Hunting humans

Persecution of Baha'is is a litmus test for rights and Iran is failing


Hunting humans
by nema

Under the shadow of the nuclear question, Iran's human-rights situation has steadily deteriorated. Hard-liners have exploited fears of conflict with the United States to brand reform as a foreign conspiracy against Islam. Last week's arrest of seven leaders from the peaceful Baha'i minority, long a scapegoat for the clerical regime, is an ominous development.

Canada swiftly condemned the arrests, consistent with its leadership on United Nations human-rights resolutions against Iran, in which mistreatment of Baha'is figures prominently. But the arrests have broader significance, because such persecution is a litmus test for tolerance under a theocratic constitution that conditions human rights on belonging to an approved religion.

The recent arrests raise the spectre of the systematic execution of Baha'i leaders on charges of heresy during the early years of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s. A 1985 UN report characterized this religious inquisition as genocidal. The victims included Muna Mahmudnizhad, a teenager whose "crime" was teaching Baha'i children who had been expelled from school for their religion.

Ottawa resident Naim Tavakoli, whose father is one of those arrested recently, knows nothing of his whereabouts and fears he may have been tortured. Judging by the Zahra Kazemi affair, which gave Canadians a glimpse of Tehran's notorious prisons, his fears are well-founded.

Under Article 13 of the constitution, Iran's 350,000 Baha'is are not recognized as a legitimate religious minority, unlike the country's Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. According to the hard-line clerics, this reduces them to the status of "infidels" beyond the protection of the law.

This radical interpretation of sharia is clearly contrary to Iran's obligations under UN human-rights covenants to which Tehran is signatory. It is also contrary to the view of respected Islamic scholars that freedom of worship is a fundamental Koranic principle. Iran's policy of intolerance betrays a regime that has cynically manipulated Islam as an instrument of power and used hate-mongering to legitimize its authoritarian rule.

In contrast to reforms under Mohammed Khatami, the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has intensified hate propaganda against Baha'is in government-controlled media, where they are variously demonized as agents of Russian, British, and U.S. imperialism, not to mention Zionism and even Wahhabism. A 2007 UN report by Pakistani human-rights expert Asma Jahangir revealed that the Ministry of Intelligence has been collecting detailed information about Baha'is across Iran. Death threats and attacks, desecration of cemeteries and places of worship, denial of pensions and university education, the harassment of Baha'i children in schools ? all signs of a concerted campaign to strangle this community in the land of its birth.

Like the repression of Islamic reformists, human-rights advocates, intellectuals, student movements, women's groups, labour unions and others elements calling for a peaceful and open Iran, the persecution of Baha'is is above all a measure of the regime's own desperation. A government that enjoys legitimacy and contributes to the rights and well-being of its citizens does not need such extraordinary measures to eliminate minorities in its midst. And what is most tragic is the betrayal of a 2,500-year-old civilization that reached its height of prosperity because of its capacity to embrace pluralism and diversity.

There are signs of hope, however, as ordinary Iranians increasingly reject the lies they have been fed over the past 30 years by the clerical leadership. To give but one example, the recent expulsion of a Baha'i student from a high school resulted in spontaneous protests from Muslim students outraged that one of their classmates was being denied the right to education solely because of his beliefs. There are increasing calls from eminent human-rights advocates, such as Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, for a constitution in which all citizens enjoy the same rights, regardless of religious beliefs.

As ordinary Iranians contend with the woes of economic decline, corruption and repression amid the emergence of a postideological culture, many are questioning the depiction of Baha'is as the source of all evil. The Iranian leadership has a choice. Either it can release the arrested Baha'is and respect their fundamental human rights, or it can persist in cynically peddling an impotent medieval theology that will confirm its irrelevance and hasten its own demise.


more from nema

Translation to Portuguese

by Marco Oliveira (not verified) on

Dear Nema,

I would like to have your permission to translate this article to Portuguese and publish it on my weblog.


You are . . .

by Javadagha on

You are biased and good in exaggeration.  I have spoken and traded e-mails with your leaders in Europe.


For God’s sake, other people also get executed which have included other minorities, why ignore others?


Baha’i spend a lot of money in promoting their religion (take a look at Baha’i Radio) and signs in the roads (from LA to LV, for example).


Grow up, help to stop all abuses.  Good luck.


Shah Bahai shodeh !

by jimzbund on


 This was after his White Revolution due to the introduction of some advanced ideas for backward people. Now , when these people call prophet Muhammad's most beloved wife Ayyishah " fahesheh" then how can you expect them to have any regards for others.  Muhammad said that my religion will be destroyed by my people and it is proving bang on. Good job guys , keep it up....

Bund, Jimz Bund


I certainly agree, the

by sadegh on

I certainly agree, the manner in which a state treats its minorities, whether ethnic or religious is certainly the litmus test as regards tolerance...and on this count, foremost with respect to the Baha'i faith the IRI fails miserably...

Kind regards, Sadegh


Hoveyda went out of his way...

by faryarm on prove that he is not a Bahai...His bother Fereydoun has said that he had not even heard the word Bahai until he was 14...

