Friday April 19, 2019

Fragments of a shattered Faith: Bahá’í Community of Iran

The Bahá'í faith is a new religion springing originally from Shi'ite Islam in Iran

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Baha'i Community. Image source: bahaibc.ca
..I was born a Bahá’í . I was only 14 when the Islamic Revolution took place in 1979. I was very studious and excelled in school. I was admitted to a high school affiliated with the University of Shiraz…After the revolution of 1979, with the increase in waves of violence and discrimination against Bahá’ís..All the property of our family was confiscated, and my brother-in-law was arrested and sentenced to death..
                             -A letter by Fariborz Baghian (Iranian citizen from prison)

The excerpt is one of the unheard voices and there are more unheard stories of Bahá’í Faith prisoners who are still incarcerated in the Iranian prisons for several years now.

History of Bahá’í Faith

In Iran, Bahá’í Faith was founded in the mid-19th century by Mirza Hoseyn and has its roots in Shi’te Islam.  Although it has achieved a unique status of its own because of over 5 million members and supporters worldwide but its practical independence from its parent religion of Islam and for its unique contradictory nature.

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While the president is democratically elected, its supreme leader is a Muslim priest. Islam is the official religion in Iran; while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity officially are the minority religions in the country. This has brough the religion under threat.

…And the men in turbans would love nothing more than to exterminate them holding back only because of the international stink it would raise, instead they persecute them hanging not just the leader , but even in one famous girl a 15 year old girl for a heinous crime of teaching children at a Sunday school moral lessons..
                         – Dennis Maceoin (Gatestone Institute) via youtube

Dennis Maceoin is a renowned novelist at the Gatestone Institute, Belfast.

The Bahá’í faith has no such recognition despite the fact that they are the largest minority religion and perhaps the most hated as well in Iran. Islamic religionists in Iran have long seen the Bahá’í faith as a threat to their religious principles and have branded the Bahá’í’s as dissenters. Bahá’í community people’s unbiased stand on equal women rights, education for all and equal status for all religion has particularly annoyed Muslim religionists.

Bahá’í community people often find themselves barred from numerous opportunities including higher education, jobs or businesses. They are moreover prone to harassment, ill-treatment, and even execution.

Shrine of the Ba'b, Haifa,Israel via Wikipedia.org
Shrine of the Ba’b, Haifa,Israel via Wikipedia.org

Throughout the past decades, the Bahá’ís of Iran have been oppressed, discriminated and tortured. With the triumph of the Islamic revolution in 1979, this persecution has been more organised and systematised. Hundreds of Bahá’ís have been either executed or killed, thousands have been imprisoned, and almost all have been deprived of jobs, pensions, trade and educational opportunities. All Bahá’í administrative structures in Iran have been shut down by the Government authorities and holy places and cemeteries have been destroyed.

In June 1983, the Iranian authorities arrested ten Bahá’í women and girls. The charge against them: teaching children’s classes on the Baha’i Faith – the equivalent of Sunday school in the West. The women were subjected to intense physical and mental abuse in an effort to coerce them to recant their Faith, Yet, like most Bahai’s who were arrested in Iran, they refused to deny their beliefs. As a result, they were executed.                                                                                                                                            – bahai.org (report)
The persecution of Baha’i faith in Iran can be uncovered to many factors.The Bahá’í Faith is often observed as an Islamic blasphemy in Iran. Since the Bahá’í faith was developed somewhere around the 19th century out of Shi’a Islam. Thus, it is often observed as an inaccurate divergence from its true meaning, since other religions predate Islam. Moreover, apostasy is seen as a consequential offence within Islam.

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Iran’s leaders have repeatedly stated that they consider Bahá’í faith to be more of a political group than a religious one. This has thus given them an excuse to deny them their religious freedom for such reasons.

Baha'i faith
Free Prisoners, Bahá’í in Iran (Representational Image). Image source: oreaddaily.blogspot.com

The Bahá’í Faith is today headquartered in Haifa, Israel and has good relations with the Israelis. To simply put this, the Iranians hardliners don’t like the Israelis. The threat to clerical power is another reason for the preservation. Bahá’í has no priests and places the responsibility for spiritual interpretation completely in the hands of its followers.

A mobile billboard marking the seven prisoners. Image source: bahaiteachings.org

International protest against the ill-treatment against the Bahá’í faith has been widespread and well known. Thousands of news articles about the scenario of the Bahá’ís community in Iran have appeared around the globe. Noteworthy international organisations, such as the European Parliament and the united nations, have passed resolutions expressing deep concern about the Bahá’í community.

