Chairperson of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Palmdale
Imagine, if you will, that one day you are summarily dismissed from your job without any reason and denied your pension. In addition, you are prevented from holding any government jobs and you are not allowed to enter any college or university. If you pursue self-employment, your business is subjected to random closure. And that’s not the end. The authorities could raid your house at any time, destroy and confiscate properties, arrest and put you in jail. You could pay the exuberant bail but will eventually be sentenced to many years in prison and your house confiscated. You will ask: what crime have I committed to deserve this?
This nightmarish scenario is the daily reality for the Baha’is in Iran. They are also subjected to hateful propaganda campaigns by the state media, destruction of holy places, and the desecration of cemeteries. The persecution is national in scope, systematic, state-sponsored, and carried out with the full weight of the government behind it. The official charges are ‘threat to state security’ and ‘spying for Israel’. But everyone, including the United Nations and governments around the world, knows that the charges are fabricated and made up. The only offense these innocent people have committed is their belief in the Baha’i Faith. We know from leaked secret documents that the government intends to eradicate and uproot the Baha’i community in Iran.
What Baha’is believe shouldn’t really matter, they deserve human rights like all law-abiding citizens, regardless of their religion. A quick summary should suffice to show that Baha’is are peace-loving people who strive to work for unity and the upliftment of all. Baha’is are monotheistic and follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who they believe is the latest messenger from God. Among the teachings are: the divine origin of all major religions, all are members of one human family, personal responsibility to investigate truth, elimination of all prejudices, equality of men and women, harmony of science and religion, universal education, and universal peace. They are enjoined as a matter of faith to obey the laws of the land, forbidden to engage in sedition, avoid partisan politics, and work for the betterment of their community.
The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been persecuted in Iran since its inception in the late 19th century. At the beginning of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, over 200 Baha’is were executed or murdered. The killings only stopped after international outcries, but the persecutions continued unabated in a slow and systematic way. Recently, the ongoing persecution has intensified both in scope and cruelty. Iranian government agents have destroyed six homes and confiscated land belonging to Baha’is in the village of Roushankouh. Rendering the villagers homeless and deprived of earning a living from farming. Across Iran, over 100 have been either raided or arrested in recent days and dozens of others have been targeted since June.
The recent escalation in persecution has alarmed the local Baha’i communities here in Antelope Valley. We come from diverse backgrounds, but we are all concerned for the well-being of our coreligionists in Iran. Some of us came to this country as refugees fleeing the persecution and still have family members in Iran who are suffering. I came to USA as a student when I was 16 years old. Soon after, my family’s residences and businesses in Iran were confiscated by the Islamic Republic government. Everything was taken away. I am fortunate to live in a country that allows me to practice my religion freely and gives me a voice. I feel obligated to use my voice to raise awareness of the sufferings of these innocent people and the injustices they endure.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The stories of injustices anywhere need to be told and heard. What if the diary of Anne Frank was never found and her story never told? What if we never found out what happened to Emmett Till or George Floyd? Likewise, the world needs to know the story of the 17 years old Mona Mahmudnizhad, who was hanged along with nine other women for being Baha’is in Shiraz, Iran in 1983. These stories are powerful agents for change and remind us of our common humanity. We can at least pray for the innocent victims, speak on their behalf when possible, and stand up for their rights when given the opportunity.
One way you can help is to contact your Senators and Representative and ask them co-sponsor Senate Resolution 183 (S.Res.183) and House Resolution 744 (H.Res.744) “condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”
About the author: Farivar Roshanian is the chairperson of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Palmdale. He is also serving as the president of the Antelope Valley Interfaith Council. Previously, he was a member of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force and served on the International Heritage Picnic committee.