Can we please stop these truly tired old and baselsss accusations that the mullahs have used endlessly to prevent Iranians from learning about Bahais...



One for all and all for one

by Mehran-001 (not verified) on

./. is a typical deranged character of brain washed IRI thugs. They have an excuse for everything and their finger points at everything and anything. Blame Bahais, then America then Israel and then Britain. There is no stopping with their fantasies.

It is time for all Iranians to come together and protect the right of every Iranian regardless of ethnic and religious affiliation. It is by no means is going to be easy the Mullahs will fight to the last breath since they know their alternative is quite grim.....

Ali P.

Now THIS is a first...

by Ali P. on


So,...because Hoveyda's father was allegedly Bahaii, and Hoveyda was prime minister ( and not the head of SAVAK), 28 years after his murder, they should gather up Bahaii's and make them pay for Hoveyda's supposed sins??

 And why? Because everybody knows....there is a "blowback"!

 I thought their charge is spying for Israel and Great Britain?!


Congratulations! Not even the IRI had thought of this way of justifying the harrassment of Bahaii's. Good one!

Email the novel idea to Iran's Kayhan for use in their paper. You may win a prize.


./. = why we as a nation continue to suffer...

by faryarm on

Regarding ./.Ladies and Gents, there is a simple formula for containing your nausea when faced with the repetition of aggressive false propaganda regarding Bahais, and for that matter anything the regime prints and for example when mr ./. says Bahais are responsible for certain that the opposite is true...he says for example that Bahais are responsible for lack of democracy and freedom .....uhhh ???Nothing is so far from reality and reality is what ./. and his bigot thinking refuse to comprehend.It will ceratinly be news to many that Fifty, that's (50) years before the Constitutinal movement (1875) Baha'u'llah spoke and wrote about civic progress and his son Abdul Baha published The Secret of Divine Civilization ; " a book written in 1875 by `Abdu'l-Bahá, addressed to the rulers and the people of Persia. It is considered to be part of the authoritative religious text of the Bahá'í Faith.The original text was written under an anonymous author, and the first English translation was published in London in 1910, and Chicago in 1918, under the title Mysterious Forces of Civilization written by "an Eminent Bahai Philosopher."[1]. The currently used translation was completed by Marzieh Gail and published in 1957, with an introduction by Horace Holley.The book was widely known in its time as an attempt to improve the degraded condition of Persia. The author frequently references current issues that were being debated, such as whether to modernize and accept Western technology, or to reject Western culture and rely on technology developed in Persia and the Islamic world.See the full online text here.//


Not again!

by Se Shod (not verified) on

In response to ABC's comment:

"....The answer is provided in "./." post: it is called "blowback". What it means is that minority suffers for the act of few in its community more than the majority does. Look at today's italy and the way the whole community of polish immigrants are slaughtered for a rape or killing of an italian by one of its polish immigrants, and you will understand why what is happening in iran today is expected (if Bahais were in fact part of Savak establishment)....."

Thank you for your comment, but first of all I understand perfectly well what is happening to the Bahais in Iran and I know precisely what “blow-back” means. My question was rhetorical and the idea behind blow-back in no way justifies what is happening to Bahais in Iran. Regardless of all this, no Bahai ever participated in SAVAK because if they did they would've been immediately expelled from the Bahai faith, as I explained was the case with Parviz Sabeti. I also repeat that nearly all SAVAK operatives were from Muslim background, so why is there no “blow-back” against Muslims?

Here is some information on how SAVAK was created (essentially by the Americans and Israelis), which had nothing to do with any Bahais:



On a separate point, since you bought up the situation in Italy (and I say this with all due respect), it looks like you need to become informed about what is happening there. First of all there has been nothing that could be described as a "slaughter" (which infers many killings). There was one or two killings of illegal immigrants in one area of Italy in reaction to the crime wave committed by some of these immigrants. And to correct you on another point the immigrants were not Polish (there is no Polish immigrant problem in Italy), they were Romanians. Regardless, killing of innocent people should be condemned, whatever their background.

More to the point though, I don’t understand why you have chosen to compare the situation of immigrants in Italy with Bahais in Iran. First of all Bahais in Iran are not immigrants, they are Iranians. Second, they have not committed any crimes, let alone be responsible for a crime wave of theft, murder and rape of other people. Additionally, the authorities in Italy have captured and are prosecuting the killers of those immigrants, in contrast to Iran where the authorities themselves are the ones who are perpetrating the crimes of persecuting, harassing, arresting, torturing and even murdering Bahais. The two situations are not even remotely comparable.

This is getting ridiculous. We are in the 21st century and the biggest religious minority in Iran is still not only suffering at the hands of the state, which is supposed to protect its citizens, but it is also continually subjected to endless innuendos, false accusations and insinuations by even ordinary Iranians who base their views mainly on hearsay and malicious rumour. You think of all the crimes that can be committed by human being and chances are that over the years the Bahais have been accused of committing them.

