The Baha’is believe in the essential worth of all religions and in the unity of all people. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
The Baha’is believe in the essential worth of all religions and in the unity of all people. The faith began in Iran in the 19th century, the country where its believers have faced monstrous persecution since the religion’s inception. The Bahais are estimated to have over five million adherents, spread across the globe. 350,000 Bahais still live, despite constant persecution, in Iran.
The religion has three central figures:the Báb (1819–1850), considered to have been the herald who taught that God would soon send a prophet in the same way as Jesus or Muhammad, and who was executed by Iranian authorities in 1850; Baháʼu’lláh (1817–1892), who claimed to be that prophet in 1863 and faced exile and imprisonment for most of his life; and his son, ʻAbdu’l-Bahá (1844–1921), who was released from confinement in 1908 and made teaching trips to Europe and the United States. After ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s death in 1921, leadership of the religion fell to his grandson Shoghi Effendi (1897–1957). The World Center of the Bahai’ religion consists of the Temple and the Bahai Gardens that are located on Mount Carmel in Haifa; Believers are supposed to visit the center at least once in their lifetime. This requirement was no doubt borrowed from Islam, whose believers are instructed to visit Mecca at least once in their lives and to walk widdershins seven times around the Magic Wonderstone.
The Bahai have always been persecuted in Muslim lands, and with unique ferocity in Iran ever since the Khomeinist Revolution of 1979. The latest report on Iranian attempts to enrich the state by confiscating the properties owned by Bahais is here: “Iran regime plans to enrich itself by seizing Baha’i properties, says NGO,” by Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, February 19, 2022:
The Baha’i International Community (BIC) has announced last week that Iran’s regime is seeking to increase its wealth by confiscating Baha’i properties.
The seizure by the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order [EIKO] of Baha’i properties is a novel and very worrying development for Iranian Baha’is,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the BIC to the United Nations in Geneva. “This development demonstrates that the highest levels of Iran’s leadership are orchestrating the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.”
Ala’i added, “Iran’s leadership is enriching itself while impoverishing and displacing the Baha’is.”
Iran’s economy has been devastated by the American sanctions that have cost the country many hundreds of billion dollars in lost oil sales and lost foreign investment, and by the Iranian government’s decision to spend tens of billions of dollars on its nuclear program and on local proxies and allies in the region.
The BIC wrote, “A Revolutionary Court in the province of Semnan has ordered that properties belonging to six Baha’is should be transferred to EIKO. Semnan Province manager for EIKO Mr. Hamid Ahmadi, initiated the action to secure a court order for the confiscations.”
Ala’i noted that “seizures in Semnan, Mazandaran and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad provinces may be just the beginning. The risk is that more properties will continue to be seized, in a piecemeal fashion, in an attempt to evade the notice of the international community. Supporters of human rights inside and outside Iran must condemn this outrageously unjust ruling and demand that it be rescinded without delay.”
By proceeding to confiscate Bahai properties “piecemeal” from selected provinces, rather than all at once across Iran, the Iranians hope to avoid attracting too much notice, as the BIC representative to the UN offices in Geneva, Diane Ala’I, pointed out. She assumes, rightly, that unless there is an enormous outcry world-wide, the rest of Iran’s Baha’is will be subject to the same confiscation of their properties.
Human rights experts have noted that the Baha’is are the most persecuted non-Muslim religious minority group in Iran. According to the BIC, Iran has executed more than 200 Baha’is since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Those 200 were executed not because they were supporters of the Shah or tried to undermine the Khomeinist revolution. Instead, like the Jews under the Nazis, they were murdered purely for who they were.
The BIC said it “is gravely concerned that an organization entirely controlled by Iran’s leadership – a parastatal (sic) body called the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, also known as Setad, which controls extensive assets across Iran – is orchestratinga rising trend of confiscations of properties belonging to Iranian Baha’is.”
The government of Iran is in desperate need of money. American sanctions, mismanagement of the economy by incompetents and nincompoops, massive corruption by the ayatollahs, have all played their part. The Iranian rial has declined by 90% since 2019; 60% of Iranians live below the poverty line. What better way to raise money quickly than by confiscating all the property – real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, businesses — of the 350,000 Bahais who still live in Iran? Assuming that each Bahai might have a most modest average net worth of $60,000, the amount raised by the Iranian government could conceivably come to twenty billion dollars, a goodly sum to tide things over until the Bidenites lift those sanctions on Iran that they are clearly so eager to do. What will happen to those 350,000 Baha’i when their property is confiscated in Iran and they are made penniless overnight? They’ll undoubtedly leave the country, desperate to start new lives elsewhere; they know better than anyone — except the Yazidis — what rule by fanatical Muslims can mean for non-Muslims. Where will they go? Here’s an idea: instead of admitting still more worrisome Muslims into their midst, why don’t the countries of Western Europe instead admit those Bahais from Iran who, as refugees from a Muslim state, and eyewitnesses to its horrors, will be able to convincingly spread the truth about Islam?
