Human Rights

Three Bahá’ís stabbed in Iran, emblematic of widespread religious hate crimes

BIRJAND, Iran — It was a quiet Monday evening in February in this provincial capital in eastern Iran when a man surreptitiously entered the home of the Moodi family.

He was wearing a mask.

And he immediately moved on the attack, stabbing Ghodratollah Moodi, his wife, Touba Sabzehjou, and their daughter, Azam Moodi.

He then quickly left without stealing anything.

Mr. Moodi was seriously injured in the abdomen. Mrs. Sabzehjou was cut in the neck. Both soon lost consciousness from blood loss.

Ms. Moodi, despite deep wounds of her own, was able to phone for help, and all three were soon taken to the hospital. In critical condition at first, they eventually recovered.

The perpetrator, however, remains at large.

The whole episode, which occurred on 3 February 2014, reflects the degree to which hate crimes against Iranian Bahá’ís have been allowed to flourish in recent years, under a government that itself widely disseminates anti- Bahá’í propaganda in the state-controlled news media.

Diane Ala’i, the Bahá’í International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, noted that the attacker stole nothing — and his only goal appears to have been to kill three innocent Bahá’ís in their home.

“As such, there can be no doubt that this crime was religiously motivated. Mr. Moodi was well known as a leader in the Bahá’í community in Birjand.

“The sad fact is that there have been more than 50 physical assaults on Iranian Bahá’ís since 2005 — and none of the attackers has been prosecuted or otherwise brought to justice. And at least nine Bahá’ís have been murdered under suspicious circumstances in the same period, and the murderers have likewise enjoyed impunity.”

Ms. Ala’i noted, for example, that a Bahá’í in Bandar Abbas was killed on 24 August 2013 — and that police have yet to charge anyone with the crime. Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, who was also a leader in the Bahá’í community in his locality, was murdered in his own car by a gunshot to the head.

In addition to those two attacks, the Iranian Bahá’í community has faced numerous attacks on its cemeteries in recent years — more than 40 since 2005 — and Bahá’ís have faced threats and discrimination throughout the country.

In June 2014 in Yazd, for example, someone anoymously distributed leaflets calling Bahá’ís “godless,” suggesting it was a religous duty to attack their properties. The leaflets appeared on the eve of an important Shiite holy day.

In a report issued in October 2011, the Bahá’í International Community documented more than 425 instances of anti-Bahá’í propaganda or statements in the Iranian news media or on government-controlled or government-sponsored websites between December 2009 and May 2011.

That effort has continued and actually increased by some measures. The BIC logged some 55 anti-Bahá’í articles in the Iranian media in January 2014, a figure that rose steadily month by month, culminating in at least 565 such articles in June 2014.