i owned businesses such as toy stores, optometrist offices auto-body repair shops, stationery stores, etc., were shut down after it was noted by authorities that they were not open for business on Baha'i holy days. When Baha'i are picked up by police, their families are given no notice of their whereabouts, and tend to know nothing of their fate. Baha'i men are sentenced to prison for the crime of "acting against national security" through teaching the Baha'i faith.

The "moderate" president Hassan Rouhani's administration has overseen a worsening situation for Iranian Baha'i, along with Iranian journalists, gays, reformists and dissidents. The Baha'i World Centre is located in Haifa, Israel. There the faithful live in peace and serenity and security. They find haven in Israel, their centre located there where their holy figures lived and died. Perhaps because of the presence of the centre in Israel, Iranian authorities accuse them of collaboration with Israel.

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)
Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International 
Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr) 

"The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be."
"Our aim is the establishment of universal peace in this world and our desire to see justice prevail in every domain of human society, including the domain of politics."
"As many of the adherents of our Faith are of Jewish and Moslem extraction we have no prejudice towards either of these groups and are most anxious to reconcile them for their mutual benefit and for the good of the country."
 Shoghi Effendi, head of the Faith from 1921-1957

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