Imagine not being able to go to college, let alone graduate school. Imagine not being able to get a government job or owning a business. Imagine not being allowed any legal rights or representation. I hope this is hard for you to imagine, I hope this never becomes the case for you. However, for Baha’is in Iran, this is all too real. While the persecution of Baha’is has never stopped since the faith started in Iran in the 1800s, the severities have changed over the years.
The Baha’i Faith was founded in the mid-19th century in Iran; its main principles are that there is one creator, oneness of religion and oneness of mankind. When it first began, they were brutally tortured and publicly executed. Over time, the killings stopped but there were still rumors, children were picked on and there was a constant stigma of being a baha’i. However, when the Shah was overthrown and during the Iranian Revolution in the 1980s, the brutality of torture and murder in large numbers came back. One reason is that in the Baha’i Faith, there is no clergy and the growing power of the clergy in Iranian politics found the faith as a threat. Global media attention brought this persecution to light and the government stopped killing them however baha’is are continuously not allowed basic human rights such as education or voting.
Baha’is only want peace and unity so obeying the government laws where they live are principles that Baha’is must strive for. Since the Iranian law does not grant them rights as they believe in a faith that happened after Islam, they cannot do anything about it. However, other countries are helping us change that. The US and New Zealand governments, among many others have tried to help bring rights to Baha’is in Iran; Iran signed the Declaration of Human Rights, one of the rights is the right to freedom of religion. Yet the persecution persists without an end in sight. The US House of Representatives has been working on getting House Resolution 220 passed. This resolution, “Condemns the government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Other countries are working on similar acts and they have helped but there needs to be more media coverage to bring awareness to this injustice.
After the Iranian Revolution and well into the 1980s, Baha’is were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered without any justice. Once there was the help of the worldwide media, they are no longer being killed but they still can’t go to school. Without education, their possibility of prosperity and taking care of their families diminishes. This is a systematic way of destroying a faith and it’s followers. Not only that, but Baha’is are continuously being imprisoned, without any legal representation. All of this is due because the religion started after Islam was established, therefore, the Iranian government decides Baha’is are heretics and do not deserve basic human rights.
Many Baha’is escaped Iran and have not been able to go back home for fear of being imprisoned. My mother didn’t know that when she went left Iran to Paris for school, it would be the last time she would see home. While as an American, I have the right to practice my faith, a chance to continue my education which has led me to Georgetown, none of this would have been possible if my parents didn’t get out when they did. My mother would never have been able to own her business; my father would have never been able to go to law school.
My years spent spent traveling around the world and bringing awareness through videos and social media on the persecution of Baha’is in Iran gives me drive and purpose. The more we educate ourselves, the better our lives will be. In Iran, they decided to stop the Baha’is from progressing by stopping our education. Without worldwide awareness and pressure, nothing will change.
Digital media has allowed Baha’is and their friends to speak out against the injustices and it has helped. Continued endeavors by government and private citizens all over the world using the media will bring steps to ending this persecution hopefully, once and for all.
You can learn more about the issue and what you can do to help here:
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, “H.Res.220 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): Condemning the Government of Iran’s State-Sponsored Persecution of Its Baha’i Minority and Its Continued Violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.,” legislation, (May 20, 2015), https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-resolution/220.