By: Behrouz Setoudeh (Iranian political analysts and commentator)
Translation by: M. Rouhani

Monstrous spite of corrupt reactionary Muslim religious rulers against Iran’s Baha’i citizens is nothing new; it has a 150 year history, which has to this date resulted in the execution and displacement of tens of thousands of our Iranian countrymen. After the genocide and mass murder of thousands of Babis (forerunner of Baha’is) by Ghajar kings and Muslim clergies through issuing fatwas (religious rulings), the constitutional revolution (1906-1911), put an end to killings and pressures against Baha’is. When I say, “end to killings and lifting of government imposed pressures against Baha’is”, it does not mean that after the constitutional revolution malicious religious rulers stopped spreading hatred against free thinkers, and religious minorities, especially Baha’is. It is true that the constitutional revolution moved fanatic clergies from their prominent political positions to the sidelines, but they, at the pulpits, commended and praised the Pahlavi dynasty (ruling dynasty before the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979), and continued to spread detestation and arousing ignorant mob against the free thinkers and the followers of other religions, especially Baha’is. On occasions, they even embarked on the terror of intellectuals, and attacked the offices of political parties and newspapers without facing any repercussions or any obstructions in their path by the government officials (terror of free thinkers and freedom fighters such as Ahmad Kasravi, Mohammad Masoud, Hussain Fatemi and many others, attacks on political parties, newspaper offices, and Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha’is , in the presence of Pahlavi regime’s military officials by a group called Fadaiyan-e-Islam are examples of such heinous acts).

Today, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Jannati, Ayatollah Yazdi, Ayatollah Khaz-Ali, and others like them are leading the Islamic regime’s hooligans and hoodlum and government’s baton and knife goons. They encourage their puppets to commit murder, torture and rape of the freedom seeking sons and daughters of Iran. If we look at their past history, these wicked and dangerous creatures were all threshold kissers at the king’s court during Pahlavi dynasty. At that time, under the banner of Hojjatieh Society [1], they were busy harassing the free thinkers, spreading superstitions, and hatred and animosity towards the Baha’is of Iran.

With Muslim clergies gaining power after the Iranian revolution of 1979, Baha’is were the first group of citizens to be expelled from all government offices, were assaulted, tortured and executed as the result of implementation of the legislation by the newly established Islamic government. To justify their crime, the perpetrators were accusing Baha’is of membership in “misguided Baha’i sect” and spying for “International Imperialism and Zionism”. Existence of Baha’i religious center in Haifa, Israel was an excuse for the newly established Islamic government of ignorance and crime to portray Baha’is of Iran as Zionist spies in the minds of the oblivious mob. Has anybody asked these deceitful liars: “at the time of the kings and rulers of Ghajar dynasty, you ill-willed clergy, who in the name of protectors of Islam massacred thousands of innocent Babis, were they also agents of “Imperialism and Zionism”? Were Babis (the ancestors of today’s Baha’is) so harshly subjected to your malicious, monstrous attacks and murders at that time because they were spying for Israel and America? Any rational mind knows that the land (Palestine & Shamat), where Babis of Iran found refuge and built their place of worship after they were subjected to killings and savageries in the hands of Ghajar rulers and clergies, was a part of Sunni Muslim Ottoman Empire. At that time there was no country by the name of Israel in the Middle East, and Zionism was not heard of.

The hounding and harassment of Baha’is in Iran has continued without interruption over the past 31 years. Our Baha’i countrymen have not had a moment of peace during any of the damned reign of the Islamic regime. However, during Ahmadinejad’s government which has been a breeding ground for Hojjatieh Society’s mullahs such as Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, persecution of the Baha’is has doubled. From the beginning of Ahmadinejad’s government, in different parts of the country, regime’s hooligans and thugs, instigated by the fanatic religious leaders, have set Baha’i homes on fire, or have demolished them with bulldozers. The Islamic rulers have expelled Baha’i students from universities; have increased persecution and arrests to force the remaining Baha’is to migrate out of Iran so that they can accomplish the complete extermination of this group of our countrymen.

In recent months, the freedom seeking people of Iran initiated a green movement (jonbesh-e sabz), protesting the rigged presidential election of Ahmadinejad. In response, the reactionary, digressive Islamic government has escalated the wave of suppression, horror and terror, encompassing all levels of society, including religious minorities, and especially the Baha’is.

In the latest peaceful demonstrations on Ashura [2], the regime’s hooligans and hoodlums (driving cars, on motorbikes, or on foot), attacked people and left a carnage behind; and again showed the world scenes of their monstrous behavior. Citizens of the world witnessed how the innocent Iranians demonstrated peacefully with bare handed, against the Islamic regime’s monsters and tyrants, demanding freedom, independence and social justice. After the militia’s murderous acts on Ashura (December 27, 2009), Ahmadinejad’s government added the Baha’is to the list of groups that have been singled out to bear the blame for all the turmoil in the country. The government pointed the accusing fingers at Baha’is, calling them “heads of commotion” and “instigators of green movement’s protests on Ashura”!

