175 Years of Persecution

Pages: 352
Subject: History, Middle East, Religion: Baha'i, Religion
Imprint: Oneworld

175 Years of Persecution

A History of the Babis & Baha'is of Iran

Fereydun Vahman

A searing account of the oppression of a peaceful and progressive community, and how this has affected Iran's national identity
9781786075864 (21 Feb 2019)
RRP £20.00 / US$30.00

The Book

For almost two centuries, followers of the Baha'i faith, Iran's largest religious minority, have been persecuted by the state. They have been made scapegoats for the nation's ills, branded enemies of Islam and denounced as foreign agents. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Baha'is have been barred from entering the nation's universities, more than two hundred have been executed, and hundreds more imprisoned and tortured.

Now, however, Iran is at a turning point. A new generation has begun to question how the Baha'is have been portrayed by the government and the clergy, and called for them to be given equal rights as fellow citizens. In documenting, for the first time, the plight of this religious community in Iran since its inception, Fereydun Vahman also reveals the greater plight of a nation aspiring to develop a modern identity built on respect for diversity rather than hatred and self-deception.

Additional Information

Subject History, Middle East, Religion: Baha'i, Religion
Pages 352
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Fereydun Vahman is professor emeritus at the University of Copenhagen. Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 he has been a leading voice defending the rights of Baha'is. He is the author of several books in Persian, English and Danish, and is editor of the Religion and Society in Iran series.


‘The sheer scope, breadth, and depth of this history of religious persecution of the beleaguered Babis and Baha'is of Iran is masterful, impressive, and instructive, especially as to its contribution to present-day thought and implications for the future… 175 Years of Persecution is essential reading for any serious study of religious persecution in the Middle East (especially in Iran) and is a valuable contribution to human-rights literature.'

- Reading Religion

‘An exceptional book written in an exceptional time in the modern evolution of an ancient nation… a comprehensive and heart-breaking, infuriating but incisive, eloquent yet scholarly account of a virulent, obsessive hatred that has profoundly shaped the construction of Iran's modern identity. It is a masterful weaving of abstract historical events with intimate stories of suffering, demonstrating how the choices made by the wielders of power shape the lives of ordinary people going about their lives.'

- Iran Press Watch

175 Years of Persecution offers a lucid academic account of the lives of the Baha'is under such intolerable conditions… This book is a must-read for all interested in modern Iran.'

- Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History, University of Toronto

‘Vahman, a very learned specialist in Iranian studies, offers a significant addition to our understanding of modern Iranian history… Important reading.'

- Roy Mottahedeh, Gurney Research Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Mantle of the Prophet

‘Fereydun Vahman's book 175 Years of Persecution provides, in accessible narrative vignettes, a sweeping account of the persecution of Iran's Baha'i community. Many articles and reports have documented the persecutions, but usually focusing on a chronologically and geographically confined space, often with a clinical approach. However, like Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee on the genocidal campaign against Native Americans, or James Allen's Without Sanctuary, a visual history of lynching in the American south, here we have a work that brings the human impact to the fore. Vahman weaves together a larger story from individual, mob, or state-sponsored acts of murder, arson, gravesite desecration, imprisonment, dismissal from jobs, deprivation of pensions and education, etc. In clear and readable prose suitable for students, activists, and the general public, this book memorably describes the beleaguerment of the Baha'i community in Iran since its inception and makes it clear why the situation of Baha'is has been described as a bellwether of the prospects for true political rights and civil society for the entire Iranian polity.'

- Franklin Lewis, Associate Professor of Persian Language & Literature, University of Chicago

Table of Contents



Introduction: The "Enigma” of the Baha'i Religion in Iran


PART ONE: Persecution During the Qajar and Pahlavi Dynasties, 1844-1979

Chapter 1: Why Were the Babi and Baha'i Faiths Suppressed in Iran?

Chapter 2: The Violent Repression of the Babis and Baha'is during the Qajar Period

Chapter 3: The Baha'is during the Reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi

Chapter 4: Baha'is in the Reign of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Chapter 5: The Shahrud Incident

Chapter 6: Eighty-One Stab Wounds: The Murder of Dr Berjis in Kashan

Chapter 7: True Crime: The Incident at Abarqu

Chapter 8: The Events of 1955: Hojjat al-Islam Falsafi, the Ramadan Broadcasts, and the Military Occupation of the Baha'i Center


PART TWO: The Islamic Republic in Confrontation with the Baha'i Faith

Chapter 9: Baha'i Persecution during the Last Days of the Shah's Regime

Chapter 10: The Baha'is—the First Victims of Oppression in the Islamic Republic

Chapter 11: The Persecution of Baha'is under Bazargan and the Revolutionary Council

Chapter 12: The Presidencies of Banisadr and Raja'i

Chapter 13: Arrests and Executions of the Baha'i Assemblies, 1981-85

Chapter 14: The Destruction of Baha'i Holy Sites and Community Resources

Chapter 15: After Ayatollah Khomeini: The Escalation of Persecution

Chapter 16: Efforts at Reform under President Khatami

Chapter 17: Escalating Repression under President Ahmadinejad (2005-13)

Chapter 18: An Obsession with Conspiracy Theories in the Islamic Republic

Chapter 19: Systematic Humiliation: Being Labeled Ritually Unclean (Najes)

Chapter 20: The Perspectives of Iran's Grand Ayatollahs on the Baha'i Faith

Chapter 21: The Appeals of International Organizations and the Iranian Diaspora






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