Persecution of the Bahá'ís

Finding your way around

With the exception of the article entitled Illicit Education I have only quoted from Bahá'í Institutions or the media and have arranged the various reports in reverse chronological order so that the reader may access the latest information first and read on for further background. Links with the suffix "O/S" are "off site". All other links help you navigate this document. The document begins with Background Information to set the scene.

Background Information

The Following Article Gives a Personal Perspective of the Effects on Individuals of the Current Persecution

Phil Christensen in South Africa writes: A friend sent me this. It was written by a friend of hers in Jordan. It is a story of hope describing how persecuted youth struggle to get an education.

Illicit Education

Bahai's Struggle to Educate Their Youth

18 February, 1999

The following article is by a Bahá'í academic who cooperated with the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education in Iran, commonly referred to as the Bahá'í Azad (Open) University. The university's offices and more than 500 Bahá'í homes were raided in Tehran last September and October and 36 staff and faculty were arrested. According to Glen Fullmer, assistant director for external affairs at the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, those arrested were forced to sign a statement that they would no longer collaborate with the university but all refused. Most were eventually released but three remain in prison in Isfahan, Fullmer said.

Bahá'í university's faculty and students have resumed their activities for the new academic year, Fullmer added, but they are "hampered by the loss of equipment, especially computers, which they suffered during the raids."

I was standing in line to clear customs at Mehrabad Airport, in the middle of a cold winter night, and was sweating bullets. The reason: My brown suitcase. It was full of books with titles such as "Designing Structures in Earthquake Zones", and "Handbook of Wastewater Treatment". I kept telling myself to calm down, repeating that "I was not doing anything wrong." Well, maybe yes, or maybe no! Was it wrong to bring textbooks to give away? Only if they were to be used by Bahá'ís.

How did I get myself into this situation? Why was I bringing textbooks into Iran?

Miraculously in the Autumn of 1993, after so many frustrating attempts, I managed to get my Iranian passport, and more importantly an exit permit. After eighteen years of exile I went home to Iran. The joy of being home, seeing my beloved Alburz mountains, and visiting old friends and relatives was overshadowed by many things that broke my heart. I saw many crippled veterans of the war with Iraq. There was a sadness and indifference that permeated people often making them act with resignation. But nothing saddened me more than meeting Nilufar.

Nilufar was a Bahá'í in her late twenty's. She had a distracted and sad look in her eyes. Although beautiful she hunched forward as if to avoid the world. What's the matter with her, I asked my cousin, who had introduced me to Nilufar. My cousin explained that Nilufar had been the top student in the School of Dentistry at Tehran University. After the Islamic Revolution, Nilufar, like all other Bahá'í students and professors, was kicked out of the university. They were banned from all higher education or government jobs. Nilufar like many other Bahá'í students, thought this was a temporary problem. Months turned into years. The level of worry and despair intensified. Nilufar and her younger sister tried to go abroad. They were denied passports, as were almost all other Bahá'ís who applied. In desperation, and against everyone's advice, the two sisters attempted to cross the boarder into Pakistan. On the way there, they were caught, arrested, and imprisoned for several months in Zahedan. The imprisonment broke Nilufar's resolve, hope, and it seemed her spirit as well.

My cousin saw the look of incredulity and disbelief on my face, after listening to her story. She pointedly said, "Nilufar is not the only one, I will introduce you to others." In the following days I met dozens of college-age Bahá'ís, each trying to cope with his or her sense of hopelessness.

The plight of the Bahá'í students affected me greatly. There were thousands of youth, raised in accordance with the principles of their faith, to believe in the importance of education. They were taught that to develop one's intellectual and spiritual potential, and to become a productive servant of society, is a human being's highest degree of achievement. To be stymied in their quest to fulfil what is their natural right was disheartening and discouraging. In Iran the brain-drain has become a major problem. Yet thousands who consider Iran a sacred country are kept out of the main stream of society.

I visited Iran again four years later. I immediately noticed something was different the second I entered my family's home. The basement room, where I usually stored my bags, was clean, freshly painted and looked very much like a classroom with chairs neatly arranged around the room. Educational posters hung on the walls. My father's workshop looked extraordinarily neat with all the tools set on the benches according to their type and size. The floors were swept and the cutting saws were shining clean. Also, there was a stranger living in my sister's room.

