HISTORY

Bahá'ís have been persecuted in various countries, but especially in Iran, where the Bahá'í Faith originated. Iran has one of the largest Bahá'í populations in the world.

The origins of the persecution stem from a variety of Bahá'í teachings inconsistent with traditional Islamic belief, including the finality of Muhammad's prophethood. This alone places Bahá'ís outside the Islamic faith and Bahá'ís are thus seen as apostates from Islam, and, according to some, must choose between repentance and death. The United Nations, Amnesty International, the European Union, the United States and peer-reviewed academic literature have stated that the members of the Bahá'í community in Iran have been subjected to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, beatings, torture, unjustified executions, confiscation and destruction of property owned by individuals and the Bahá'í community, denial of employment, denial of government benefits, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education.

ISLAMIC REVOLUTION OF 1979

After the Shah left Iran on January 16, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned on February 1, 1979 and started the process of creating a new government. During an interview before returning to Iran with Professor James Cockroft, Khomeini stated that Bahá'ís would not have religious freedom:

Cockroft: Will there be either religious or political freedom for the Bahá'ís under the Islamic government?

Khomeini: They are a political faction; they are harmful. They will not be accepted.

Cockroft: How about their freedom of religion– religious practice? Khomeini: No.

During the drafting of the new constitution the wording intentionally excluded the Bahá'ís from protection as a religious community. Referring to the recordings of the proceedings of the official transcripts of the constitution drafting process, Sanasarian states that anti-Bahá'í thought was obvious, as there was haggling "over every word and expression of certain articles to assure the exclusion of the Bahá'ís." The final version of the constitution explicitly withheld recognition from the Bahá'ís by stating in Article 13 that the "Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities..." Responding to international criticism for having excluded the Bahá'ís, spokesmen for the government stated, as before, that the Bahá'ís were a "misguided group... whose affiliation and association with world Zionism is a clear fact" and that "Bahá'ísm is not a religion, but a political doctrine."

Starting in late 1979, the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran systematically targeted the leadership of the Bahá'í community by focusing on the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) and Local Spiritual Assemblies (LSAs). In November 1979, Ali Murad Davudi, the secretary of the NSA, was kidnapped and never seen again.[30] In August 1980 all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly were arrested while meeting at a private home.[10] In a statement on September 10, 1980, then speaker of the House, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, stated that an order for the arrests of the Bahá'ís had been issued; but by October 9, 1980, Rafsanjani changed his statement and said that no members of the NSA had been arrested. There has been no further news regarding the nine NSA members since their arrest in 1980, and their fate remains unknown, although there are reports that they were at some point held in Evin prison; they are now presumed dead.[10] After the disappearance of the NSA members, the Iranian Bahá'í community elected a new NSA. On December 13, 1981 eight of the nine new NSA members were arrested by the Iranian authorities, and were executed on December 27, 1981 without trial.

In addition to the execution of the members of two National Spiritual Assemblies, the members of Local Spiritual Assemblies throughout the country were also killed. Between April 1979 and December 1980, at least eight prominent Tehran Bahá'ís were killed. In September 1980 in Yazd, fifteen Bahá'ís were arrested, and after a graphic trial that was partially televised, seven of the Bahá'ís were executed; the remaining eight were released after four months. In Tabriz in 1979, two prominent Bahá'ís were executed and then in 1981 all nine members of the Tabriz LSA were executed. In Hamadan seven members of the LSA of Hamadan were executed by firing squad, and while the bodies were being prepared for the funeral it was found that six of the men had been physically tortured before their death. In Shiraz between 1978 and 1981, the House of the Báb, a Bahá'í holy place, was destroyed, five prominent Bahá'ís were executed, and more than 85 Bahá'ís were arrested and subjected to interrogation; then in 1983 sixteen more Bahá'ís were executed. In June, 1983, ten Bahá’í women were hanged in Shiraz, one of them only 16 years old. In August 29, 1983, the government announced a legal ban on all administrative and community activities of the Bahá'í community, which required the dissolution of the third National Spiritual Assembly and about 400 Local Spiritual Assemblies. The Bahá'í community complied with the ban, but the former members of the LSAs were routinely harassed, and seven members of the third NSA were eventually arrested and executed.

SECRET MEMORANDUM

In February 1991, a confidential circular issued by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council on "the Bahá'í question" and signed by Supreme Leader Khamenei himself, signaled an increase in efforts to suffocate the Iranian Bahá'í community through a more "silent" means. The document organized the methods of oppression used to persecute the Bahá’ís, and contained specific recommendations on how to block the progress of the Bahá'í communities both inside and outside Iran. The document stated that the most extreme forms of persecution should be avoided and instead, recommended, among other things, that Bahá'ís be expelled from universities, "once it becomes known that they are Bahá'ís," to "deny them employment if they identify themselves as Bahá'ís" and to "deny them any position of influence."[1] The existence of this so-called Golpaygani Memorandum was brought to the attention of the public in a report by then UN Human Rights Commissioner Mr. Galindo Pohl (E/CM4/1993/41, 28 January 1993), and the policy recommendations of the document are still in force.