To conclude: I ask one question; many other groups/peoples, all round the world, resort to lashing out and fighting back when they are persecuted and mistreated by their government; when was the last time you heard a Bahai plant a bomb, or carry out a suicide killing or assassinate any IRI member in retaliation for what has been happening to them? The answer is never. The Bahai are among most peace loving and anti-violence people in Iran and yet they have been treated with great injustice and brutality and the saddest thing is that many of us here living in the West still feel they deserve what they are getting at the hands of the regime in Tehran.


So now we know

by Anonymous123 (not verified) on

Thank god that there are no Baha'is in any government agenies, universities, or any agenies in Iran.

So according to your logic, whenever the next regim comes, they can do whatever they wish with muslim iranian since apparantly "Muslims" brought all this crap on Iranian nation in this regim. I wonder what kind of non-sense you guys will come up with then.

Get a life


Re: Complete rubbish ...

by almo5000 on

In your post you are worried that becasue of a few Bahais participating in Savak, a whole population is persecuted by the IRI.

As you know since 9/11 millions of muslims around the world and in US have been wrongly persecuted by the USA government for something that PRESUMABLY 11 moslim young men from Saudi Arabia did. I say and emphasize PRESUMABLY, becuase as you may be aware the evidence and talk of town points to Israel and US themselves being behind 9/11. Now suppsioe that was the work of 11 saudi arabians, is what the US government doing to millions of mulsims fair? Of course not. But that is the blowback!


Re: Complete rubbish

by ABC (not verified) on

You Asked:

"In any case, if one is gullible enough to buy this drivel some Bahais helped to set up the SAVAK, why should the greater Bahai community still be made to suffer?"

The answer is provided in "./." post: it is called "blowback". What it means is that minority suffers for the act of few in its community more than the majority does. Look at today's italy and the way the whole community of polish immigrants are slaughtered for a rape or killing of an italian by one of its polish immigrants, and you will understand why what is happening in iran today is expected (if Bahais were in fact part of Savak establishment).


Complete rubbish

by Se Shod (not verified) on

Regarding ./.'s comment that (and I quote) ".........Bahai "intellects" participated in the creation and expansion of SAVAK, Shah's secret police……...",

This is typical of the kind of utter nonsense and misinformation, alongside charges of "agents of Zionism", "British spies" etc etc, that have been levelled at Bahais for decades by the fanatics that are determined to do away with them. And of course, many people in Iran, not having access to any source of unbiased and non-state controlled information (at least until recent invention of the internet and satellite TV) have been brainwashed into believing these fabrications to be the truth.

Heck, when I was at school in Iran we were told that every Friday night Bahai families would undress, and all family, the parents and their children would engaged in incestuous sex. This is the kind of mentality that Bahais have had to put with for decades.

Going back to the SAVAK allegation, the only possible thing that comes to mind as to why this allegation is repeatedly made is that a SAVAK director during Shah's time, Parviz Sabeti, WAS born into a Bahai family. However, he was later expelled from the Bahai community, due to breaking the Bahai law of non-interference in political matters, and when he became a SAVAK employee he no longer had anything to do with the Bahai Faith. (indeed, this is also true of the late Prime Minister Hoveyda, who although born into a Bahai family, was no longer a Bahai when he became active in politics).

There is no evidence whatsoever, at least none that I’ve seen, proving that Bahais had anything to do with setting up the SAVAK. This would be totally against their beliefs. Now unless ./. can produce any credible proof/evidence that Bahais took part in setting up the SAVAK, I’m going to have to put his post next to the litany of innuendos and allegations, against this hugely persecuted community, for which their never seems to be any supporting evidence.

In any case, if one is gullible enough to buy this drivel some Bahais helped to set up the SAVAK, why should the greater Bahai community still be made to suffer? The great majority (if not all) of the SAVAK operatives were from Muslim families, but I don’t see anyone saying there should be pay back against Muslims in Iran because of that.

btw, while on the subject, as horrible as the SAVAK was (and it did commit many terrible acts) to say it was “responsible for death of millions” is a gross exaggeration. Even the IRI, far worse than the SAVAK in many ways, never killed that many people.

Mona 19

One Human Race ...

by Mona 19 on

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind"

~ kahlil Gibran

We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to ONE HUMAN RACE.


Respectfully,Mona :)


They brought it onto themselves ...

by ./. (not verified) on

Bahai "intellects" participated in the creation and expansion of SAVAK, Shah's secret police. That organization is responsible for death of millions of young iranians from miliions of Iranian families, in addtion to torture, and pushing back the democratic and freedom movements that were taking place at the Shah's time. Bahais are only themselves to blame. This is not to say that mollahs are good or great. They are not. But humanity cannot tolerate certain acts; in this case that of Bahais at Shah time cannot be forgotten by millions of Iranians who lost the loved ones. This is not to say that Bahai individuals are as bad as those leaders who participated in creation and operation of SAVAK, but sometime there is "blowback"!!!!


Nema jaan, great article.

by Farhad Kashani (not verified) on

Nema jaan, great article. The fascist regime in Tehran has done crimes against humanity against everyone. Our Jewish, Armenian, Zarostrian, Bahai and other minority populations in Iran have shrank dramatically since the establishment of this fascist regime.