"The classrooms and the workshop are for the Azad (Open) University," my father said, " and the girl living in your sister's room is a first year accounting student from the north of Iran (Shomal)."

"Azad University?" I asked, thinking that my father was pulling my leg.

"Yes, it is a Bahá'í University."

My father answered with such heartfelt pride and satisfaction, that I immediately knew that he was not joking. The university had about 1,000 students, ten academic departments and a correspondence arrangement with Indiana University in the U.S. I asked about the teachers. My father explained that the classes were taught by Bahá'í professors and experts of particular fields who had been fired from other universities and government jobs.

In the following days I met with students and professors of Azad University. The joy and pride of all the student for being a part of this incredible experience was uplifting and inspiring. I asked about Nilufar. I was told that her depression had reached such depths that she could not pull herself out of it to resume her studies again. The university was a labour of love by a beleaguered community. These Bahá'ís refused to lie down and let youth, their most precious asset, wither. The classes were dispersed throughout hundreds of homes. All classes were of a very high academic standard. Minimum grades had to be achieved before moving to the next level and graduation. The first graduates, accountants, engineers, dentists, teachers and technicians had already begun working in the private sector.

So there I was, in Mehrabad, with my suitcase full of books. Having willingly put myself where I was. It was finally my turn to clear customs.

The customs officer, with his three-day-old beard, looked tired and impatient. He took my customs declaration form and barked, "What's in the brown suitcase?" With a barely audible voice, and through a dry throat, I stammered, "Books."

"BOOKS!" he seemed to shout. "What kind of books?" Other custom officers turned to stare. "Open it," he demanded without waiting for my reply. Now the other officers leaned in my direction trying to see the inside of my suitcase. The sight of the piles of books inside the suitcase startled even me.

One of the other officers left his side and came over to our side of the table. He looked hard at me, his eyes were saying "got you!" With a choking voice I managed to say, "These are academic books."

"ACADEMIC BOOKS!" he shouted again. "Who for?"

"For the university," I said, already thinking fast about the next likely question and what my reply should be. He said nothing. After he and his colleagues examined each book, my customs officer threw the last one on the pile in the suitcase.

He started to write something angrily on my customs form while shaking his head right and left. I knew I was finished. Was it going to be the Qasr prison or maybe, God forbid, Evin? He handed back my form, and slammed shut my suitcase. "Befarma'id (please move on)." As I clumsily latched the locks with my shaking hands, he turned to me and pointed to the other passengers' luggage. With a conspiratorial tone he leaned towards me and said, "I wish more people would bring books into the country instead of all this junk!"

Current Situation (April 1999)

WASHINGTON, April 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Four faculty members of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), who have been in detention in Isfahan since their arrest last fall, have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years. The Islamic Revolutionary Court in Isfahan cited the Baha'is' involvement in a program of Baha'i Studies as evidence of crimes against national security.

On March 16, Dr. Sina Hakiman was sentenced to ten years in prison, Messrs. Farzad Khajeh Sharifabadi and Habibullah Ferdosian Najafabadi to seven years, and Mr. Ziaullah Mirzapanah to three years. They had been arrested in September and October 1998 as part of the Iranian Government's crackdown on the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education. Last fall Iranian government officials raided more than 530 Baha'i homes, confiscated computers and classroom equipment, and arrested at least 36 teachers and administrators of the Institute. All of them had been released, with the exception of the four who have now been sentenced.

The four Baha'is were convicted for teaching religious classes to other Bahi'is in another organization called the Institute for Higher Baha'is Studies. The court cited Chapter One, Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code which provides for prison terms for anyone organizing an association or group with the aim of disturbing the internal or external security of the country.

However, the law makes no mention of religious instruction within one's own religious community as an illegal activity.

"This is a clear attempt on the part of the authorities to use the penal code to punish the Baha'is for studying their own religion," said Mrs. Kit Cosby, director of the U.S. Baha'i Office of External Affairs. "The charge of disturbing the security of the country is false, and is another attempt by the Iranian Government to justify its persecution of the Baha'i community."

The Iranian Baha'i community had established the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education in 1987 to provide university-level instruction to Baha'i youth barred from universities by the Government because of their religious beliefs. In late 1998 the Institute resumed its activities, although its functioning is still hampered by the loss of equipment, especially computers, which it suffered during the raids.

