mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Persecution Watch: The Iranian War Against the Bahai

Being a religious minority in the Middle East is an extremely tough assignment. Whether it’s the Copts in Egypt, other kinds of Christians in Iran and Iraq, Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, or Sunnis in Iran, minority faithful often find themselves persecuted and under siege. Add the Bahai to that list.

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sohrab Ahmari recounts in clinical detail the Iranian regime’s continuing efforts to repress its most populous non-Muslim faith group:

From 1986 to 1994, [Reynaldo] Pohl served as the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s special representative on Iran. The Iranian regime, he found, was subjecting its largest non-Muslim religious minority to a systematic campaign of cultural eradication. In 1993, Pohl disclosed a chilling memorandum written by Seyyed Mohammad Golpaygani, then secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. The Golpaygani memorandum, as it came to be known, set out a national policy for dealing with the “Bahai question.” The Iranian government, Golpaygani forthrightly recommended, must ensure that “progress and development are blocked” for Bahais.

The centerpiece of the policy was an express ban on Bahais’ obtaining postsecondary education. They “must be expelled from universities, either in the admissions process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Bahais,” Golpaygani wrote. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the memorandum, “In the name of God!”

Two decades later, the rule barring 300,000 or so Bahais from Iran’s colleges and universities remains in place. It is enforced with particular vigor by the hard-line government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. As Ahmari reports, brave activists have been resisting these repressive policies, in what he terms “The Epic, Secret Struggle to Educate Iran’s Bahais.” Read the whole thing. Via Meadia wishes these valiant souls the best of luck. And we will continue to highlight the scourges of religious prejudice and persecution wherever they may be found.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Luke Lea

    They are not much better in China, which we (naively) like to think of as a more “civilized” society. In point of fact it is not, not now anyway.

  • WigWag

    I just wish there was a way for the United States to offer sanctuary in our country for all 300,000 Iranian Bahai. They would make wonderful American citizens and be a tremendous asset to our nation.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I would like to point out that it is always inferior cultures that are the persecutors, as they are the only ones that feel threatened by other faiths. And so we see the Nazi’s, Communists, and Muslims attacking all those which belong to other cultures.

  • Kris

    Luke@1, when this post got me thinking about similarly senseless persecution, the Falun Gong was indeed first to come to mind.

    JL@3, I oppose false equivalences, but it is difficult to read your comment and not think of certain historical episodes in Christendom.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service