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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLESacrificing the Innocent: Suppression of Bahá'ís of Iran in 1955
AUTHOR 1Bahram Choubine
CONTRIB 1Ahang Rabbani, trans.
TITLE_PARENTBahá'í Studies Review
ABSTRACTActivities of Reza Shah, Ayatollah Borujirdi, Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi, Shaykh Hossein-Ali Montazeri, and SAVAK in the mid-20th century.
NOTES This document is also available in PDF.

Mirrored with permission from A version was published in BSR 15:1 (2009). Another version of the article was published online by the author in 2010, and is available here.

TAGS- Persecution; - Persecution, Other; Iran (documents); Persecution, Iran
Translator's introduction: In introducing Ali Dashti's seminal work, 23 Sal, Dr. Choubine has penned a learned essay that places the events of twentieth century Iran in their fuller perspective. This essay has been widely available on the internet [PDF,]. The erudite author has considerably expanded this essay, including more analysis and documentation, and offered it as a preface to Dasthi's 23 Sal, distributed by Alburz Publishing, in Frankfurt, Germany. A section of this expanded essay (pages 34-42), appearing under the heading, "Sarkub-e Bahá'íyan," is provided below in translation with the kind permission of the author. All footnotes are by the author, unless otherwise noted, as are all comments in parentheses. Clarifying comments in [square brackets] are by the translator. Subheadings have been added in the translation to assist with the flow. The Persian original of this section is also available on-line. [-A.H.]
Suppression of Bahá'ís

Persecution and slaying of the Babis and Bahá'ís was one of the daily activities of the clerics and monarchs of the Qajar dynasty. For religious and political purposes, the propensity to kill Babis and Bahá'ís continued to the conclusion of the Qajar era.

The Babis had an important role in the Constitutional Movement of Iran and indeed one could claim that their efforts to advance the Constitutional Revolution were critical and constructive. However, this fact does not imply that Bahá'ís were not supportive of Constitutional rule, as it must be understood that their leaders insisted that Bahá'ís should not participate in political activities, in order that the newly-founded Bahá'í community would remain immune from the attacks of radical constitutionalists, who were all among the leading clerics of the time.

Reza Shah's Reign

During the rule of Reza Shah, several towns witnessed Bahá'í-killings. However, as a whole, persecution of Bahá'ís was not one of the political objectives of Reza Shah's era, as his main goal was to limit the influence of religious clerics. It was during his reign that the notion of mellat [national identity] acquired its roots, and to some degree, the religious identity of ummat [body of believers] gave its place to mellat. That is, the country was progressing along the direction that every citizen considered himself an Iranian without concern for religious belief, political orientation or tribal affiliation. However, in the years after Reza Shah's demise, gradually that policy was forgotten and, once more, the idea of ummat Islami [body of Muslims] entered political discourse. Moreover, the cold war against the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc reinforced this idea among the political figures of Iran.

The founding of Fedaiyan-e Islam [Devotees of Islam] took place after Reza Shah was deposed and was an effort to combat leftist tendencies in Iran.

Post-Reza Shah

In the 20s and 30s [1320s and 30s according to the Islamic calendar; equivalent to the 1940s and 50s], on the pretext that they opposed the Shi`a religion or had a leftist propensity, the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Bahá'ís, forced the government and the Shah to follow the path of ummat Islami and obligated them to openly oppose the principles of the Constitutional Revolution and the country's adopted constitution. Almost all political and public figures, from every faction, significantly contributed to this wayward political path and aided Iranian society's accelerated separation from the democratic principles of the Constitutional Revolt. It was an opportune moment for strengthening democratic foundations, but, alas, it was lost, and the chance to secure people's support for improvements and reforms, even to a proscribed and controlled degree, was lost to the Shah and the government.

With Reza Shah's exit, intense criticism of his rule began. The clerical establishment, like ants, began to wreck the nation's democratic foundation and every aspect of modern life, enlightened thought, progress and liberty, became a toy in the hand of repressive powers in Iran. After 20 Shahrivar [11 September 1941, the day of Reza Shah's departure], the entire Shi`a ecclesiastical order, joined by the ruling class, arose to force women, once again, under chadors and covers, and to close all mixed-gender schools. Groups and societies for the propagation of Islamic traditions and publication of the "truths and teachings of Islam" were organized throughout the country, and began to publish religious pamphlets, daily newspapers and weekly or monthly journals — all of which had the suffix of Islam or Islamic in their title.

In sum, the clerics' long-held hatred of the Babis and then of the Bahá'í movement once again showed itself and the field for expressing animosity and abhorrence against religious minorities, particularly Bahá'ís, and opposition to enlightened and progressive thoughts among Iranians, became wide open. At clerics' insistence, Islamic training and [Orthodox] religious education were placed on the curricula of all elementary and high schools throughout the nation.