Since the Islamic regime took power more than 200 Baha'is have been executed on account of their religion. With 300,000 adherents, Bahi'is are Iran's largest religious minority. The Baha'i Faith is not recognized as a legitimate religion in Iran and Baha'is have no constitutional rights.

SOURCE Baha'i International Community

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Extract of Message dated 24 March 1999 from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom addressed to the Bahá'ís of the UK

Towards the end of 1998 an Early Day Motion was tabled in the House of Commons, protesting at the death sentences pronounced against six Iranian Bahá'ís. This has met with great success and so far it has collected 159 signatures. This has largely been as a result of the prompt and comprehensive response of Local Spiritual Assemblies across the country and a great number of the friends.

You will be pleased to hear that a second Early Day Motion, number 418, was tabled in the House of Commons in support of the Iranian Baha'is. In October of 1998 the Iranian Ministry of Information made a concerted effort to close the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education. Early Day Motion 418 draws attention to the raids on Bahá'í homes, the confiscation of educational material and the continuing imprisonment of three Bahá'í lecturers.

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WASHINGTON (AP - 29 October 1989) -- The State Department accused Iran of persecuting members of the Bahá'í faith and urged that death sentences against six Bahá'í prisoners be set aside.

More than 500 homes and office buildings owned or rented by Iranian Bahá'ís have been raided and at least 36 faculty members from a Bahá'í institute arrested, deputy spokesman James Foley said Thursday.

Textbooks on such subjects as dentistry and accounting were confiscated, the U.S. spokesman said. None of the material seized dealt with religious or political subjects, Foley said.

Four of the 36 teachers were kept in prison, joining 13 other Bahá'ís, six of whom are facing execution.

Three weeks ago, the State Department condemned the execution of a Bahá'í, Ruhollah Rowhani. The department said it had seen no evidence Rowhani was accorded due process of law.

The White House also issued a statement, conveying President Clinton's condolences to Rowhani's family. It said Clinton urged Iranian President Mohammad Khatami ``to take the necessary steps to ensure that others are not victimised for the peaceful expression of their faith.''

On Thursday, the State Department's Foley said the buildings raided in recent days were used by the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education, a university founded in 1987 after Bahá'ís were virtually banned from Iran's public universities.

``We have publicly called on the government of Iran to protect the lives of all Bahá'ís,'' Foley said. ``We continue to urge the government of Iran to eliminate restrictions on the practice of religion and to recognise and uphold the fundamental human right to freedom of conscience and belief.''

The U.S. official urged the Iranian government ``to exercise restraint and not carry out'' death sentences against imprisoned Bahá'ís.

The Bahá'ís draw their religious principles from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths. They are considered heretics by Iran's Islamic fundamentalist government.

For months, the Clinton administration has pursued diplomatic and other contacts with Iran on the basis of a judgement that President Khatami was inclined to moderation.

Hard-liners in the Iranian government have rebuffed the overtures.

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To All Public Information Representatives

October 6, 1998

Dear Bahá'í Friends,

UPDATE ON THE SITUATION OF THE BAHÁ'ÍS IN IRAN

The National Spiritual Assembly has received an update about the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran. We now know that at least 36 faculty members of the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education were arrested between September 29th and October 3rd in cities across the country. Most of these faculty members have now been released, but seven, five in Tabriz and two in Tehran, remain in custody.

The arrests were carried out by officers of the Iranian government's intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information, and also involved the seizure of textbooks, scientific papers and document records, some 70 computers and school furniture, including tables and benches.

Those who were arrested were asked to sign a document declaring that the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education had ceased to exist as of September 29th, and agreeing that they would no longer cooperate with it. The detainees refused to sign the document.

Intelligence officers raided more than 500 Bahá'í homes throughout Iran. When queried about the seizure of personal household effects, like television sets and pieces of furniture, these officers claimed that they had been authorized by the Attorney General to take anything they wished.

The wave of arrests and harassment bears the marks of a centrally orchestrated campaign intended to lend impetus to the declared policy of the Iranian Government to nullify the Bahá'í community and force its members to convert to Islam. This policy became widely known in 1993 when it was accidentally revealed that the Iranian Supreme Revolutionary Council had earlier adopted a position on "The Bahá'í Question" in a secret document dated February 25, 1991 and signed by Ayatollah Khamenei. The document contained such declarations as the following:

It is evident that the Iranian Government has worked at various means to achieve these ends; among them are the banning of the administrative institutions of the Faith, the disruption of the moral education classes for Bahá'í children and young people, the economic strangulation of the Bahá'ís through such means as the dismissal of Bahá'í employees, the denial of pensions and the confiscation of properties, and the prohibition of Bahá'í youth from entering institutions of higher learning in Iran. The recent attacks by Iranian authorities can be viewed as effecting only a part of this policy.

