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Abstract:
Letters from the House and the US NSA concerning Baha'is who were able to escape Iran in 1997 by denying their Faith.

Dissimulation by Iranian Emmigrants

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice and National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States

1985-07-03

1. Letter from the Universal House of Justice, 3 July 1985

Department of the Secretariat
To the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States

Dear Bahá'í Friends,

In reply to your letter of 13 June concerning the restoration of administrative rights for those who left Iran with official exit permits, the Universal House of Justice has requested us to convey the following guidance on its behalf.

When a person who has been deprived of his administrative rights applies for reinstatement, various factors have to be considered by your National Spiritual Assembly before reaching any decision. The person should express regret for the action which has resulted in sanctions being imposed on him. An admission of guilt may be perceived as a sign of true repentance. Although there is no way to be absolutely sure of the feelings of the believer, the House of Justice suggests that one can judge to a certain extent the believer's sincerity by his outward expression of repentance i.e. the actions of the believer during the period he has been under sanction. In other words, if your National Assembly is convinced that during this period the person has not done anything to harm the Faith, has made evident his profound regret at the action he performed, and provided that other factors in his case do not indicate anything to the contrary, you may recommend to the House of Justice that the individual be reinstated.

In the cases of any competent Local Spiritual Assembly which enjoys the confidence of your National Assembly, you may wish to endorse its recommendation provided you are satisfied that the above mentioned criteria have been considered by the Local Spiritual Assembly.

Those who have recanted their faith in order to come out of Iran should not receive the impression that after the passage of a year, by simply writing a letter of regret, they would be automatically admitted into the Bahá'í community. Each case has to be studied separately. The result of this study must be conveyed to the House of Justice, which will reach a decision on the case in question only after consultation with the friends in Iran. One of the reasons why the House of Justice is so particular about these cases is that it does not wish any person to be under the false impression that anyone can use the Faith for his own personal convenience whenever it suits his self-interest. The believers who have denied their faith in order to leave Iran should realize that they have betrayed the many steadfast Bahá'ís who, at the cost of their lives, have steadfastly refused to recant their faith.

    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    Department of the Secretariat

2. Letter of the Universal House of Justice, 8 July 1985

Department of the Secretariat
To the National Spiritual Assemblies of
Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States

Dear Bahá'í Friends:

The Universal House of Justice recently received a letter from the non- Bahá'í husband of a Bahá'í questioning the justice of the removal of administrative rights from Bahá'ís who deny their faith in order to leave Iran by official routes. Since this question has arisen from time to time in discussions with representatives of other organizations who are interested in the plight of Bahá'í refugees, the House of Justice felt that it might be helpful to you to have the following extracts from the reply to this enquirer.

"It was the approved practice for many years for Bahá'ís to leave blank the space for religion on official forms in Iran. This was not a denial of their religion, it was merely a tacit refusal to state it. In recent times, however, the authorities refused to accept forms made out in blank, and would deny passports and exit visas to anyone who entered `Bahá'í' in the appropriate spaces. In order to get such documents a Bahá'í would either have to enter `Muslim' (or one of the other recognized religions) on the forms or would have to employ an agent to do it for him. This thus became a conscious act by the Bahá'í to deny his faith, and the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran at that point warned all the believers that such an action was unacceptable.

".it was permissible in Shi'ih Islam for believers to deny their faith in order to escape persecution. since the time of Bahá'u'lláh such an action has been forbidden for Bahá'ís. We do not defend our Faith by the sword, as was permissible in Islam, but Bahá'ís have always held to the principle that when challenged they should `stand up and be counted', as the modern expression is, and not purchase their safety by denying that which is most important to them in this world and the next. The principle is well known to the Iranian Bahá'ís and is upheld by the overwhelming majority of them when the penalty is martyrdom.

