Islamic Government, Domestic Crisis and the Baha’i Community in Iran

* This article has been developed for the human rights community and civil rights activists to clarify and spread awareness about the trial of a Baha’i person and his confessions.

After nearly three decades of social and economic pressures on Iran’s Baha’i community, over the past two years, alongside its other dark deeds, the Islamic Republic of Iran has strengthened its resolve to place the Baha’i community in Iran under helpless oppression through full-scale and historically unparalleled repression, and set a new record for repression of religious minorities. Under the current conditions in Iran, one can only speculate about what plans and strategies the ruling leadership has for unrelenting pressure on the Baha’i community.  In this note, after a brief review of existing circumstances, we will review two likely scenarios:

A – Current Conditions:

1.         A group of seven Baha’is who were responsible for managing and coordinating religious events in the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested in May, 2008 and have been held in detention since; they will appear in the second round of their trials on February 7, 2009, after enduring an unprecedented exhausting legal marathon.

2.         On January 3rd, nearly five weeks before the second trial session of the directors of the Baha’i community, a number of Tehran youths are arrested on false charges in connection with the incidents on Ashura.

3.         In less than one month, a court is formed in the typical for-show style of the Islamic government to try a number of detained Baha’is.  Parts of their so-called confessions are quickly put on air in one of the most watched television programs in Iran, Bist va Si (20 and 30) News, over two days in two separate shows.

4.         Like all other media manipulations by the Iranian government, the Baha’i community and its internal management system are portrayed as elements for disturbance of public order and creation of internal disruption in television reports and other media.[i] In this connection, a Ziafat,[ii] in the form of a small family gathering by Baha’is, is introduced as a communication channel for disruption of public order by the Iranian media.

B – Two Possible Scenarios:

1.         Since Ziafat is a gathering which is participated in by all members of the Baha’i community, the ground work is created in the realm of public opinion as well as an excuse for the militarized security system of the Iranian government to begin a fresh wave of attacks on the Baha’I community.  This wave can include orders for a new phase of severe socio-economic restrictions, in addition to further arrests of Baha’is, because now the government believes that it has shown that Baha’is have participated in the hostile anti-government political disturbances and will continue to do so.

2.         In addition, in such a situation, in the course of creating a case against the seven managers of the Baha’i community, with new fabricated conditions, it is likely that their situation will become even more critical because the Judiciary of the Iranian regime has created examples of disturbance of national security by Baha’is and the administrative system of the Baha’i community.  Therefore, consistent with legal trends along with laying of legal ground work and preparation of sections of public opinion, the trial of the Baha’i managers can move towards capital punishment with little tension.

In today’s complex political and social conditions in Iran, at a time when the domestic political crisis is becoming more intense every day, in order to minimize its crisis of legitimacy and to hide the desire of the majority of Iranian people for a united, free and progressive society, the Islamic government is cunningly trying to blame the events of the past few months on groups inside and outside its borders or on policies of other countries and ridiculously deny any internal and long standing demands of the majority of Iranian people. In this regard connecting Baha’is to the political organization of the recent campaigns of the Iranian people is one of the tools for affecting public in order to kill two birds with one stone. In its first goal, the government will find an opportunity to attach Iran’s Baha’i community to the recent political events and present the community as destructive through a misleading media campaign, and in this way double its previous thirty year pressure to destroy this community.  In its second goal, the regime will try to use political quackery and media propaganda to portray the public needs of the people of Iran as non-traditional and their core social demands and quest for freedom as trivial demands from the outside world, and thus trivialize the scale of its internal crisis as much as possible. Will the stone strike either of its targets?


[i] “Members of the Baha’i community throughout the world seek to distance themselves from involvement in religious politics, avoid interference in political relations between governments and abstain from any efforts to achieve power. Baha’is have chosen this position based on the teachings of their religion, for the performance of their role in building a united and dynamic society, and this choice is not a criticism of political organizations or the chosen actions of others. In this context, it is obvious that they also completely reject any form of disturbance or resorting to violence. “(Letter of Beit Al-Adl A’azam, 22 January 2010)

[ii] In the Baha’i community, Ziafat is a unifying get together and is completely based on affection.  All around the world, Baha’is, whether old or young, man or woman, participate in a small gathering every nineteen days called Ziafat, which takes place among a few families in their place of residence.  In Zaiafat, Baha’is pray, recite their religious texts and discuss its meanings with one another and exchange ideas about the requirements of a moral life as well as ways to help solve the problems of the members of their immediate community.

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