It has now been confirmed that Mr. Rezvani was murdered simply because he was a Baha’i.
Ataollah Rezvani went missing on Saturday and his body was found on Sunday in his car on the outskirts of the city, he had been shot in the back of the head.
Mr. Rezvani’s murder comes after a series of incidents that were apparently designed to force him and his family to leave the city.
A short time ago he had come under pressure from agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, who instigated his dismissal from his job.
Even more recently, he had received anonymous, menacing telephone calls.
All of this happened against a backdrop of attacks on Baha’is from the pulpit by local clerics in the past several years.
“There is little doubt that the killing of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani was motivated by religious prejudice,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “Therefore, it is essential that the Iranian government at the highest levels investigate this without delay under its international obligations.”
Since 2005 in Iran, at least nine Baha’is have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances, and another 52 have been physically assaulted, both by government agents and plainclothes or unidentified attackers – all without prosecution. And that is just the very extreme end – as a Washington Post article about the recent fatwa (religious edict) against the Baha’is in Iran points out –
“Baha’is have been a favorite target of the regime and are routinely arrested and imprisoned. Since January 2011, the number of Bahá’ís in prison has doubled, from roughly 56 to 112, and the number awaiting trial, appeal, sentencing, or the commencement of their sentences increased from roughly 230 to 435.”
Dr. Ardawan Lalui, a Baha’i from Co. Galway, was especially shocked to hear the news of Mr. Rezvani’s murder. His parents and sister lived in Bandar Abbas for many years and their experience of the people of there was very positive. “The ordinary people of Bandar Abbas are nice and good people,” Dr. Lalui said, “But the cold-blooded murder of a man like Mr. Rezvani suggests that there is a very frightening element operating in that region.”
Baha’is are not the only persecuted and oppressed people within Iran. There are hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Iranian prisons. Amongst these prisoners are many Christians, human rights lawyers, student and women’s activists, and over a hundred Baha’is. The Irish Baha’i Community has been calling for some time for the general human rights situation in Iran to be addressed.
There are more than 300,000 Baha’is living in Iran and if this murder goes unpunished by the Iranian government, and unnoticed by the international community, these people are in grave danger. It is well known by the UN and organisations like Amnesty International that for the past few years clerics and the authorities in Iran have sought to create an atmosphere of anti-Baha’i hatred, using the pulpit and state-sponsored media.
Holocaust survivor and human rights activist, Tomi Reichental said recently of the situation of the Baha’i community in Iran, “We have to stop any of this developing further and this can only happen when throughout the whole world people are saying, ‘this can’t go on’.”
The Irish Baha’i Community is joining with people from all over the world calling for the perpetrators of this hate crime to be brought to justice. Within Iran there is widespread support for the protection of the human rights of all Iranian citizens. The question is, however, if the newly instituted government of President Hassan Rouhani will continue as its predecessors have, allowing such incidents to take place with impunity, or if they will show the world that they are committed to upholding justice and human rights for all Iranians.
“We are very concerned for the safety of the Baha’is living in Iran,” Brendan McNamara, Chair of the Irish Baha’i National Assembly confirmed. “It is time that the Iranian government accorded the Baha’is – and all the other persecuted citizens in their society – their basic human and civil rights.”