Human Rights

Baha'i holy site destroyed in Iran

NEW YORK — Government authorities in Iran have destroyed yet another Bahá'í holy site, the Bahá'í International Community learned in April.

The gravesite of Quddús, a prominent figure in early Bahá'í history, has been razed to the ground, despite protests from Bahá'ís at the local, national, and international levels.

“The destruction and desecration of this holy place were carried out with the knowledge of the national government to which appeals had been made beforehand,” said Bani Dugal , the principal representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations.

“This act represents yet another example of the ongoing persecution against Iran 's 300,000-member Bahá'í community, utterly contradicting the government's claim that the human rights situation in Iran is improving,” said Ms. Dugal.

Destruction of the gravesite, located in the city of Babul , began in February but was temporarily halted after local Bahá'ís demanded to see a legal permit for the demolition work.

The Bahá'ís were referred to national authorities and for a time it appeared that the desecration had been halted. More recently, it was discovered that the dismantling of the gravesite had continued surreptitiously over a period of days until the structure was entirely demolished.

The house-like structure marked the resting place of Mulla Muhammad-'Ali Barfurushi, known as Quddús (The Most Holy). Quddús was the foremost disciple of the Báb, the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá'í Faith.

“It would be the least that the Government could do at this point to return to the Bahá'í community his sacred remains,” said Ms. Dugal. “We ask for the international community's support in this goal.”

Ms. Dugal added that the destruction of the gravesite came soon after the international community failed this year to offer a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.

Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was founded in 1979, more than 200 Bahá'ís have been killed by the Government. Hundreds more have spent time in prison and thousands have been deprived of education, property, and employment, solely because of their religious belief.

As well, a number of Bahá'í holy sites and cemeteries have been destroyed under the regime. In March 1979, the house of the Báb, the holiest Bahá'í shrine in Iran , was turned over by the Government to a Muslim cleric known for his anti-Bahá'í activities. In September that year, the house was destroyed by a mob led by mullahs and officials of the Department of Religious Affairs.

The House of Bahá'u'lláh in Takur, where the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith spent His childhood, met a similar fate: it was demolished and the site was offered for sale to the public. In Teheran and other cities throughout Iran , Bahá'í buildings were looted and burned, Bahá'í cemeteries were bulldozed and Bahá'í graves were broken open. In the Teheran area, the Bahá'ís were forced to bury their dead in a barren stretch of land reserved by the authorities for “infidels.” Having access to their own cemeteries is especially important to Bahá'ís because, as might be expected, they are not allowed to bury their dead in Muslim cemeteries.

The most egregious forms of persecution, such as the killings and imprisonments of Bahá'ís, have abated in recent years in the face of increasing international outcry, such as a series of resolutions in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) expressing concern over the treatment of Bahá'ís. However, the confiscated holy sites, graveyards and other properties have not been returned. Work and educational opportunities likewise remain limited.

Over the last two years, as well, the UNCHR has failed to pass such resolutions owing to efforts by Iran to pursue a “dialogue” with Western nations.

“Unfortunately,” said Ms. Dugal, “the Bahá'ís of Iran still face, day after day, systematic deprivation of their rights as Iranian citizens — not only in terms of their civil and political rights, but also in terms of their economic, social and cultural rights.”