All of these events took place in Tehran and other cities during the 20s [1940s] and centered on the opposition to Bahá'ís, Ahmad Kasravi and his supporters, and the Tudeh Party and its members — and all occurred under the supervision of the government, or with the direct collusion of the authorities. In truth, it was the clerical order that established the notion of Da'iy Jan Napoleon[1] among the Iranians who suspect that whatever occurs in Iran is the work of foreign agents. Fictitious and fabricated documents, such as, Memoirs of Prince Dolgorouki,[2] which was manufactured by the fiction-weaving pen of Ali Javaher-Kalam, and published with the financial support of Astan Quds Razavi,[3] and with the support of the leading Shi`a clerics, were disseminated — and this was just one of the many such products of the clerical establishment.

In reality, the widespread perfidious belief that "any non-Islamic idea is a creation of foreigners" stemmed from the putrid minds of the mullas. Through this method, they wanted to call "anti-Iranian" and "foreign" everything that was not Islamic or might prevent them from acquiring power through Shi`a religious pretexts. This deceitful "Othering", and spreading the seeds of sedition and enmity, not only engulfed religious minorities, progressive nationalistic parties and independent leftist groups, but eventually caused the authority of the government and constitutional rule to be undermined as well. That is, it eventually resulted in the clerics widely claiming that the people's Constitutional Revolution, which in reality had taken place in revolt against clerical influence and the absolutist rule of the Qajar, was an exploit of the Russians and the British. They propagated this baseless idea, insisting that constitutional rule and secular law were fundamentally at variance with the luminous religion of Islam and with Iran's history.

Beginning of 1955 Opposition to Bahá'ís

It was stated earlier that after the 28 Mordad coup d'état,[4] the mullas insisted on their significant share in the revolt, and this was only possible by suppression of the Tudeh Party and Bahá'ís. The furtive and renowned preacher, Hujjatu'l-Islam Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi, has stated in his memoirs that his sermons against the Bahá'ís took place with the prior consent of Ayatollah Borujerdi and Muhammad-Reza Shah. In an interview on 19 Urdibehesht 1334 [10 May 1955] with a reporter of "Itehad-e Melli" Journal, Falsafi described his meeting with Ayatollah Borujerdi in these words:

Before the blessed month of Ramadan, I went to Qum where I met Ayatollah Borujirdi and found him deeply distressed. He stated, "Now that the situation of the Oil industry has been resolved and the Tudeh Party has been neutralized, we must make plans for Bahá'ís and arise to this challenge."

In Khaterat va Mubarezat [Memories and Struggles], Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi writes:

Ayatollah Borujerdi sent a message for me to convey the issue [of Bahá'ís] to the governmental authorities. ... Eventually, after Ramadan 1332 [May 1953], he sent a letter for me to meet with the Shah and to express the Ayatollah's disapproval and displeasure over the situation of [the relative freedom of] Bahá'ís. ... Before Ramadan of 1333 [May 1954], I asked Ayatollah Borujerdi, `Are you supportive of the idea that I discuss the situation of Bahá'ís during my radio sermons which are broadcast live from Masjed Shah?' He thought for a moment and then responded, `If you were to say so, it would be good. For now, the authorities are heedless (of suppression and annihilation of Bahá'ís). At least that would suppress them [Bahá'ís] in the field of public opinion.'

He added further,

`It is necessary to mention this beforehand to the Shah so that he would not have an excuse later to intercede, ruin everything and terminate the radio broadcasts. If the latter were to happen, that would be most unfortunate for the Muslims and would embolden the Bahá'ís.'

I called the Shah's office and requested an appointment. When I met the Shah, I stated, `Ayatollah Borujerdi has consented that the issue of Bahá'ís, which is a cause of worry for the Muslims, be dealt with and discussed in my radio sermons during the month of Ramadan. Would your majesty consent as well?'

Falsafi relates that the Shah remained silent for a moment and then stated, "Go and preach accordingly."[5]

From 1327 [1948], each Ramadan, Falsafi used to deliver sermons against the Tudeh Party. Elimination and annihilation of the Babis and Bahá'ís was the cherished desire of the mullas and their partners in the government. During those days, it was widely said that strikes against Bahá'ís and destruction of their administrative and religious centers was one of the government's objectives. However, this had to wait until Ramadan 1334 [May 1955].