You are encouraged to incorporate this updated information into all of your future press releases and media contacts.

Many rumors have been circulating about the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran. Some of these are true and some are false. The situation in Iran is changing rapidly, and until you hear otherwise from the National Spiritual Assembly, you should continue to act on the information that has been released by the National Assembly. Public information representatives, and the local Spiritual Assemblies that they represent, should follow the instructions and guidance already received from the National Assembly, and should not allow rumors to deter them from acting swiftly.

The institutions of the Faith are verifying information coming out of Iran, and as soon as new and reliable information is available, it will be conveyed to the friends. In the meantime, public information representatives should not rely on the statements and rumors of individual Bahá'ís, no matter how reliable these may seem.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Office of Public Information Bahá'ís of the United States

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Office of Public Information, Bahá'ís of the United States

866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120 New York, NY 10017-1822

Tel: (212) 803-2500 Fax: (212) 803-2573 E-mail: usopi-ny@bic.org

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Message from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom dated Friday October 2nd 1998

We have received news of further disturbing developments in Iran.

In recent days there has been a widespread assault on Bahá'í educational activities in Iran. According to reports just received, thirty-two faculty members of the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education, sometimes called the Bahá'í Open University, have been arrested. The Open University represents an effort of the Iranian Bahá'ís to provide education for Bahá'í youth who are prevented from completing their high school education and from attending universities in Iran.

Moreover, the properties of the arrested Bahá'ís, including books, papers and furniture, have been plundered, together with the properties of other Bahá'ís unconnected to the Open University. These actions have been carried out across the country by government officers under the direction of the Ministry of Information, an intelligence agency of the Iranian Government.

It appears that the object of these assaults on the faculty members is closure of the Open University. Of those arrested, one was released in Teheran. He reported having been told by an official that the Bahá'í educational institution must be closed. However, there seems to be a greater reason: this surge of attacks is consistent with the aim of the Iran Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council to eradicate the Iranian Bahá'í community, as set forth in the secret document it adopted in 1991. (Often referred to as the "Gulpaygani Document, its existence is well established, indeed the National Spiritual Assembly has copies and has previously shared them with the media and with government officials. Despite this documentary evidence Iranian spokesmen continue to deny that there is any official programme of action against the Bahá'ís.)

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OTTAWA, Oct. 2 (UPI) --

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy has expressed concern about the arrest of 32 Bahá'í academics in Iran, and has called on Tehran to end its oppression of the religious minority.

Axworthy's remarks today came a day after reports from the Middle East said Iranian authorities had arrested 32 faculty members of the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education, also known as the Bahá'í Open University.

Axworthy says in a statement, ``These arrests are especially troubling as they occurred in the same week that two Bahá'í men had death sentences confirmed.''

He says, ``The men were convicted of crimes against the state but these crimes amounted to practising their faith.''

Gerald Filson, a spokesman for the Bahá'í Community of Canada, says the two men, convicted by a religious court, were found guilty of converting a Muslim woman to the Bahá'í faith. The woman says she was brought up as a Bahá'í. Axworthy says the new arrests, carried out by intelligence and security officials in 14 cities across Iran, ``are an affront to the human rights of Iranian Bahá'ís.''

He said he raised the issue with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, whom he met in New York on Thursday.

The Canadian official says, ``We have seen some positive changes in Iran under President (Mohammad) Khatami, but it is time for the judicial authorities to end their oppression of the Iranian Bahá'í community.''

Bahá'ís are not permitted to complete high school or attend universities in Iran.

In July, Bahá'í prisoner Ruhollah Rowhani was executed, after a religious court in Mashad, some 500 miles (800 km) east of Tehran, sentenced him to death for converting a Muslim woman to the Bahá'í faith. Six other Bahá'ís are now facing execution in Iran.

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The White House is urging the Iranian government not to execute two members of the Bahá'í religious minority for allegedly converting a Muslim woman to the Bahá'í faith.

