By Nava Saylany
History loves to reinvent and repeat itself. We only notice that things have happened again after they have done their damage.
During WWII, millions of Jews were persecuted in Germany. They were brutally murdered, tortured and denied their basic rights, all because of their religion. This all ended by the mid-forties with the end of World War Two. But, does that mean that everyone is safe? Will we ever learn from history? Unfortunately, for the Baha’is in Iran, the world has not learned from history. The discriminations of Baha’is need to end. We can only do this by taking action.
There are many questions you probably have, such as; what is the Baha’i Faith? What is happening in Iran? What is the significance of this problem? Allow me to simplify things for you.
The Baha’i Faith is a monotheistic religion that believes humanity is one race, men and women are equal and all the prophets came from one God. The religion had its start in the late 1800s, and just celebrated the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, in 2017.
The Muslims in Iran believe that Islam is the final religion. This means that all the religions that came after Islam are not accepted. So, ever since the birth of the religion, there have been different forms of discriminations. The Iranian government fears minority groups, especially ones that are growing. The Baha’i faith is the largest minority religion in Iran, which only heightens the government fear.
In the 1980s the Baha’is suffered through extreme and brutal treatment. They were not allowed to work in the government, to have passports, to attend schools, to attend universities, and to own businesses. They have also been imprisoned, tortured and systematically killed. It’s estimated that from 1978 to 2008, over 200 Baha’is were executed and since the 1980s, thousands have been imprisoned.
I remember asking my dad about why he left Iran as a teenager in the 1980s. His simple answer was, “because we’re Baha’is.” Eight year old me could not grasp the concept that my dad had to be smuggled out of his own country all because he is a Baha’i. He expressed to me his fears, pains and struggles and all of a sudden he seemed so much stronger. He transformed from a cute kitten to a brave lion. From then on, he made sure that I knew of the mistreatment that thousands of Baha’is endure in Iran.
These issues are not in the past. In 2016, a man was stabbed due to him simply being a Baha’i. In January of 2017, an elderly Baha’i man named Ahmad Fanaian was found dead, with burns all over his body. Neither one of these is a coincidence.
The UN tried to address these problems by pressing Iran not to ask for religion in the university application process. But there are always ways to get around these laws. In 2007, according to the Bahai World News Service, 800 to 1,000 Baha’is who completed their entrance exams were later informed that their exams were “incomplete.” Therefore, they were unable to enroll in universities.
7 Baha’i leaders currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage, propaganda and ‘spreading corruption on earth.”
Further persecution includes the seven prominent Baha’i who were imprisoned in 2007 on charges of espionage, propaganda and “spreading corruption on earth.” They’re still, to this day, being held in terrible conditions, their families simply waiting and fighting for their return.
The Baha’i faiths main focuses are peace, love, unity, and equality. Looking at what Baha’i have to face, it’s simply appalling. It’s appalling how we have not done anything. Appalling that they’re still being killed and tortured. Appalling that there is no refuge.
We can not simply just sit around. This needs to stop. We need to spread the word and to bring an end to this violence.
Or, we can watch as the Baha’is suffer.
- Goodstein, Laurie. “Iran’s Bahai Religious Minority Says It Faces Raids and Arrests.” New York Times, 1 June 2006, p. A8(L). Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A146460994/OVIC?u=60iskl&xid=0716b3f2. Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.
- “Bahais a target in Iran.” Washington Times [Washington, DC], 10 July 2008, p. B06. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A181157387/OVIC?u=60iskl&xid=d6934a9d. Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.
- Freedman, Samuel G. “Bahai on trial in Iran worries brother from afar.” New York Times, 23 Jan. 2010, p. A14(L). Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A217229398/OVIC?u=60iskl&xid=87004631. Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.
- “Warrant for Repression; Tehran’s campaign against the Baha’i faith is brutal, bigoted and unconscionable.” Times [London, England], 19 Dec. 2011, p. 2. Global Issues in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A275232370/GIC?u=60iskl&xid=0da37462. Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.
- Akhavan, Payam. “Iran’s Baha’i Problem.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 May 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/payam-akhavan/irans-bahai-problem_b_10100320.html.
- “Suspicious Killing of Baha’i in Iran | Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS).” Bahá’í World News Service, Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS), 11 Jan. 2017, news.bahai.org/story/1147/.
- “Baha’i Murdered in Iran-Victim of Religious Hatred | Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS).” Bahá’í World News Service, Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS), 26 Oct. 2016, news.bahai.org/story/1133/.
- “Fear of Imminent Executions of Baha’is.” Center for Human Rights in Iran, 2018 Center for Human Rights in Iran, 15 Jan. 2010, www.iranhumanrights.org/2010/01/fear-executions-bahais/.