1955 Bahá'í Persecution

In accordance with Ayatollah Borujirdi's wishes, immediately after the 28 Mordad [coup], the attack on Bahá'ís started with Falsafi's sermons delivered in Ramadan 1334 [1955]. He commenced a brutal attack on Bahá'ís and the government confiscated Bahá'í properties in every city. In Tehran, in front of the cameras of both foreign and domestic reporters, General [Nader] Batmanghelich, the chief of staff of the Iranian army, along with [General] Taymour Bakhtiar, the military commander of Tehran, took pickaxes and demolished the dome of the Bahá'í Center. For many years, that building was impounded by the military and used for its own command center.

General Muhammad Ayarmalu, the deputy-chief of the most powerful branch of government, namely, the Department for Security and Information [SAVAK], writes the following in his memoirs:

One morning, General Batmanghelich, the chief of staff of the army, along with General Taymour Bakhtiar, the military commander, ascended the dome of the Bahá'í Center [in Tehran] and with pickaxes started to demolish the dome of the building.

The next morning, the military attaché of the United States came to my office and with an infuriated voice stated, "What was this act that the chief of staff committed? Why would the chief of military pick up an ax, and before everyone's eyes, demolish a building? Furthermore, he targeted a building that is greatly respected and cherished by many of your citizens! My country is assisting Iran to repair the ruins, and now you turn a beautiful building into a ruin?!"

As I, too, was puzzled over this illogical destruction — particularly by the hands of such a high-ranking officer — I remained quiet and said nothing.

A few hours later, the late Batmanghelich summoned me into his office and impatiently asked, "What are the military attachés saying about yesterday's occurrences?"

Straightforwardly I shared the comments of the American military attaché and added, "Several more of the military attachés have expressed their perplexity and disappointment over this incident." When I saw him overcome with sorrow, I asked, "General, what truly motivated you to undertake this act?" He lifted his head and responded, "I had no motives. It was the chief's order." And by that he meant the late Muhammad-Reza Shah.

As later I read in various monographs, Muhammad-Reza Shah had given this order in order to appease several influential akhunds [clerics], particularly Siyyid Abu'l-Qasem Kashani. ... It is interesting to note that twenty-five years later, the late Muhammad-Reza Shah witnessed the result of giving room and yielding to the akhunds. Also twenty-five years later, when General Batmanghelich was seized and prosecuted at the height of the 1357 [1978] Revolution, he recounted this incident in his nearly-successful defense."[6]

Clerical Influence over the Government

The activities of Ayatollah Borujerdi, and essentially the entire efforts of the Shi`a ecclesiastic order against Bahá'ís, were not only aimed at securing the "foundation of the luminous religion of Islam". In fact, this undertaking was an instrument for the clerics to portray themselves as partners in the 28 Mordad coup d'état and the Thorne.

By yielding to the illegal wishes of the religious and clerical establishment, the Shah and various governments, in effect, placed a stamp of approval on the clerics' partnership in government's authority after the 28 Mordad coup d'état. Through a study of documents, letters and communications of the clerics after the 28 Mordad coup d'état until the 1357 [1978] Revolution we can see how intertwined and aligned are the relations of the royal court, the government and the clerics. This affable relationship reached the height that in order to realize his satanic dreams, Ayatollah Borujerdi asked the Shah and Prime Minister Hossein Ala' to change the nation's constitution through parliament. This is the text of his letter:

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

To his honored [Hossein Ala'] the Prime Minister, may his glory last!

The letter of your honored self dated 5 Tir 1334 [27 June 1955] conveying the necessary instructions of his majesty to the government regarding my suggestions as communicated in my letter of 27 Shavval 1373 [29 June 1954] was received through Haj Qa'imu'l-Mulk Rafi. The essence of my suggestions, as noted in your letter, are:

  1. The Bahá'í sect must be prevented from propagation [of its teachings] which is against the luminous religion of Islam.
  2. Their centers and gatherings, wherever found across the country, must be closed.
  3. Any governmental worker who is not of one of the religions mentioned in the Constitution must be expelled after due investigation. Consequently, the Bahá'ís would fall into this category [and be expelled].

May God, exalted is His Station, protect holy Islam and the independence of Iran from the harm of accidents and attack of the enemies. And may He confirm and succor his majesty and the authorities in their work of protecting the country and supporting the sacred religion [of Islam].

Upon thee be peace, the Mercy of God and His Bounties.

    7 Dhi'l-Qa'dah 1374/7 Tir 1334 [28 June 1955]
    Husayn Tabataba'i[7]

During that time and subsequently, Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi would shout and proclaim in every mosque and place of worship that he attended in Tehran or other cities:

Merchants, employees, students, and brave workers of Iran! Arise and fight these irreligious people[8] and Bahá'í-sympathizers[9] and thoroughly exterminate them, so that it will be proven that (Imam) Ali is alive, the Prophet (of Islam) is alive and the religion of Islam will not fade away.

