Every week there are one or two anti-Bahai stories that circulate in the officially sanctioned media in Iran: they are usually transparent fabrications. Sometimes I report one which reaches the media outside Iran, or is exceptionally nasty. This week’s story is relatively innocuous: the Bahais are said to be behind the strike of goldsmiths who are protesting a new sales tax by closing their premises. Merchants’ strikes are a traditional form of social and political protest in Iran, since the economy has been the one relatively free sector in an authoritarian society, for the past several centuries. Pulling down the shutters is one of the few ways of pressuring the Breitling Replica government available to the long-suffering people of Iran.

Many Bahais in Iran are small shop-keepers and service providers, because they are excluded from government service and employment in most sectors, and from higher education, so that small trading and services is virtually the only avenue Bahais in Iran have to earn a living. They need renewable licenses for their shops, and are periodically put out of business when the local authorities deny them a further license. Sometimes they are arrested and imprisoned or exiled as well. Others have their shops attacked by vandals or arsonists. From the news reports of these incidents, we get a picture of what kind of businesses the Bahais have. Not once have I heard of a Bahai gold merchant or jeweler being denied a license, or of the shop of a Bahai goldsmith being damaged. So this story falls into the category of transparent fabrications, so obviously false that a comment is not required.

However it got me thinking. Breitling Bentley fake Watches The motive behind the story is probably not anti-Bahaism, but alarm at the gold merchants’ strike, and fear that it will spread. By saying that the Bahais are behind the strike, the inventor of this story is probably hoping to discourage individual merchants from joining in the strike. The story is circulated to warn shopkeepers, ‘if you shut your shop, people may think you are a Bahai.’ Any perceived relationship to the Bahai Faith would have commercial, social and perhaps criminal consequences for the merchant and his family. The same may be true of the person who first thought up the story that the Bahais were behind the 2009 Ashura protests (although in that case, some Bahais have actually been charged with involvement), or the story about the Bahais running the BBC and VOA.

I think we can distinguish two different kinds of anti-Bahai fabrications: those that are primarily intended to smear the Bahais, and those that use existing anti-Bahai sentiment to serve other agendas. They reinforce one another in a vicious circle. The first kind I will call active anti-Bahai propaganda. AAA Breitling Replica Recent examples are the story about an unnamed Bahai man being arrested in an unnamed town for sexual relations with unnamed Muslim women, in a case that never came to court for unstated reasons. Or the one about two Bahai terrorists being arrested in broad daylight a park in Tehran, strangely enough without a single eyewitness of the arrest. When Bahais are actually arrested, which happens every week, we know fairly soon their names, and how they were arrested, and what they are charged with (the standard accusations are teaching the Bahai Faith and propaganda against the regime).

The Qom version of the blood libel story, with Bahais as the villains, is another kind of active anti-Bahai propaganda: historical libels.

The second kind of anti-Bahai propaganda feeds on the anti-Bahai sentiment, so I will call it passive anti-Bahaism. The story about the gold merchants is an example. The active anti-Bahai propaganda appears to be consciously generated and distributed, with government funding and support, but passive anti-Bahai propaganda is spontaneously generated by people with other agendas. The link between the two, is that the accumulation of individual stories about the Bahais being behind everything from local gold strikes to the United Nations, must leave the Iranian consumers with the impression that the Bahai Faith is a huge global conspiracy with tentacles everywhere. If the Bahais can arrange a strike, or a UN resolution, they could raise the price of bread and stop my mother getting her cataract operation.

The people who are producing active anti-Bahai propaganda would not want to give the impression that the Bahais are powerful in Iran, or the world, today. They are content to say things such as, the Bahai Faith was created by Russia, or England, or the Zionists, or is in league with Israel and Saudi Arabia and Freemasons, or was supported by the late Shah (who, in fact, persecuted the Bahais, often with the assistance of Muslim clerics). The last thing they would say, is that today there are Bahais behind every lamppost, becoming more and more numerous. But that’s the impression given by the spontaneously-produced passive anti-Bahai propaganda. The accumulation of those stories, which link the Bahais to any and every polemical target, turns anti-Bahaism from a-historical fabrications into a visceral threat to the men and women on Iranian streets today, and makes government policies against the Bahais seem like a justified cultural defence.

Originally posted on Sen’s Daily