In a statement today, the White House also condemned the arrest of 32 Bahá'ís and confiscation of their property in a nationwide crackdown.

The statement says: ``We strongly urge President Khatami to ensure that these executions are not carried out. Executing people for the practice of their religious faith is contrary to the most fundamental human rights principles.''

It adds, ``We deplore this attack on followers of the Bahá'í faith and urge President Khatami to ensure the release of all Bahá'ís who have been arrested for the peaceful observance and expression of their faith.''

The death sentences against on Sirus Zabihi-Moghaddam and Hedayet Kashefi-Najafabadi, handed down in Mashad, some 500 miles (800km) east of Tehran, bring to six the total number of Bahá'ís facing execution in Iran.

On July 21, Iranian religious authorities executed Bahá'í prisoner Ruhollah Rowhani after an Islamic court found him guilty of converting a woman to the Bahá'í faith.

The Supreme Court of Iran refused to endorse the sentence, but Rowhani was hanged anyway.

On Thursday, a representative of the Bahá'í community in Canada told UPI the latest arrests began Tuesday and were accompanied by raids on Bahá'í property in 14 cities, including Tehran, Tabriz, Hamedan, Zanjan and Khorramabad.

Gerald Filson said officials from the Ministry of Information seized books, papers and furniture and told a board member of the Open University that the institution must close.

He said the university was established because Bahá'ís are not allowed to complete high school or attend Iranian universities.

There are some 300,000 Bahá'ís in Iran, which does not officially recognize them as a minority group.

In Ottawa today, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy also condemned the arrests and said he raised the issue with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, whom he met in New York on Thursday.

In a statement, Axworthy said the arrests ``are an affront to the human rights of Iranian Bahá'ís.''

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The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States issued the following press release on October 1, 1998:

MASS ARRESTS OF BAHÁ'Í EDUCATORS IN IRAN

TWO DEATH SENTENCES CONFIRMED

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 1998

At today's daily briefing the State Department's spokesman, James Rubin, stated that the death sentences of two Iranian Bahá'ís have been confirmed and that 32 Bahá'í teachers have been arrested.

The teachers were arrested in fourteen cities throughout Iran over the last three days. Iranian government officials also confiscated classroom equipment and plundered homes of Bahá'ís in several cities throughout the country. Earlier this week prison authorities in Mashhad told two Bahá'í prisoners that their death sentences have been confirmed. Another Bahá'í in the same prison was executed by hanging in July.

Since the early 1980's the Iranian Government has barred Bahá'ís from universities because of their religious beliefs. Bahá'í teachers have been providing university-level instruction to college-age youth in private homes. All Bahá'ís who had been faculty in Iranian universities had been dismissed from their positions shortly after the Islamic Revolution.

In Mashhad death sentences were confirmed against Mr. Sirus Zabihi-Moghaddam and Mr. Hedayat Kashefi Najafabadi. They were arrested in the fall of 1997 for holding religious "family life" meetings. Along with the recently executed Bahá'í, Mr. Ruhollah Rowhani, they were sentenced to death in January or February after secret trials at which they received no legal representation. A fourth Bahá'í prisoner in Mashhad, who had also been sentenced to death earlier this year, Mr. Ataollah Hamid Nasirizadeh, was informed orally this week that his sentence had been commuted to ten years' imprisonment.

"It is particularly disturbing that the confirmation of the death sentences was conveyed orally," said American Bahá'í spokesman Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh. "This suggests that the Iranian authorities are trying to conceal this miscarriage of justice."

Mr. Rowhani was summarily executed on July 21, 1998. Mr. Rowhani had been charged with converting a Muslim woman to the Bahá'í Faith, a charge the woman refuted. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran at first denied the execution and even referred to Mr. Rowhani as an "imaginary individual." Iranian authorities later acknowledged the execution but stated that Mr. Rowhani had been executed for crimes against national security.

"In the light of statements made by President Khatami, we had expected there would be an improvement in the situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran. This week's mass arrests of teachers and the confirmation of two death sentences on purely religious grounds are further evidence of a co-ordinated campaign by the Iranian Government aimed at the destruction of the Bahá'í community," Dr. Kazemzadeh said.