Do not permit this illegal government to belittle Islam any more!

After their successful role in the 28 Mordad coup d'état, the clerical establishment would blame the Bahá'ís for every shortcoming in political, societal or economic conditions, and through this would provoke religious sentiments, as well as inflame the latent anti-Bahá'í attitude of the Iranian people. Whenever the Shah or the government retreated on the announced [anti-Bahá'í] objectives, the clerics and Shi`a leaders would refer to "the agreement between the government and the clerics," or threaten "the government's fall", or would say, "Through God's will, exertions of the brave Muslim nation and the indefatigable ulama [clerics], a mighty victory and advancement can be secured!"[10]

In a telegram to the Shah, Ayatollah Siyyid Muhammad Behbahani stated, "I offer my heartfelt gratitude for closing this center[11] of religious and national sedition through the efforts of the Islamic army and consider this auspicious event to be among the religious anniversaries worthy of celebration." In response to Ayatollah Behbahani, the Shah noted, "As you have repeatedly heard us state, we consider ourselves bound to carry out the requirements of Islam and beseech the Almighty to continue confirming us in this undertaking."

In a cable to the Shah, Ayatollah Borujerdi referred to Bahá'ís as "enemies and trouble-makers" to the royal throne, and stated, "May God, exalted be His station, protect the sacred religion of Islam and Iran's monarchy from the harm of the enemy and mischief-makers, and may He preserve your majesty over all Muslims."

In a letter to Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi, Ayatollah Borujirdi — the object of emulation for all Shi`as — had expressed gratitude for his "precious services" to "the sacred religion of Islam, and indeed to all religions, and to the sanctified Qur'an." He wrote that since Bahá'ís held many positions in the government, therefore the highest priority was to remove them all from every agency, department and bureau of the government, and from every other position of influence. In an interview with Keyhan, he expressed his wish for destruction of the Bahá'í Center in Tehran, ejection of Bahá'ís from all governmental and official positions, and adoption of a [parliamentary] plan to remove forcibly all Bahá'ís from Iran.

On the pulpit, Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi never hesitated to spread every manner of untrue and vicious rumor intended to provoke unschooled, fanatical and superstitious people against Bahá'ís. Using the old tool of such preachers, he would falsely state, "One of the members of the Tudeh [Party] disclosed to me, `As every path of activity was closed to us and since we heard that the following year the Bahá'ís intend to initiate a coup d'état, therefore we gravitated to them so that we could render an important contribution at that time. In order to prove ourselves particularly interested in the Bahá'í religion and their ways, we even took wives from among them.'"

In response to objections from the international community and its agencies, and possibly protests from Western countries against the maltreatment of Bahá'ís in Iran, Falsafi devised a new trick. On the pulpit he would say, "We do not speak of religion. Our only concern is the group who wears a religious mask, and it is against them that we speak."

Falsafi's Ties to America

He himself declared from a pulpit that he had close affiliations with the agents of the American Embassy — a place described by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as "the nest of spies". In a resonant voice he would proclaim, "I told Americans that Muslims have fought the Tudeh Party. And if they were to support the Bahá'ís, it would be like supporting the Tudeh Party, which is an enemy of America."

In such manner, Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi painted himself as one of the American elements raised to combat communism and socialism in Iran; and insinuated that the cold war waged by the Americans and their European allies was in reality aimed at combating the Bahá'ís and was an instrument to suppress them within the same policy framework. His implication was that the suppression of Bahá'ís was not based on religious competition or desire to shroud Iran in uniformity, but actually was part of the struggle against worldwide communism.[12]

Montazeri's Role in Persecution of Bahá'ís

The anti-Bahá'í activities of Ayatollah Borujerdi were not limited to impelling Falsafi, the preacher, to give sermons against Bahá'ís. He had dispatched his seminary students and hired thugs throughout the entire country to provoke fanatical and religious mobs to murder and plunder Bahá'ís. Among hundreds of documents in this regard, the present author can only briefly draw attention to the activities of Shaykh Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was one of the most firebrand mullas under the tutelage of Ayatollah Borujerdi.

At that time, Shaykh Hossein-Ali Montazeri was a young seminarian, but in the winter of his life he reached the rank of Grand Ayatollah and was a deputy to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of the Islamic Revolution. He has opened the thick book of his deeds and without any hesitation — indeed with great pride — has recounted many events, and here we note only a few passages:

The late Borujerdi was extremely anti-Bahá'í. For instance, they had killed a Bahá'í near Yazd and planned to execute his murderer. ... Borujerdi had lost all sleep and wanted through any means possible to prevent this hanging.[13] One year, Borujerdi also instructed Falsafi to give sermons against Bahá'ís on the radio during Ramadan. Ayatollah Kashani also concurred with this.