The Bahais have been persecuted ever more implacably in Iran since 1979. One of those implicated in their murder and in the murders of thousands of Iranian dissidents, is now leading a comfortable existence as a professor at Oberlin, where he inculcates the “truth” about Islam, and defends the Iranian regime that he once served so loyally as a diplomat, spreading his lies among the innocent young students whom he instructs.
In a separate but related development, Oberlin College professor of religion Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, who reportedly laid the ideological foundation for the persecution of the Baha’is’ while serving as a diplomat at the UN in the early 1980’s, is facing new scrutiny that he allegedly whitewashed his family’s role in anti-Baha’i activities in Shiraz, Iran.…
Like the Nazi war criminals hunted down by Simon Wiesenthal, Serge Klarseld, Isser Harel, and others, Mahallati has now been discovered living in Oberlin, Ohio, and working as a college professor. His past as a persecutor of Bahais in Iran has been revealed by Bahais in exile. His other unsavory role, when he was serving as Iran’s ambassador to the UN, was as the regime’s defender, denying the 1988 massacre of 5,000 political prisoners at Tehran’s Evin Prison; his cover-up came to light in a 2018 report by Amnesty International, that has finally been getting the attention it deserves, thanks to the efforts of Iranian refugees abroad, who are not about to let Mahallati continue his comfortable existence without being called to account for his past crimes.
We have the recorded conversation, dating from 1979, between Mahallati’s grandfather, an ayatollah, and a Bahai, in which his grandfather justifies – and very likely had ordered – the destruction of a Bahai shrine in Shiraz. As for the Bahais themselves, the grandfather sinisterly suggested that “these people should become Muslims, or [if they do not] anything may befall them.“ Yet Mahallati had the gall to declare that “the efforts of the Mahallati famiy to protect religious minorities is exemplary in the history of modern Iran.”
Iranian-Americans and activists plan to protest against Mahallati on March 5 in Oberlin, Ohio. The flyer distributed by the group declares that Oberlin College should “stop harboring a criminal” and urges people to “contact Oberlin College board of trustees and ask them to urge President [Carmen] Ambar to meet with the families of the victims of crimes conducted by Oberlin College professor, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati.”
Ambar has taken a hard line and rejected meetings with the victims’ families since a campaign was launched in October 2020 to secure the dismissal of Mahallati. Ambar’s hostility toward Iranians whose family members were murdered in 1988 has prompted outrage on the Oberlin campus from students.
It’s not only the students who should be outraged. It is faculty members, who don’t want as a colleague someone who in Iran participated in the persecution of Bahais, and as a UN diplomat denied the mass murder of 5,000 political prisoners. Now those Bahais in the West, and the relatives of those murdered political prisoners, want to meet with Oberlin’s President Ambar and present the case for firing Mahallati. Her refusal even to meet with them to discuss the matter is unforgivable. Now it is not only Mahallati’s job, but Ambar’s own continued employment, as president, that should be subject to review..
The protesters are increasing the pace of pressure by appealing to the board of trustee members, including the chair, Chris Canavan, vice-chair Chelsey Maddox-Dorsey, and Amy Chen, who is the first chief investment officer at the Smithsonian Institution. Canavan works for Lion’s Head Global Partners, an investment company. Maddox-Dorsey is the CEO of American Urban Radio Networks.
The emails of the three trustees were listed on the flyer. A new front – the largely closed and private world of the Oberlin College trustees – has opened in the battle over Mahallati and the administrators, Ambar and her chief of staff David Hertz, who are defending the controversial professor….
On what grounds, with what evidence, are Carmen Ambar and David Hertz defending Mohammad Jaafar Mahallati? Do they think all these people – Iranian Bahais and the relatives of murdered political prisoners, are lying? Why would they do that? Are they unwilling to read the recorded conversation between Mahallati’s grandfarher, Ayatollah Bahaoddin Mahallati, and the Bahai who tried to convince him, to no avail, to spare a Bahai shrine in Shiraz from destruction?
And what about Mahallati’s denial of the massacre of 5,000 political prisoners in 1988? His denial can be found in the transcripts of speeches made at the U.N. General Assembly. Why doesn’t President Ambar take a look at his denial in a speech at the U.N. and while she is at it, ask the American government If indeed there was such a massacre?
If Mohammad Jaafar Mahallati is fired, he will not dare to bring suit for wrongful discharge. He knows what part both he and his grandfather played in the persecution of the Bahais. He knows that his denial at the UN that there had been any murder o 5,000 political prisoners can be found in the written transcripts of U.N. speeches.
And President Carmen Ambar, who refuses to hear the evidence of Mahallati’s lies, and has chosen instead to defend Mahallati, should be asked by everyone, from the students to the trustees, to explain herself, explain why she is defending someone who has been accused of “crimes against humanity, antisemitic and genocidal comments against Israel, and racist and discriminative actions and comments against Baha’i people.” And If her explanation is not satisfactory, well then, the trustees must do their duty.
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