DISCRIMINATION OF RFELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN ISLAMIC IRAN DENOUNCED
By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor
LONDON 12TH FEB. (IPS) A senior Iranian Sunni leader charged Friday the Islamic regime of Iran led by its leader, the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i to carrying out a deliberate policy aimed at "smashing and slaughtering" Iranian Sunnis by pushing them into an "outright rebellion" against the present ruling Shi'a authorities.
The harsh accusation was made by Dr. Abdolrahim Mollahzadeh, a London-based Iranian Sunni dissident cleric as a Shi'a opponent warned the present ruling authorities that if the senior maraje' or sources of emulation are not ordering a jihad, or holly war against them it was just because they did not want a "blood bath" in the country.
Addressing a three days conference on "The Aftermath of 20 Years Islamic Revolution in Iran" organised by the Paris-based Association of the Iranian Researchers (AIR) Mr. Mollazadeh said basic rights of the country's major religious minorities, chief among them the Sunni Muslims are suppressed by the present Shi'as only system of Iran.
Held at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), the conference's debut was marred by the "disappearing" of one of the key speakers in Dr Kasra Vafadari, a Paris-based university professor who was to open the afternoon session lecturing on the situation of the Zoroastrians in Iran.
According to conference sources as well as his French wife, Mr. Kasra went to have coffee with two unidentified men who wanted to talk to him during the coffee break and did not show up since.
"Kasra is known for his punctuality and seriousness and as far as I know of him, he is not involved in politics nor any activity against the Iranian regime", Mr. Hossein Lajevardi, the president of the AIR told IPS.
(As this item was about to be put on the Web, it was learned that professor Kasra was found, safe and well. "He was not abducted and as far as we are concerned, the case is over", a London Police spokesman told the IPS, without any explanation concerning his whereabouts during the 8 hours of his disappearing).
Tightly controlled by the Shi'ites, Islam's minority branch to which adheres the majority of Iranians, the Sunnis numbers between 15 to 20 millions out of the 65 millions Iranian inhabitants, making them the nation's largest religious minority.
Sunnis makes the overwhelming majority of the one billion Muslims world over and the Shi'ites a small minority, with over 200 millions only, most of them in Iran.
Christians, Zoroastrians and the Jews, with respectively between 250.000 to 300.000, 200.000 to 250.000 and 25.000 to 30.000 faithful are the three other minor religious minorities officially recognised by the regime having MPs in the Majles (the Parliament), leaving the 300.000 Baha'is as the only religious group that not only is not recognised, but ruthlessly suppressed.
"It's more than five century that the Sunnis, who are Muslims and were supposed to enjoy the same rights as the Shi'ites are suppressed in Shi'a Iran", Dr Mollahzadeh told an astonished audience, explaining that as a result of a carefully planed policies upheld by the Shi'ites, the Sunnis were "systematically" expelled from cities to remote regions, mostly to Iran's frontiers with predominantly Sunni neighbours.
While he shared the views of Mr. Hammed Saab, the Chairman of the Iranian Jewish community in England that the situation of religious minorities had "greatly" improved under the former Phalli dynasty that was overthrown by the Islamic revolution of 1979, however, the Iranian Sunnis were badly discriminated by the new rulers.
"Not only the Shi'a are dumping over the Sunnis more than 1000 years of hating, but politically as well as socially and culturally, the Sunnis are suffering at the hands of the ruling Shi'a clerics", he pointed out.
"The situation of the Iranian Sunnis followed a "reverse parallel" to that of the Jews or the Christians", Mr. Mollahzadeh observed, referring to earlier declarations by Mr. Sabi that while at the beginning of the Islamic revolution "thousands of frightened Jews did left Iran in a hurry", the situation improved gradually for those who had remained in Iran".
"As the Shi'a clerics led by the ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny consolidated their hold of the regime, needing no more the collaboration of the Sunnis, discrimination and religious cleansing against them in all public administration became wide-spread. For example, there is not a single Sunni governor even in predominantly Sunni towns and regions" he observed.
"Since 1994, the policy of assassination of Sunni leaders, including Sunni Friday preachers is on the increase", Mr. Mollazadeh disclosed, adding that Sunni mosques all over the country, namely in Mash-had, Zahedan, Shiraz, Ahwaz, Kermanshah are "systematically" closed, destroyed or turned into movie houses or public parks, the leaders of the community are executed under fallacious pretexts such as drug smuggling, publication of books by Sunni religious scholars are prohibited.
"In the eight years of presidency of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, not one single Sunni book was cleared for publication while at the same time many Sunni writers and translators were arrested or executed", he said.
Noting that Tehran was "the only capital of an important Muslim nation that has not one single Sunni Mosque even though that the Islamic Republic boast itself as the "Mother of all the Muslims", the speaker said "our most ardent wish is to be treated like the Jews, the Christians or the Zoroastrians".
As for the Iranian Jews, a community with a historic bound to Iran which goes back to "at least 3000 years ago", their situation has "gradually improved" since 1998 to the point that for the first time, the ruling Shi'a leaders have publicly stated their "determination" to take upon them the responsibility for the protection of the Iranian Jews and their "ancestral cultural rights and heritage", said Mr. Hamid Sabi.
However, the community is being discriminated. "The Jews are considered a lower class compared to the Shi'as. They experience limitations in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects. They do not enjoy same rights as the Shi'as in judicial matters, where the parole and testimony of a Jew is worth half of that of a Shi'a Muslim and contrary to the Constitution, major posts in public administration is reserved to those among the Shi'as who believe in the 12 Imams", pointed out Mr. Sabi, himself a lawyer.
The last word on the situation of religion in today's Islamic Iran came from a dissident Shi'a cleric who ruled the velayate faqih, the concept that makes the backbone of the present Iranian clerical system as being "un-Islamic", if not heresy.
"The present system, with the Information (Intelligence and Security) Ministry, the Feda'iyan Eslam, the Hezbollah and the rest are enemies of Islam. They are the main source of unprecedented corruption we have now in Iran. All the present and past rulers of this regime are members of this sprawling, dangerous machine that has instructed, ordered and carried out all the assassination of dissidents", he added, referring to the recent murder of political and intellectual opponents of the Islamic Republic, said the hojatoleslam Mahmoud Tabataba'i Qomi who lives in exile in London.
"They should know that the grand ayatollahs, almost all of them silenced and under house arrest, can call for jihad, but if they refrain is because they don't want civil war or blood bath", the hojatoleslam warned.
ENDS ACI 1329903