At the beginning of Ramadan, Falsafi began his preaching against Bahá'ís. That year his sermons became very popular and people would gather around the radio to listen to him. ...

It was about that time that I was given a mission to go to Najaf-Abad. I asked Ayatollah Borujerdi about business dealings, trades and commerce with Bahá'ís, and in response, he issued a written fatwa stating: "In the Exalted Name of God. It is imperative for the Muslim to avoid association, relationship and dealings with this sect [Bahá'ís]. ..."

This proclamation was spread throughout the city and much publicity was accorded in mosques and other public places. ... With the announcement of this religious ruling, an extremely tense atmosphere was created against Bahá'ís in Najaf-Abad.

At that time, I gathered representatives from every class, creed and strata of Najaf-Abad and each was asked to produce a proclamation against Bahá'ís. For instance, the bakers wrote, "We will not sell bread to Bahá'ís." The taxi-drivers wrote, "We will not permit Bahá'ís in our cars." ... In short, when previously the taxi-fare between Najaf-Abad and Isfahan had been 1 tuman, it was turned into a situation that if a Bahá'í pleaded to be taken by taxi for even 50 tumans, he was not able to find a taxi to take him.

Of course, not all of these suppressions were based on faith and conviction. Many participated because they feared others or the general atmosphere of the society. ...

Eventually, my efforts resulted in the Bahá'ís being eliminated in Najaf-Abad. ... After this, they were dispersed and everywhere would hide themselves from public view. ... We extended this hostility to Isfahan as well, where a widespread uproar against Bahá'ís was initiated. ...

After a while, it became known that I was the instigator and the author of these incidents.[14]

It was through the schemes and conniving of this just cleric — Ayatollah Montazeri — that the Bahá'ís of Najaf-Abad were plundered, looted, make homeless and were dispersed — and the government took no action to protect them. Further, it was by the instructions of this propagandist and the brilliant mind behind velayat-e faqih [leadership of religious jurists] that the Bahá'í Center of Najaf-Abad was burned to the ground. Montazeri admits that Ayatollah Borujerdi, "was completely aware of my activities and was most pleased."

Because of the presence of even more malicious clerics, Montazeri failed to become the deputy Imam and even received a letter from his supreme leader dated 68/1/6 [26 March 1989] that for all time will illumine the history of the militant clerics. In this letter, Khomeini addressed Montazeri without the title of Ayatollah Montazeri:

With a broken heart and great sadness, I write this short letter so that one day the people would know the situation. You have forfeited the necessary prerequisites and qualifications to become the next leader of the nation.

From now on, tell the seminarians who bring you money to take the funds to Qum, to the home of Mr. Pasandideh (my brother) or to bring them to Tehran to Jamaran (my residence). Praise unto God that you have no shortage of financial means (thanks to the Islamic Revolution and plundering the possessions of Muslims and non-Muslims).

At this point in the letter, the Imam refers to his deputy as dim-witted and with the customary language of an akhund addresses Montazeri, "Since you are a simpleton", you must remain home, "perchance God would pardon you your sins." At the letter's conclusion, Khomeini writes the reason for this communication:

You have committed a treasonous act against the nameless soldiers of the Hidden Imam[15] and the sacred blood of the martyrs for Islam and the Revolution. So that you would not burn in the depth of hell, you should confess your mistakes and sins perchance God would aid you.

In response to this insulting letter, the deputy of Imam Khomeini, the illustrious Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, wrote most pathetically and meekly, "Please allow me to continue my studies and teachings as before, like a small and insignificant seminarian, under the wise shadow of your exalted leadership."[16]

The Collusion of the Clerics and the Government

At the conclusion of Ramadan 1334 [May 1955], the most distinguished of the clerics, the religious leaders, the renowned preachers and promoters [of Shi`ism] from pulpits, along with a representative of Ayatollah Borujerdi gathered in the residence of Ayatollah Khonsari. After discussions and consultations, the participants composed a communication addressed to "the presence of his majesty the king", requesting urgent and ultimate disposal of the Bahá'ís of Iran. In this letter, the Muslim clerics stated at length their submission and fidelity before the Throne and pleaded with the Shah to conclude the situation of Bahá'ís in much the same brutal and bloody way that he had eliminated the members of the Tudeh Party, insisting that delay would only prolong the inevitable.

The struggle to cleanse Iran of the presence of "the wayward and misguided sect of Bahá'í" gradually turned into an anti-Western and anti-American struggle and in the course of several decades ultimately became the struggle to topple the Pahlavi Dynasty in Iran.

