Last month, Mr. Ataollah Rezvani was murdered. His body was found in his car on the outskirts of Bandar Abass, the Iranian city to which he resided in. Leading up to this moment, Rezvani had been expelled from his University, he had been let go from his job, and the weeks prior to his murder, he had received menacing phone calls.
All of these events–being denied an education, fired from his job, the threatening phone calls–were all because of one reason: Mr. Ataollah Rezvani was a member of the Baha’i Faith.
Members of the Baha’i Faith make up the largest religious minority in Iran. They believe in the equality of men and women, the eradication of all forms of prejudices, the realization of a universal education, and the elimination of extreme disparities between the rich and poor. But because of their religion, the Baha’is in Iran have endured persecution that has extended to torture, imprisonment, the denial of higher education, and for some, even death.
In 2008, The Yaran (“The Friends”), 7 individuals who make up the Baha’i governing body of Iran, were imprisoned for no other reason than the religion they practice. They are each serving up to 20 years of imprisonment. But they are not alone. Currently, 116 Baha’is are imprisoned in Iran for their beliefs, while another 448 are out on bail.
We live in a country that prides itself on two principles: democracy and freedom, and we see it as our duty to protect these principles domestically, as well as abroad. Yet, despite this lofty rhetoric, the Baha’is in Iran still face overt persecution and discrimination because of their beliefs, and the world remains silent while their basic human rights and dignity are being stripped away. Even when then US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, spoke out against the persecution in front of congress, and when it was brought in front of the United Nations by the Secretary General, silent, the world still remained.
This silence is a legacy of inconvenient realities. Realities where we, the privileged, decide which injustices deserve to be noticed, and which ones deserve to be ignored. We see it now more than ever, when after two years of Civil War and brutal dictatorship, the U.S. now sees their obligation to intervene in Syria, without any sense of irony on how they remained silent during Rwanda, Dar Fur, South African Apartheid and so many other injustices that continue to arise around the globe.
So today, the Bahai’s of Iran continue to endure hardships, but I pray for a day when not just the Persecution of Baha’is, but where all injustices are notably acknowledged and given the sense of urgency they deserve. I pray for a day when justice and human dignity are equally shared throughout humanity, and when the realization of the oneness of humankind becomes universally embraced.
Below are a collection of narratives that tell the plight of Baha’is in Iran.
The story of Roxana Saberi’s time in prison with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two of The Yaran (“the Friends”), sentenced to 20 years in prison simply for helping administer the needs of the Baha’i community in Iran.
A profile of Iranian-Kurdish human rights activist and researcher, Soraya Fallah, with her daughter Cklara Moradian. Soraya was imprisoned four times, and tortured so severely that she miscarried in solitary confinement
A heartbreaking account of Mahmoud Madjzoob, told by his widow Shokooh Madjzoob, and their son Soroush.
Political activist Jafar Yaghoobi’s first-person account of his four and a half years in prison.
The story of Soheilia Afnani and her father Nusratullah Subhani, a local Baha’i leader who was executed March 5th, 1985.
A story of love, courage, and belief in freedom with Reza Fani Yazdi and his wife Soheila Vahdati.