The situations of the Baha’is in Iran is unfortunately not getting any better, however many people have been joining in to protest their plight. And so, the Baha’i International Community sent on, two days ago, a letter to the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As the Baha’i World News Service explains: “The letter comes after a series of statements from Ayatollah Najafabadi quoted in the Iranian news media leveling charges at the Baha’is and stating that the ad hoc arrangements that tend to the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran are illegal.”
I’m a little biased about this, so please do not hesitate to correct me if I’m wrong; but this letter is absolutely amazing in that while respectful and polite, it doesn’t hesitate to broach, openly and honestly, the very sensitive yet important topic at hand.
For example, the letter neither hides the fact that the Baha’i community in Iran exists nor that it has been trying for the last thirty years to manage its spiritual and social life within the laws set by the Government of Iran: “The steps that have been taken to formulate the response of the Iranian Bahá’í community to your announcement have surely been communicated to you. The Yaran and the Khademin, the small groups that have been attending to the spiritual and social needs of the several hundred thousand Bahá’ís of Iran, the former at the national level and the latter at the local, have expressed their willingness to bring to a close their collective functioning. This decision has been made for no other reason than to demonstrate yet again the goodwill that the Bahá’ís have consistently shown to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the past thirty years.”
It needs to be explained that in other countries in the world, the Baha’i community is administered by an elected National Spiritual Assembly at the national level and by elected Local Spiritual Assemblies at the local level. In 1983, the Prosecutor General of Iran called for the dismantling of the Baha’i administrative structure in Iran; in response, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran dissolved itself and the rest of the administrative apparatus in Iran.
It might have been devious of the Baha’is to hide the existence of their ad hoc groups that kept tending to the spiritual and social needs of their community; however, as the letter explains: “For some twenty years, government agencies had regular contact with the Yaran and the Khademin — some times friendly and other times in the form of unreasonably long and aggressive interrogations — consulted with their members and were entirely aware of their activities. The possibility of some degree of dialogue between the Bahá’ís and government agencies seemed to be emerging.” So the Government of Iran has always been fully aware of these ad hoc groups they are now denouncing as illegal.
When considering the past in light of the above facts, it seems clear that, as it is happening now, were the Prosecutor General to ask the Baha’is to dismantle these committees, they would have done so without hesitation. The Baha’i International Community isn’t asking for the Governement of Iran’s mercy in regards to these ad hoc groups, which are already being dismantled, but rather it is asking for fairness in the Prosecutor General’s assessment of the situation.
The Baha’is, in Iran and everywhere around the world, have always striven to maintain an open and honest dialog with their governments. The value given to the point of view of Baha’is by such governments can be demonstrated by two simple facts: the Baha’i International Community’s Office at the United Nations in New York is often asked to release statements, and the National Baha’i Communities of many countries such as Canada are also often asked for such statements.
Further reflection of such honesty is evident in the letter; for example, it clearly states that the Baha’i International Community doesn’t hide that it trusts that the Baha’is in Iran, steadfast in their faith in Baha’u’llah, will yet again figure out a way of catering to its spiritual needs while fully obeying the Government of Iran: “The Universal House of Justice has assured us that the disruption in the functioning of these groups need not be seen as a cause for concern. There is no doubt in the minds of millions of Bahá’ís residing in virtually every country around the world — nor in the minds of many others who are watching these events with impartiality and who are aware of the historical development of the Faith—that the Bahá’ís in Iran will find ways of managing the spiritual life of their community, as they have done for generations over the past one hundred and sixty-five years of persecution.” Even faced with groundless and unfair accusations, the Baha’i International Community is therefore continuing it’s policy of honesty and openness by stating what the future holds for the Baha’i Community in Iran: figuring out a legal way of catering to its spiritual needs.
Hardly seems like a crime, does it?
This mix of obedience to the government and steadfastness is probably what has prompted the Government of Iran to accuse Baha’is of various crimes they are not guilty of. Unfortunately, these false accusations do nothing to find a peaceful, amicable and human way for the Baha’is to live in Iran while contributing to the development of Iran, and I sincerely hope that the letter from the Baha’i International Community will clarify any misconception or miscommunication to clear the way for an open and honest discussion between the two.
The most powerful paragraph of this letter in my opinion is the following: “In light of these well-established facts, Your Honor, it is difficult to understand how words such as “manipulative” and “deceitful,” “dangerous” and “threatening,” can be applied to Bahá’í activity in Iran. Do you consider dangerous the efforts of a group of young people who, out of a sense of obligation to their fellow citizens, work with youngsters from families of little means to improve their mathematics and language skills and to develop their abilities to play a constructive part in the progress of their nation? Is it a threat to society for Bahá’ís to discuss with their neighbors noble and high-minded ideals, reinforcing the conviction that the betterment of the world is to be achieved through pure and goodly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct? In what way is it manipulative for a couple to speak in the privacy of their home with a few friends confused by the portrayal of Bahá’ís in the mass media and to share with them the true nature of their beliefs, which revolve around such fundamental verities as the oneness of God and the oneness of humankind? What duplicity is there if a child at school, after listening to offensive language about the Founder of her Faith Whom she so loves, politely raises her hand and requests permission to explain to her classmates some of the teachings she follows? What deceit is there if a young person, committed to the acquisition of knowledge and learning, seeks the right from the authorities to enter university without having to lie about his faith? What harm is done if several families gather together periodically for communal worship and for the discussion of matters of concern to them all? Given that the human soul has no sex, is it so alarming for someone to express the view that men and women are equal in the sight of God and should be able to work shoulder to shoulder in all fields of human endeavor? And is it so unreasonable for a small group of people, in the absence of the administrative structures prescribed in their teachings, to facilitate the marriage of young couples, the education of children and the burial of the dead in conformity with the tenets of their Faith?”
I could go on and one about this amazing letter, but perhaps, after almost 1’500 words, I should practice the art of moderation and let you read it for yourself here. You can also read the report of the Baha’i World News Service here.