The presence of the two highest-ranking military chiefs at the destruction of the Bahá'í Center in Tehran was a clear sign of the Shah's support, and his government encouragement, of persecution and suppression of Bahá'ís — an act devoid of foresight and intended to appease the high-ranking clerics.

The mullas' activities against Bahá'ís were not only to protect "the foundation of the luminous religion of Islam"; it was also the lever by which the clerical establishment sought to demonstrate their power and influence to the government and people alike.

Contrary to the common belief among people — and supported by the unwise comments of the Tudeh Party — it was the clerical establishment that portrayed Sha'ban Khan Ja'fari as "tajbakhsh" [bestower of the crown]. However, the truth was something else. That is, whenever social reforms intersected with the clerics' interest, the clerical establishment would remind the Shah and his government that he wore the crown and sat on the throne solely because of clerical exertions during the 28 Mordad coup d'état.

In letters of Ayatollah Borujerdi, communications or speeches of Ayatollah Khomeini prior to 15 Khurdad [Islamic Revolution], and among the memoirs of various clerics that presently are being published by the Islamic regime in Iran, very often we see that the Shah was warned that he owed his throne to the "militant clerics" and their efforts against Dr. Mossadegh's government. In some letters, we note that they caution the Shah that if he were to undertake any act that would displease the clerics or jurists, they had the power and ability to remove him from the throne.[17]

Recollections of Dr. Hairi-Yazdi

Ayatollah Abdolkarim Hairi-Yazdi was an object of emulation of the Shi`as and the founder of the religious school in Qum. His son, Dr. Mehdi Hairi-Yazdi studied in Qum and later continued his advanced studies in western philosophy in England, the United States and Canada. He remained in the west continuing to teach and research in philosophy. Dr. Habib Ladjevardi has captured Dr. Mehdi Hairi-Yazdi's memoirs as part of Harvard University's "Iranian Oral History Project". Some of these memoirs relate to events after the 28 Mordad coup, the role of clerics, the fall of Dr. Mossadegh, and the collusion of the Shah with the clerics in running the country. They are most illuminating in understanding the evolution of modern politics and religion in Iran.

Regarding the issue of velayat-e faqih [the rule of religious jurists], Dr. Mehdi Hairi-Yazdi states, "The way [the Islamic Republic] has understood this has no basis whatsoever. At least I have not been able to find any evidence in logic, sacred books or traditions to support this notion."

Hairi-Yazdi had a close relationship with Ayatollah Borujerdi and relates:

On religious matters, Borujerdi would instruct the regime what to do, and government would follow his wishes. For instance, he did not approve of Dr. Mossadegh. However, when the Shah returned from Italy, Borujerdi approved him.

Dr. Mossadegh showed him great respect, to the point that he used his position to pass a special legislation for Borujerdi which would result in immediate closure of any newspaper that insulted the person of the "object of emulation". This law was passed solely for Borujerdi. It even caused annoyance to Ayatollah Kashani. In fact, one of the reasons that Kashani disassociated himself from Dr. Mossadegh was this very legislation and the feeling that Dr. Mossadegh had sided with Borujerdi.

Dr. Hairi-Yazdi relates a recollection of Ayatollah Mir Siyyid Muhammad Behbahani which is most interesting and instructive. According to this recollection, Ayatollah Behbahani had knowledge of 28 Mordad coup d'état before it took place. He states, "On the morning of 28 Mordad, the sun had not risen, when the phone rang." The call was from the residence of Ayatollah Behbahani with the instruction that he should immediately come before the Ayatollah for "an urgent matter." Hairi-Yazdi quickly went to Behbahani's home and was told by the Ayatollah:

This morning you should leave for Qum. Go before Borujerdi and convey to him on my behalf, "Master, the country is on the verge of dismemberment. Soon it will be ruined because there is talk of forming a republic. The Shah has left and any day now, the country will plummet into chaos and disorder. Certainly, the nation would fall onto the other side of the Iron Curtain. No name will remain of religion; no name of him [Borujerdi]; no mention of religious guidance; no memory of principles of the faith. The country will become communist. He should devise a plan. Perhaps a communication, or a ruling, so that people would be aware of the truth of matters and would come and oppose the Tudehs.

In short, do not allow the country to become communist.

Hairi-Yazdi continues, "I should mention that the same way that he considered Bahá'ís disruptors of security and a threat to the country's independence, Ayatollah Borujerdi also viewed the Tudeh Party with the same eye. That is, he combated the Bahá'ís the same way he combated the Tudeh.

A question was asked of Dr. Hairi-Yazdi regarding Ayatollah Borujerdi's "intense and open battles against Bahá'ís after 28 Mordad." Dr. Hairi-Yazdi responded:

At that time, Khomeini was one of the confidants of Borujerdi. In fact, it was widely acknowledged that he was Borujirdi's foreign minister. This was at a time when he had not, as yet, come to blows with Borujerdi.

