THE BAHAI QUESTION

1
REZVANI
Mixed Media on Canvas
160 x 140 cm
2014

From the available information it is now clear that the murder in Iran of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani was religiously motivated.

It is understood that Mr. Rezvani was shot in the back of his head and that his body was found in his car near the railway station on the outskirts of Bandar Abbas, the city where he resided with his family. Information received thus far points to the possibility that his assailants had forced him to drive to that location. His body was discovered following a search when he failed to return home.

Mr. Rezvani was well-known as a Baha’i and was loved and respected by the people of Bandar Abbas for his honesty and helpfulness. As a young man, he was expelled from his engineering studies at university because he was a Baha’i. He nonetheless came to be regarded as an expert in water purification, and his work took him to other cities. Recently, owing to pressure and threats from agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, he was dismissed from his work and had to resort to selling water purification equipment. These agents had also been bringing pressure to bear on him to leave the city. More recently, he had begun receiving menacing telephone calls from unknown persons. It should also be noted that on several occasions in the past few years senior local clerics have attempted to incite the population through incendiary sermons against the Baha’is of the city.

(Source: Baha’i World News Service, 27 August 2013)

2
YARAN
Mixed Media on Canvas
153 x 244 cm
2014

On 5 March 2008, Mahvash Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested having been summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Baha’i burial. She has been in prison since that time – including the first 175 days spent in solitary confinement.

Two months later, on 14 May, six other prominent members of Iran’s Baha’i community were incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after they were arrested in early morning raids at their homes in a sweep that was ominously similar to episodes in the 1980s when scores of Iranian Baha’i leaders were summarily rounded up and killed.

The six were Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.

These five men and two women were all members of a national-level group known as the “Yaran-i-Iran” – or “Friends in Iran”.

Some 20 months after being imprisoned without charge, a trial began on 12 January 2010. Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received hardly one hour’s access to their legal counsel and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship.

The seven were charged with, among other things, espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic, the establishment of an illegal administration – charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants.

Their crime, though, is nothing more than being members of the Baha’i Faith, a religion which has been the focus of a systematic, government-sponsored persecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Indeed, the trial of the seven in many ways was the trial of an entire community of more than 300,000 Iranian Baha’is. Over the last 30 years, more than 200 Baha’is have been killed, hundreds more imprisoned, and thousands deprived of jobs, education, and the freedom to worship.

The charges against the seven moreover reflects the kinds of false accusations and campaign of misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame Baha’is for decades.

The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders ended on 14 June 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by their lack of due legal process.

The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. Notwithstanding repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.

(Source: Baha’i World News Service)

3
MONA
Mixed Media on Canvas
180 x 140 cm
2014

Few incidents are more shocking — or revealing of the religious basis of the persecution against Bahá’ís and the courage with which they faced it — than the group hanging of ten Bahá’í women in Shiraz on 18 June 1983. Their crime: teaching religious classes to Bahá’í youth — the equivalent of being “Sunday school” teachers in the West. Ranging in age from 17 to 57, the ten Bahá’í women were led to the gallows in succession. Authorities apparently hoped that as each saw the others slowly strangle to death, they would renounce their own faith. But according to eyewitness reports, the women went to their fate singing and chanting, as though they were enjoying a pleasant outing.

One of the men attending the gallows confided to a Bahá’í: “We tried saving their lives up to the last moment, but one by one, first the older ladies, then the young girls, were hanged while the others were forced to watch, it being hoped that this might induce them to recant their belief. We even urged them to say they were not Bahá’ís, but not one of them agreed; they preferred the execution.” All of the women had been interrogated and tortured in the months leading up to their execution. Indeed, some had wounds still visible on their bodies as they lay in the morgue after their execution. The youngest of these martyrs was Mona Mahmudnizhad, a 17-year-old schoolgirl who because of her youth and conspicuous innocence became, in a sense, a symbol of the group. In prison, she was lashed on the soles of her feet with a cable and forced to walk on bleeding feet. Yet she never wavered in her faith, even to the point of kissing the hands of her executioner, and then the rope, before putting it around her own throat.

4
DESECRATION
Mixed Media on Canvas
120 x 160 cm
2014

Baha’i cemeteries have been desecrated or destroyed in a number of cities and towns. These tombstones in the Baha’i cemetery near Najafabad were left in a heap when the entire burial ground was bulldozed.

5
ABDUCTION
Mixed Media on Canvas
122 x 214 cm
2014

On 21 August 1980, all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iran were abducted and disappeared without a trace. They are presumed dead.

6
ARSEN
Mixed Media on Canvas
153 x 244 cm
2014

The Mousavi family of Fars province narrowly escaped injury when an arsonist poured gasoline and caused an explosion and fire that destroyed a hut near where the family was sleeping outside their home.