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A tragic act of religious bigotry has had unexpectedly positive consequences in the Iranian city of Yazd, where local people are now willing to risk their freedom and their lives in support of their Bahá’í neighbours.

When two men targeted and stabbed to death an innocent householder last month, solely because he was a Bahá’í, his neighbours rushed to help. Local shopkeepers apprehended one of the villains, and the second one was arrested shortly afterwards by police. In a country where members of the legal profession are routinely imprisoned for defending human rights nevertheless a courageous lawyer has taken on the case and the local magistrate has promised to investigate it properly, conscious of the equality of all Iran’s citizens, including members of the Bahá’í Faith.

It is an exceptional example of solidarity with the Baha’is of Yazd, where institutionalised incitement to hatred against the Bahá’ís has reached worrying levels.

The dead man, Mr. Farhang Amírí (63), had lived a quiet and modest life in Yazd, working hard and raising a goodliving family. Described as wise, kind and gentle, he believed in the elimination of prejudices of all kinds and lived his life accordingly.

When two men called to his house asking to buy his van which was not in fact for sale, he engaged them in conversation outside his home. Together they attacked Mr. Amírí who subsequently died of multiple stab wounds to the chest.

“It’s really heartening to hear that this man’s tragic death has elicited such a positive response both from the ordinary people of Yazd but also from the police and the legal profession”, said Ms. Patricia Rainsford, Coordinator of the Bahá’í Information Office. However she added that while it is a glimmer of hope in the darkness which has surrounded the story of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran, both open- minded Iranians and the international community are now eager to see how justice will be carried out.

“We long to see an end to the pernicious atmosphere of incitement and religious hatred that makes such heinous deeds possible,” said Ms. Rainsford.

Bahá’í communities around the world are now asking their governments and international human rights bodies to call on the Iranian authorities to protect the rights of all their citizens, including Bahá’ís.

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