Baha'i holy site destroyed in Iran

April 22, 2004

NEW YORK — Government authorities in Iran have destroyed a Baha'i holy site, the Baha'i International Community has learned.

The gravesite of Quddus, a prominent figure in early Baha'i history, has been razed to the ground, despite protests from Baha'is 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 Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

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

Destruction of the gravesite began in February but was temporarily halted after local Baha'is demanded to see a legal permit for the demolition work.

The Baha'is 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 Quddus (The Most Holy). Quddus was the foremost disciple of the Bab, the Prophet-Herald of the Baha'i Faith.

"It would be the least that the Government could do at this point to return to the Baha'i 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 Baha'is 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.

The killings and imprisonments of Baha'is 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 (CHR) expressing concern over the treatment of Baha'is.

Over the last two years, however, the CHR has failed to pass such resolutions owing to efforts by Iran to pursue a "dialogue" with Western nations.

"Unfortunately," said Ms. Dugal, "the Baha'is 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."