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"Justifications" for the Persecution of the Bahá'ís

NB The following is based on a document prepared by the Bahá'í International Community and was copied from the Bahá'í's official presence on the web http://www.bahai.org

Despite the overwhelming proof that the Bahá'í community in Iran is being persecuted solely because of its religious beliefs, the Iranian Government continues to justify this persecution by charging the Bahá'í community with a variety of offences. All such charges demonstrate an ignorance of the basic principles and history of the Bahá'í Faith. No evidence has ever been brought forward to support any of these accusations. The principal charges advanced by the Government are:-

* That Bahá'ís are supporters of the Pahlavi regime and the late Shah of Iran; that they collaborated with SAVAK, the secret police; and that the Bahá'í Faith is a political organization opposed to the present Iranian Government.

Bahá'ís are required by the basic principles of their faith to show loyalty and obedience to the Government of the country in which they live. The Bahá'í community in Iran thus did not oppose the Pahlavi regime, just as it does not oppose the present Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, members of the community have obeyed every law and instruction of the present Government, including the instruction to disband all Bahá'í administrative institutions in Iran.

Bahá'í principles also require the avoidance of any form of involvement in partisan politics. Accordingly, Iranian Bahá'ís were precluded by membership in their faith from accepting cabinet posts or similar political positions under the Pahlavi regime. They did not collaborate with SAVAK. On the contrary, the Pahlavi regime consistently persecuted the Bahá'í Faith, and SAVAK was one of the main agencies of this persecution. For Bahá'ís in Iran, the idea of collaboration with SAVAK would have been unthinkable.

* The Iranian Government has alleged that certain SAVAK officials were Bahá'ís.

These allegations are completely untrue, fabricated to mask the religious nature of the persecutions.

* That Bahá'ís are heretics or enemies of Islam.

Both charges are false. The Bahá'í Faith is widely recognized as an independent world religion even by Islamic scholars. As long ago as 1924, a Sunni appellate court in Egypt recognized that the Bahá'í Faith was an independent world religion in its judgement that: "The Bahá'í Faith is a new religion entirely independent.... No Bahá'í therefore can be regarded as Muslim or vice versa, even as no Buddhist, Brahmin or Christian can be regarded as Muslim." Accordingly, no charge of heresy can be made.

Bahá'ís revere Muhammad and His book, the Quran, as they do Jesus, Buddha, and the founders of the other great religions. Indeed, alone among the followers of the world's other major independent religions, only Bahá'ís recognize the station of Muhammad as a Prophet of God.

* That Bahá'ís are agents of Zionism.

This charge is based solely on the fact that the Bahá'í World Centre is in Israel. The Bahá'í World Centre was, however, established on Mount Carmel in the last century, long before the State of Israel came into existence, in accordance with the explicit instructions of Bahá'u'lláh, who was exiled there from Iran.

* That Bahá'ís are involved with prostitution, adultery and immorality.

This charge, like the others, is utterly without foundation. Bahá'ís have a strict moral code and attach great importance to chastity and to the institution of marriage.

The Bahá'í marriage ceremony is not recognized in Iran and no civil marriage ceremony exists. Consequently, Bahá'ís have been faced with the choice of denying their faith in order to be married according to the rites of one of the religions recognized in Iran, or of marrying in accordance with the rites of their own faith. They have consistently chosen to be married in accordance with Bahá'í law. The Government does not recognize these marriages and denounces Bahá'í wives as prostitutes.

The other charges of adultery and immorality against Bahá'ís are based solely on the fact that, in accordance with the Bahá'í principle of the equality of men and women, there is no segregation of the sexes at Bahá'í gatherings.

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Comment

I once asked a Persian Bahá'í how come they were so steadfast in the face of death and torture. He said:-

"The spirit of Faith is the fruit of the union between your soul and God. How can one deny such an offspring. It would be a lie and, therefore, unworthy of so precious a gift. Just as a mother would gladly offer up her life to protect her child, so a true believer will, if called upon to do so, lay down his life to protect so precious a jewel."

Have confidence in the truth, although you may not be able to comprehend it, although you may suppose its sweetness to be bitter, although you may shrink from it at first. Trust in the Truth...Have faith in the Truth and live it. [Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada]

Please remember the Bahá'ís of Iran in your prayers that they may be granted succour in their adversity; that their promotion of the oneness of Mankind may soon bear fruit and that those in authority may, at last, realise that they cannot put out the light of Truth.

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