To complete their ridiculous scenario and fanning the flame of their baseless allegations of “plotting to overthrow the regime and insulting the sanctity of revolution and Islam”, the government announced that from the homes of some Baha’is “guns and ammunition” have been retrieved! However, many citizens of Iran and the whole world know that this group of our harmless and peace loving countrymen, due to their religious belief, are against any type of aggression, and are forbidden from using violence as a means of attaining their social and religious aspirations.

The crux of the matter is, to date the pronouncements of Mir-Hossein Mousavi [3] and Mehdi Karroubi [4], have lacked any reference to a major yearning of the people of Iran, which is freedom and equality for all religious groups. This can raise questions about Mousavi and Karroubi by the proponents of the green movement. In a country with diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, treating varied groups as equals in the sight of law, is necessary and is the prerequisite to any democratic change in the society.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and some other reformists are insisting on its implementation, is by itself the source and promoter of religious, ethnic, gender, and all other sorts of intolerance and discrimination. The constitution is unacceptable by the nation, and has to give way to a new set of laws that emphasize equal rights for all the citizens irrespective of their religious or other affiliations. The criteria for recognizing a real reformist from a phony one is that the real reformist seeks the eradication of all sorts of discrimination, whereas the phony one is interested in continuation of the inequities latent in the constitution of Iran’s Islamic regime.

The young generation, the force behind Iran’s green movement, has to be mindful of proclamations announced these days from within and outside of Iran. They should critically and constructively evaluate and challenge the pronouncements so that the fruits of green movement, irrigated by the blood of hundreds of our youth, are not confiscated by a group of self serving opportunists.

If Ayatollah Montazeri [5] as a Marja (religious authority) of many Shia Muslims, towards the end of his life, free of fear and political considerations, won the respect of a nation by defending the civil rights of the Baha’is, today no one can claim to be a reformist and close his eyes on the many biases in the articles of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Any claim that discriminations enshrined in the constitution will be dealt with and lifted some day in the future should be looked at with suspicion.

Any stereotyping of Iranian citizens based on their belief system, gender, ethnicity or social status, the exact foundation on which the constitution of the Islamic Republic is based on and has received the seal of approval, is condemned and will be discarded in the dustbin of history in the near future. The brave and courageous citizens of Iran have tried in the recent months to convey this message to the crazy and bloodthirsty rulers of our country. However, their message has fallen to deaf ears.

[1] Hojjatieh Society — is a semi-clandestine traditionalist Shia organization founded in Iran in 1953 by Shaikh Mahmoud Halabi (a Tehrani mullah from Mashhad; 1900-1998) with permission of Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi. The organization was founded on the premise that the most immediate threat to Islam was the Bahá’í religion, which they viewed as a heresy that must be eliminated. In March to June 1955, the Ramadan period that year, a widespread systematic program was under taken cooperatively by the government and the clergy. During the period they destroyed the national Bahá’í Center in Tehran, confiscated properties and made it illegal for a time to be Bahá’í (punishable by 2 to 10 year prison term.) Founder of SAVAK, Teymur Bakhtiar, took a pick-ax to a Bahá’í building himself at the time. Halabi is said to have worked with SAVAK security agency under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, offering his full cooperation in fighting “other heathen forces, including the Communists.” By doing so he was given freedom to recruit members and raise funds, and by 1977 Hojjatieh is said to have had 12,000 members. However, since the Shah’s regime, in Halabi’s view, allowed the Baha’is too much freedom, he then supported Khomeini’s movement to overthrow the Shah. []

[2] The Day of Ashura is commemorated by Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar in year 61 AH (October 10, 680 AD). []

[3] Mir-Hossein Mousavi is an Iranian reformist politician, painter and architect who served as the seventy-ninth and last Prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was a candidate for the 2009 presidential election. In 2009 presidential election, Mousavi chose green as his campaign color, a color which has since become pervasive in Iran. He is the Leader of the Green Movement and announced the Green Path of Hope as its social network. – cite_note-1 []

[4] Mehdi Karroubi is an influential Iranian reformist politician, democracy activist, mojtahed, and chairman of the National Trust Party. He was Chairman of the parliament from 1989 to 1992 and 2000 to 2004, and a presidential candidate in the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections.
Karroubi is a critic of the Guardian Council and Iran’s Judicial System and calls himself a follower of Iran’s ex-leader Ruhollah Khomeini. By appointment of the Supreme Leader, he was a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and an adviser, posts he held until resigning from all his posts on June 19, 2005 after the first round of the 2005 presidential election.
Karroubi considers himself a pragmatic reformist. He is now the head of the Etemad-e-Melli party (National Trust or National Confidence party). He has been described as a “moderate” with a “mostly rural” base of support. []

[5] Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri (1922 – 19 December 2009) was a prominent Iranian Islamic theologian, democracy advocate, writer and human rights activist. He was one of the leaders of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He was once the designated successor to the revolution’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, with whom he had a falling out in 1989 over government policies that Montazeri said infringed on people’s freedom and denied them their rights. He was widely known as the most knowledgeable senior Islamic scholar in Iran and a Grand Marja (religious authority) of Shi’ite Islam. []