In the fall of 1981 I was a 21 year old college student in Canada when I received a phone call from my uncle, informing me that my parents had been arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards at their home in Tehran. My parents had been hosting a meeting of the governing body of the Bahá’ís of Tehran comprising of nine (9) individuals who oversaw the affairs of the local Bahá’í community. The authorities had taken my parents and their guests to the notorious Evin Prison.

The nine member governing body merely provided support and comfort to the members of the local Bahá’í community including and provide support to people those who were persecuted and whose families were kidnapped, tortured and killed by the government. The Bahá’ís were not involved in politics and not doing anything illegal. As such, I thought that my parents and their guests would not remain in prison very long and would be released after the authorities realized that this whole thing was a mistake. I was wrong. My parents remained in prison and were subjected to harassment and interrogation.

The Baha’i Faith, an independent religion that started in Iran in the mid-19th century, has always been demonized by the Shiite religious establishment as being heretical and against Islam. The persecution in early 1980s reached new heights after the revolution and resulted in kidnappings, disappearances, and executions. The Bahá’í commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, non-interference in partisan politics and obedience to governmental authority made them an easy target. Theological differences between the Bahá’í Holy Writings and those expressed by the Islamic clerical establishment – including the Bahá’í viewpoints on universal and progressive nature of religion, as well as equality of men and women – caused the authorities to want to stamp out the Bahá’í community from Iran. This despite the fact that the Bahá’ís are the largest religious minority within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Months after my parents were arrested at their home, after they had been physically and emotionally abused and tortured and their property had been confiscated, my mother, Shidrukh Amirkia Bagha, was without any trial or opportunity to defend herself summarily and secretly executed on January 4,1982 together with seven of her guests who were arrested that fateful night. She was only 45 years old. My mother’s sole crime was that she was a Bahá’í who would not renounce her faith. In this way my mother was taken from me and I was denied the chance of seeing her again and introducing her to my son.

My mother never hurt a soul in her life. She loved her family and nurtured each of her children with utmost care. She loved music and the arts and was always encouraging and supportive to everyone. It is beyond comprehension that the government would sanction her killing because of her religion.

Now, over 28 years have passed since the day my mother was killed. The persecution of Bahá’í at the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued in different forms throughout these years. Within the last few years, it has increased in intensity forcing me and my family to relive that nightmare.

In 2008, seven members of the unofficial “Friends of Iran” were arrested without any explanation and imprisoned. This seven member group was allowed by the Iranian government to exist after the official nine member national governing body of the Bahá’ís of Iran were executed and all Bahá’í institutions were dismantled. The government had long known of this body and its members whose only duty was to serve and attend to the members of the Bahá’í community of Iran. They were operating with permission and with full knowledge of the authorities. This Tuesday, August 18th, the seven leaders of Iran’s Bahá’í community will go on trial on capital charges of espionage and threatening national security. They have been in prison for more than a year now. The group’s two lawyers have not only been refused the legally required visits with their clients, but neither will be in court on Tuesday. One Abdulfattah Sultani, is in prison on charges of participating i n the “Velvet Revolution,” while the other, the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, stands accused by the regime of participating in the same “conspiracy” – but has been fortunately traveling in the West.

I cannot help but feel the pain of the families of the imprisoned Bahá’í leaders as I only know too well what they are going through. At this time there are over 40 Bahá’ís in prison in Iran solely because of their religion.

I pray and hope that this time we can save them and all the innocent people imprisoned in Iran and that their families do not experience the hell that my family has gone through. When my mother was killed, all of the newspapers in Iran and outside were largely silent! No one protested. We cannot let this happen again! Every day that goes by, I wonder how I could have helped my mother. I cannot bring my mother back but I cannot stay silent and see others lose their loved ones too.

Sincerely,
Mojan Bagha

[We translated this letter to make it available in Arabic here.]