At least on one occasion during that incident, Khomeini went to the court and met with the Shah on Borujerdi's behalf. After this meeting, I myself heard from him explain, "Yes, I went as the emissary of Borujerdi and met with the Shah." In telling this, Khomeini seemed very joyous and robust.

Khomeini continued relating for me, "I said to his majesty, `The late Shah, your majesty's father, had this wayward group [Bahá'ís] completely reduced and immobilized. And now the people of Iran expect the same from you.'"

This is exactly what Khomeini related for me.

Borujerdi had connived with the Shah that a large number of these people [Bahá'ís] would be proscribed. They had agreed to close their Haziratu'l-Quds, which was their propagation center located on Hafez Street. At that time, they had agreed on this plan — a plan in which the Shah himself was involved. They instructed Falsafi to ascend the pulpit in Ramadan in Masjed Shah and prepare people for this. And they accomplished their plan.[18]


For the sake of pleasing the mullas, the Shah sacrificed an innocent religious minority, when in reality, every person, young and old, in Iran knew that the Bahá'ís had no opposition to the parliamentary government and were not enemies of the state.

After that, once more in order to secure the mullas' pleasure, SAVAK created the Hojjatiyeh Society for combating Bahá'ís. This Society had many branches throughout Iran under SAVAK's supervision,[19] engaged in religious activities, and training in spying methods, and causing uproar and unrest among religious minorities, particularly among Bahá'ís. Although the Hojjatiyeh Society was founded with the Shah's consent, gradually and unanticipated by its founders, it became a recruiting grounds for the "Islamic Coalition Societies" and the Mujahidin Khalq organization.


    [1] Da'iy Jan Napoleon is a masterpiece of socio-political satire by the renowned satirist Iraj Pezeshkzad. [In the course of this entertaining and fascinating novel, which later was made into a popular play, Pezeshkzad discloses the Iranian tendency to think that behind every misfortune is the hand of foreigners, particularly the British. For a discussion of the Iranian preoccupation with conspiracy, see Moojan Momen, "Conspiracy Theories and Forgeries: The Bahá'í Community of Iran and the Construction of an Internal Enemy", presented in the proceedings of Sixth Biennial Conference of Iranian Studies, August 2006. Translator]

    [2] Prince Dimitri Dolgorukov [Dolgorouki] was the Russian Ambassador to Iran during 1845-54. The book, Memoirs of Kinyaz Dolgorouki, a creation of the troubled mind of Ali Javaher-Kalam, endeavors to connect the Babi and Bahá'í movements to Tsarist Russia. At first, this book attracted considerable attention in Iran, but soon the fact that it was a mere forgery was thoroughly established by historians and religious researchers. In a well-regarded article, Professor Abbas Iqbal Ashtiyani proved these memoirs to be a forgery created by troublemakers; (Yadegar Journal, Year 5, numbers 8 and 9). Professor Mujtaba-Minui considers these memoirs to be a forgery and the forger to be an Iranian; (Rahnami Kitab Journal, Year 6, numbers 1 and 2). Similarly, refer to Amir Kabir va Iran [Amir Kabir and Iran], by Fereydoun Adamiyat.

    [3] [Astan Quds Razavi is responsible for maintenance and supervision of the Sacred Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, which has a strong publishing arm, as well as administering many religious schools and endowments. Translator]

    [4] [This is a reference to the 28 Mordad 1332 (19 August 1953) coup against the government of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh (19 May 1882 - 5 March 1967), who was an elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953. Mossadegh was a nationalist, and passionately opposed foreign intervention in Iran. He was also the architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which was dominated and exploited by the British through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today known as British Petroleum). Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi removed him from power in a CIA orchestrated coup, supported and funded by the British and the U.S. governments. Translator]

