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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

..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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