Most importantly, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the General Assembly has put a lot of pressure on the Iranian regime to observe international human rights accords from time to time. Despite these efforts, the situation of Bahai’s remains much the same, perhaps worsened without any guarantee of their fundamental right to religion and their struggle for freedom continues.

– prepared by Yajush Gupta of Newsgram, Twitter: @yajush_gupta

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  • Della L. Marcus

    Two clarifications are needed in connection with the above article:

    1. While the Baha’i Faith did have its origins in the Muslim Shiite country, Iran, and can indeed be said to “have its roots in Shiite Islam,” this description of its origins can be compared to Christianity having its roots in Judaism. The Baha’i Faith should not be mistaken with sects of Islam, some of which have indeed achieved a status of their own, distinct in a way from the mother religion, Islam, because of the number of members and supporters.

    2. It is not correct to state that the Baha’i Faith “has achieved a status of its own,” because it has in fact always had a status of its own as one of the independent religions of the world. The Baha’i Faith describes religion as a Message brought down from God periodically through a Manifestation of God to assist humanity to live good and productive lives by the application of such Divine Guidance.

  • AJ Krish

    There will come a time when the oppressed and the shattered will rise again to glory. The people of the bahai-faith will not remain discriminated against.

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  • Della L. Marcus

    Two clarifications are needed in connection with the above article:

    1. While the Baha’i Faith did have its origins in the Muslim Shiite country, Iran, and can indeed be said to “have its roots in Shiite Islam,” this description of its origins can be compared to Christianity having its roots in Judaism. The Baha’i Faith should not be mistaken with sects of Islam, some of which have indeed achieved a status of their own, distinct in a way from the mother religion, Islam, because of the number of members and supporters.

    2. It is not correct to state that the Baha’i Faith “has achieved a status of its own,” because it has in fact always had a status of its own as one of the independent religions of the world. The Baha’i Faith describes religion as a Message brought down from God periodically through a Manifestation of God to assist humanity to live good and productive lives by the application of such Divine Guidance.

  • AJ Krish

    There will come a time when the oppressed and the shattered will rise again to glory. The people of the bahai-faith will not remain discriminated against.

Next Story

Iran Denounces US as Actual “Head of Global Terrorism”

China, an economic partner of Iran, urged countries outside the Middle East to promote peace and stability in the region and to avoid any acts of aggression

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iran, terrorism
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony marking "National Day of Nuclear Technology," in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2019. VOA

Steve Herman contributed to this report from the White House; Carla Babb – from the Pentagon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denounced the United States Tuesday as the actual “head of global terrorism,” one day after the U.S. designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

The move was the first time the U.S. designated part of another government as a terrorist organization.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump declared in a statement. “The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”

The U.S. action, which takes effect next week and includes the IRGC’s elite secretive Quds Force, means it will be a federal crime to provide any type of support to the IRGC.

iran, terrorism
In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting with a group of Revolutionary Guards and their families, in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2019. VOA

Rouhani said the U.S. designation would only bolster the reputation of the Revolutionary Guards and promote harmony among Iranians.

“This mistake will unite Iranians and the Guards will grow more popular in Iran and in the region,” Rouhani said. “America has used terrorists as a tool in the region while the Guards have fought against them from Iraq to Syria.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed a group of guards Tuesday, describing the U.S. action as a “vicious move” that “will bear no fruit.” After Iran’s legislature convened for an open session in Tehran Tuesday, lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted, “Death to America.”

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the U.S. decision as the “climax of stupidity and ignorance.” Supreme National Security Council spokesman Keivan Khosravi warned without elaborating that “any unusual move by American forces in the region will be perceived as the behavior by a terrorist group.”

China, an economic partner of Iran, urged countries outside the Middle East to promote peace and stability in the region and to avoid any acts of aggression.

iran, terrorism
After Iran’s legislature convened for an open session in Tehran Tuesday, lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted, “Death to America.” VOA

“We oppose power politics and bullying by any countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

Minutes after the announcement from the White House on the designation Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated the IRGC “organizes and executes terror campaigns around the world.”

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U.S. officials, in comments to reporters, are also referring to the IRGC as a “death cult” that, they say, is the true face of Iranian foreign policy.

Pompeo declined to say, when asked by a reporter, whether the terrorist designation means that the U.S. military will target IRGC leaders the same way it does those of the Islamic State group. Iran responded Monday to the U.S. action by putting U.S. military forces on its list of terror groups. (VOA)