    [5] Khaterat va Mubarezat Hujjatu'l-Islam Falsafi [Memories and Struggles of Hujjatu'l-Islam Falsafi], published by Markaz Asnad Inqelab Islami, 4th printing, pages 200ff. In the same book, various documents and accounts are found that illustrate how the mullas and political figures worked hand-in-hand against the Bahá'í community and strove to suppress and harm them. They even entertained the adoption of a parliamentary measure that would make it illegal to be a Bahá'í. These documents clearly prove that the Shah and his appointed prime minister, Asadu'llah Alam, were complete partners in these undertakings. In the book, A'iyn Bahá'í Yik Nihzat Siasiy Nist [The Bahá'í Faith is not a Political Movement], published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Germany, after proving that the Bahá'í Faith has no political objective, the various objections raised by the leaders of the Islamic Republic are addressed and answered. The author or the authors of this book, in particular, have noted the manifold problems that the Bahá'ís had with the government during Reza Shah's reign. In 1320 [1941], a number of Bahá'ís of Yazd, on the charge of being Bahá'í, were imprisoned. In 1322 [1943], all local Bahá'í centers in various cities were confiscated and some were destroyed. In 1325 [1946], a number of Bahá'ís were killed in Kashan and Shahrud, and the perpetrators were never arrested. In 1330 [1951], a jihad [religious warfare] against Bahá'ís was proclaimed and they were accused of collaboration with the communists. After Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi's sermons in 1334 [1955], Bahá'ís were persecuted throughout Iran and a number of them were killed. In 1335 [1956], the Bahá'ís complained to the United Nations about these persecutions and discriminations. From 1956 until 1963, Bahá'í gatherings were proclaimed unlawful by the government. Finally, in September 1357 [1978], SAVAK organized anti-Bahá'í riots in Shiraz aiming at diverting the Revolution and turning it into an uprising against the Bahá'ís. Over 300 Bahá'í homes were plundered and then set on fire. Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris spoke of this incident and pointed out its true character.

    [6] Yadvareh Yek Bacheh Qafqaz [Memoirs of a Lad from Caucasus], written by General Muhammad Ayarmalu, first printing, Germany, pages 213-214.

    [7] Marja'iyat dar `Arsih Ijtima' va Siyasat [Authority in Society and Politics], p. 498.

    [8] [Meaning, Bahá'ís. Translator]

    [9] Meaning the Shah, the Prime Minister and members of the national parliament.

    [10] Zaban Guyai-e Islam: Hujjatu'l-Islam Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi [The Eloquent Tongue of Islam: Hujjatu'l-Islam Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi], published by Markaz Barrasi Asnad Tarikhi-e Vezarat Ittella'at, vol. 9.

    [11] [Bahá'í Center in Tehran.]

    [12] For more details, see Iran-Nameh, a journal of Iranian Studies, published in America, the special issue devoted to religious minorities of Iran.

    [13] Through the illegal exertions of Ayatollah Borujerdi and the collusion of the government, the murderer was freed.

    [14] Khaterat Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri [Memoirs of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri], pages 94-96.

    [15] He is referring to treason against the agents of SAVAMA and VEVAK. [SAVAMA is short of Sazman-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Melli-e Iran, which was the successor of the Shah's secret police, SAVAK. Later, SAVAMA was transformed into Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Keshvar, or VEVAK for short. Translator.]

    [16] Khaterat Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri [Memoirs of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri], pages 539-540.

    [17] Marja'iyat dar `Arsih Ijtima' va Siyasat [Authority in Society and Politics], Tehran, Autumn 1379 [2000]. In this book, we encounter many documents discussing the relationship between the Shah and his governments with various high-ranking clerics such as, Ayatollah Mirza Muhammad-Husayn Na'ini, Haji Siyyid Abu'l-Hasan Isfahani, Haji Aqa Husayn Qumi, Haji Shaykh Abdu'l-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi, and Haji Aqa Husayn Borujerdi. Indeed these documents would be most illuminating for any researcher. Alas, citing all these documents would prolong this brief essay.

    [18] Khatirat Dr. Mehdi Hairi Yazdi, Iran Oral History Project, by Dr. Habib Hadjevardi; published by Nader, Tehran, 1382, pages 43-59.

    [19] After the Islamic Revolution, a number of SAVAK's secret documents were discovered. Mujadih Newspaper, in its 9 June 1980 issue, printed a facsimile of a document related to the year 1350 [1971], which is illuminating: "Regarding Anjuman Tablighat Islami [Society for the Promotion of Islam]. The supervisor of Anjuman Islami in the central office [Tehran?] has requested SAVAK to provide necessary aid in combating Bahá'ís scientifically and intellectually. In sharing this request of the Anjuman Islami with your contacts among known elements in the region, kindly emphasize that their activities should not cause provocation or interference. In simpler terms, while maintaining public order, Anjuman Tablighat Islami is permitted to use SAVAK's assistance to combat the Bahá'ís." The chief of SAVAK's Third Department signed this document. Also, Subh-e Azadegan Newspaper, in its Bahman 1360 [February 1982] issue, in an article under the title "A Glance at the Anjuman Hojjatiyeh", described at length the deep relationship between SAVAK and Anjuman Hojjatiyeh. For a more detailed discussion of the relationship between SAVAK and Anjuman Hojjatiyeh, see Hizb Qa'idin Zaman [The Party of Founders of Time], a title of Anjuman Hojjatiyeh, by `Amadu'd-Din Baghi.

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