"Those Bahá'ís who have left Iran by official routes since the governmental regulations changed have made a conscious choice. While the majority of their fellow-believers have preferred to face all manner of difficulties, rather than deny their faith, these people have chosen to make this denial rather than face whatever problems were before them. They have left Iran freely, with the permission of the authorities as Muslims. They have chosen freedom and comparative ease at the cost of giving away their faith, and have got what they wanted. Some, however, once they are free, want to have their membership in the Bahá'í community back again. The attitude of the Bahá'í institutions in refusing to immediately readmit them should not be regarded as a vindictive punishment. These institutions are simply saying: `You have shown the insincerity of your belief by denying it for your personal advantage, we are not going to readmit you to the Bahá'í community until we have some confidence that you are sincerely repentant of such an act. In the meantime you can abide by the choice you yourself have made.'

"If any Bahá'í finds that he does not believe in the Faith, he is free to leave it, and no stigma at all attaches to such an action. What is shameful in Bahá'í eyes is for a person who still believes to deny that belief for his own advantage.

"When a former Bahá'í approaches the authorities abroad for assistance, claiming to be a Bahá'í, the institutions of the Faith are obligated to those authorities to give a truthful reply, namely that the person concerned was a Bahá'í in Iran but, in order to be able to leave the country through an official route, renounced his faith and stated he was a Muslim or a follower of some other religion. This reply is usually sufficient to indicate that the person was in danger in Iran and is in need of consideration by the authorities."

    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    Department of the Secretariat

3. Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States

September 18, 1985

To Local Spiritual Assemblies

Among the hardships the Bahá'ís in Iran have been experiencing during the last few years has been the restriction placed on their travel. Since April 1982 any Iranian who applies for an official exit permit is required to complete a form where one of the questions is about religious affiliation. When Bahá'ís respond to the question truthfully they are not allowed to leave the country. As explained by the Universal House of Justice, "If they write `Bahá'í', they cannot leave the country and if they write anything other than `Bahá'í', it is tantamount to recanting their faith." Some of the Iranian friends have obtained their passports and exit permits through broker, and although they themselves have not filled out the forms necessary for procuring such documents, the broker has completed the form on their behalf, most certainly indicating their religion as Moslem, Christian, etc., and not Bahá'í. Consequently, the Universal House of Justice, at the request made by the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran before it was disbanded, announced to all National Spiritual Assemblies that any Iranian Bahá'ís who left Iran via Tehran airport after 22 June 1983 is assumed to have denied his faith personally or by the intermediary of another in order to obtain the permit and is considered to be without administrative rights.

The Universal House of Justice ruled that the restoration of such rights is not to be considered by the National Spiritual Assemblies until the lapse of one year, and then only contingent on the attitude and degree of repentance of the individuals concerned. In addition, the National Spiritual Assemblies have been delegated the responsibility of ascertaining the procedures adopted by these individuals when leaving Iran and their reasons for doing so.

Therefore, when a person who has been deprived of his administrative rights applies for reinstatement, the Local Spiritual Assemblies have to insure that certain criteria are met before submitting the application to the National Spiritual Assembly for its deliberation and decision.

To facilitate your understanding of these criteria we offer the following guidelines:

1) Attempt to determine the degree of the individual's contrition and report the process used to reach this judgement, i.e. did your Assembly meet with the individual, did he/she meet with your representative, did you engage the assistance of a translator?

2) Has the individual participated in Bahá'í community life to whatever degree was possible? What is your evaluation of his actions during the period he has been under sanctions? To what extent have they exemplified Bahá'í standards of conduct?

3) What is the individual's motive in wanting to have their administrative rights restored? (Please bear in mind that a number of individuals were never active in the Faith in Iran but now wish to be considered Bahá'ís for their own personal convenience and self-interest.) Their visa status in the United States must be verified.

4) Ascertain and report the procedures adopted by the individual for obtaining a valid passport and exit visa in order to leave Iran.

5) Determine the reasons why the individual departed from Iran.

6) Explain to the individual that their administrative rights will not be automatically restored after the passage of a year, simply by writing a letter of regret.

7) Each case must be considered separately; the result of this study along with your recommendation must be conveyed to the National Spiritual Assembly.

We have enclosed for your reference and guidance two letters recently received from the Universal House of Justice concerning the restoration of administrative rights of those who left Iran with official exit permits.

Should you have questions concerning this matter please fell free to contact the Office of Community Administration at the Bahá'í National Center.

    With warm regards,
    National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
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