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Islamic persecution of the Bahais

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Atrocities committed by Islamic fanatics on the Bahais.




The Bab is the first prophet of the Bahai religion.


In 1844 Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was "the Báb" (Arabic: الباب‎ "the Gate"), after a Shi`a religious concept. His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb's teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, Bábís came under increased persecution, at times being forced to choose between renouncing their beliefs or being killed. Several military confrontations took place between government and Bábí forces. The Báb himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.




Friedrich W. Affolter writes: “Initially, the mullas hoped to stop the Bábí movement from spreading by denouncing its followers as apostates and enemies of God. These denouncements resulted in mob attacks, public executions and torture of early Bábís. When the Bábís (in accordance with Koranic principles) organized to defend themselves, the government sent troops into a series of engagements that resulted in heavy losses on both sides. The Báb himself was imprisoned from 1846 until 1850 and eventually publicly executed. In August 1852, two deranged Bábís attempted to kill the Shah in revenge for the execution of the Báb. This resulted in an extensive pogrom during which more than 20,000 Bábís – among them 400 Shí‘i mullas who had embraced the Bábí teachings – lost their lives.




As the result of the Báb's execution in 1850 by a firing squad in Tabriz, an assassination attempt was instigated on the King of Persia, Nasser-al-Din Shah, two years later by a handful of angry Bábís. Although the assassins claimed they were working alone, the entire Bábí community was blamed, and a slaughter of several thousand Bábís followed. Many of the Bábís who were not killed, including Bahá'u'lláh, were imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál (Black Pit), an underground dungeon of Tehran. Bahá'u'lláh himself was found to be innocent of complicity in the assassination plot, but remained in the Síyáh-Chál over four months.



An Austrian officer, Captain von Goumoens, working in the court of the Shah at the time, gave the following account after signing his resignation:

"[i saw] ones who, with gouged-out eyes, must eat, on the scene of the deed, their own amputated ears; or whose teeth are torn out with inhuman violence by the hand of the executioner; or whose bare skulls are simply crushed by blows from a hammer...As for the end itself, they hang the scorched and perforated bodies by their hands and feet to a tree head downwards, and now every Persian may try his marksmanship to his heart’s content... When I read over again, what I have written, I am overcome by the thought that those who are with you in our dearly beloved Austria may doubt the full truth of the picture, and accuse me of exaggeration. Would to God that I had not lived to see it!... At present I never leave my house, in order not to meet with fresh scenes of horror... I will no longer maintain my connection with the scene of such crimes.”









Early 20th century and the Pahlavi Dynasty

Starting in the twentieth century, in addition to repression that impacted individual Bahá'ís, centrally-directed campaigns that targeted the entire Bahá'í community and institutions were initiated. Some of these persecutions were recorded by missionaries who were in the areas at the time of the massacres. In one case in Yazd in 1903 more than 100 Bahá'ís were killed. Later on Bahá'í schools, such as the Tarbiyat boys' and girl's schools in Tehran, were closed in the 1930s and '40s, Bahá'í marriages were not recognized and Bahá'í literature was censored.


During the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, due to the growing nationalism and the economic difficulties in the country, the Shah gave up control over certain religious affairs to the clergy of the country. Among other things, the power sharing resulted in a campaign of persecution against the Bahá'ís.Akhavi has suggested that it is likely that the government had hoped that by orchestrating a movement against the Bahá'ís it could serve to obscure the fact that revenues obtained by the distribution of oil from western oil companies was going to be too low for the growing nationalistic sentiment; it would also serve to gain the support of the clergy for their foreign policy.The approved and coordinated the anti-Bahá'í campaign to incite public passion against the Bahá'ís started in 1955 and included the spreading of anti-Bahá'í propaganda in national radio stations and official newspapers.

During the the month of Ramadan in 1955, Sheikh Mohammad Taqi Falsafi, a populist preacher, started one of the highest-profile anti-Bahá'í propaganda schemes. After receiving permission from the Shah to state anti-Bahá'í rhetoric in his sermons, he encouraged other clergy to discuss the Bahá'í issue in their sermons.These sermons caused mob violence against Bahá'ís; Bahá'í properties were destroyed, Bahá'í centres were looted, Bahá'í cemeteries desecrated, Bahá'ís were killed, some hacked to pieces, Bahá'í women were abducted and forced to marry Muslims, and Bahá'ís were expelled and dismissed from schools and employment.





Bahá'ís continue to be persecuted in Islamic countries, especially Iran, where over 200 believers were executed between 1978 and 1998.


Administrative Council of Egypt, on December 16 2006 , ruled the government may not recognize the Bahá'í Faith in official identification numbers. Consequently, Egyptian Bahá'ís are unable to obtain government documents, including ID cards, birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates, or passports, all of which require a person's religion to be listed. They also cannot be employed, educated, treated in hospitals or vote, among other things. The Egyptian Initiative for Private Rights stated that the press release issued by the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court did not respond to any of the evidence or arguments presented by the EIPR in the case, and that the release only discussed the tenets and beliefs of the Bahá'í Faith, which should have not have affected the court's decision.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahá'ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs, most recently for participating in study circles. Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father. The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage.

Even more recently the situation of Bahá'ís has worsened; the United Nations Commission on Human Rights revealed an October 2005 confidential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to identy Bahá'ís and to monitor their activities and in November 2005 the stat-run and influential Kayhan newspaper, whose managing editor is appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, ran nearly three dozen articles defaming the Bahá'í Faith.

Due to these actions, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated on March 20, 2006 that she "also expresses concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá'í faith, in violation of international standards. ... The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating."




Bernard Lewis states that the Muslim laity and Islamic authorities have always had great difficulty in accommodating post-Islamic monotheistic religions such as the Bahá'í Faith, since on one hand the followers of such religions cannot be dismissed either as benighted heathens, like the polytheists of Asia and the animists of Africa, nor as outdated precursors, like the Jews and Christians. Moreover, their very existence presents a challenge to the Islamic doctrine of the perfection and finality of Muhammad's revelation.




Statements by some Iranian writers and academics




The real truth is though that no one gives a damn what happens to Bahá'ís.”



—Iqbal Latif, The Iranian

August 5, 2002





I'm just fascinated by the fact that we -- nearly every non-Bahá'í Iranian -- do not really consider Bahá'ís as Iranian. We consider them bastard children of British colonialism aiming to destroy Islam, specifically Shi'ite Islam. They're not even 'other' Iranians. We see them as something else. Or maybe we don't see them at all.”



—Jahanshah Javid, The Iranian

July 3, 2002






Go ahead. Go and shed a tear for Palestinians. They deserve it. Israel is crushing them like ants. But when you get a chance, do give a **** about Bahá'ís too. You want a noble cause? You want to scream and shout about injustice? I'm telling you... Bahá'ís have been really underrated as far as causes go.”



—Jahanshah Javid, The Iranian

July 3, 2002


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