[Published in The Baha’i News Letter, March 1925]
To the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful throughout the West.
My dear friends :—
From various reliable reports, recently received from Persia, it is becoming increasingly evident that this most unhappy country is passing through yet another crisis of extreme violence and far-reaching results. The growing instability of its affairs, the unceasing turmoil caused by conflicting personalities and factions, the economic stagnation of the country, are all signs that are highly disquieting to every well-wisher of Persia. These evidences of discontent may conceivably lead to an upheaval that might react most unfavorably on the fortunes of the Movement in Persia.
Already the exigencies of the present political life of the country have brought about a gradual recrudescence of religious fanaticism which, in its stubbornness and ferocity, can hardly find a parallel even in the semi-civilized countries of the world. I have just received a communication addressed by the secretary of the Qaghan Spiritual Assembly to the National Assembly of Persia, dated January 7th, and recording the following facts:—
"In the village of Qamsar, not very far from Tihran, a Persian, Aqa Rida by name, embraces the Baha'i faith. His friends and relatives are indignant and furious. They determine to persecute him. He is several rimes beaten severely and injured. They secure the sanction of the local Mulla to enable his wife, without obtaining a divorce, to marry another man. This unhappy person hastens desperately to Qashan and appealing to local authorities seeks and obtains temporary and partial relief. A few days ago, the son of a Mulla, Aqa Ahmad by name, visited Qamsar. Mischief-makers instantly incite him to humiliate, torment, and even murder the miserable convert. He immediately orders his arrest. His agents without notice and in a barbaric manner break into the house of a believer called Nasru;llah, accuse him of having sheltered his co-religionist, and command him to deliver the refugee immediately. Unsatisfied by his protestations and emphatic assurances, they start to search his house, violate the privacy of his home, enter the chamber of his wife, find her lying in bed having given birth to a child the night before, approach her, violently expose her, and shamelessly injure her to the point of almost ending her life. They then turn to her wretched husband and, with the aid of clubs, sticks, and chains, pitilessly mutilate his body. Fallen unconscious, they leave him, thinking him dead, and continue their search. Having fully investigated the matter they find that the husband was right after all and that Aqa Rida had fled to Mazkan. Reinforced by two Siyyids they immediately resolve to pursue him, and arriving in the village suddenly make their appearance at a meeting where the Baha'is were gathered and there instantly recognize their victim. They mercilessly drag him out, bind his hands behind his back, thrust him to the front, and with their whips, chains, and the butt end of their rifles drive him on to Qamsar. The Baha'i women in the vicinity, alarmed and grief-stricken, run after these heartless villains, and with loud lamentations vainly implore their mercy. Annoyed by their wailing they fire at them and disperse them. They drag him to Qamsar till at last he is brought before the Mulla's son who orders him to recant. But this ardent devotee, though young in faith, refuses to yield and with remarkable fortitude and sublime composure disdains the threats and insults of his enemies. The Mulla's son, angry and exasperated, gives order first to throw him into the river, then to tie him to the trunk of a tree and inflict on him the most severe corporal punishment. The people, however, with unutterable cruelty drag him through the streets into the main throughfare and start to force handfuls of straw into his mouth and with blows and kicks strive to compell him to swallow. They then befoul his face with filth. Finally they so disgrace and dishonor him and resort to such vile methods that the pen would shrink from recording the further unspeakable indignities to which this unfortunate man was subjected..."
A previous communication addressed to me by the same National Spiritual Assembly and dated October 22nd, reveals a parallel incident:—
"In Farahan, province of Iraq-i-Ajam, an old believer, Rida-Quli Khan, who for years past had at the instigation of the fanatical clergy suffered humiliations and heavy losses at the hands of the mob, proceeded a few days ago to Sultan-Abad in order to renew his complaints to the provincial authorities. Profiting by his absence, a band of ruffians break into his house at night in order to carry away any valuable property. His wife, an expectant mother, is awakened and offers resistance. Armed with poignards they rush on her and inflict on her in a most brutal fashion several mortal wounds. They even proceed to murder her son and are only prevented from doing so by the cry of the neighbors who rush forth to intervene."
In the province of Fars, Yazd, and Khurasan similar cases of atrocities and outrageous conduct have been witnessed. Houses have been sacked, property confiscated, homes destroyed. In addition to the murder of the American Consul in Tihran, we know of three Baha'is who in the course of the past year have suffered martyrdom. A considerable number have deserted their homes and belongings, and, panic-stricken, have either migrated to another province or sought refuge in neighboring mountains.
To this sad tale of unbridled cruelty must be added the devastation caused by the recent floods which have destroyed nearly half of Nayriz including five hundred houses which belonged to the BahaJis of that town.
Mindful as we are of the repeated and emphatic injunctions of our beloved Abdu'l Baha to scrupulously avoid meddling by word or deed with the political affairs of Persia, we cannot but feel gravely concerned at the plight and the perilous position of a vast number of our brothers and sisters in that beloved yet most backward of countries. Whilst we disassociate ourselves with the confused political aspirations of the contending factions in Persia, we should, if we be faithful to our trust, watch carefully every development in the situation, and by every lawful and legitimate means strive to alleviate the sufferings of our patient friends and ensure the protection of our Sacred Cause.
Free from every desire to be offensive or provocative, without seeking in the least to accuse or denounce any nation or individual, we should as much as it lies in our power broadcast the true facts of the situation. We should intelligently endeavor to enlighten the public opinion of the world on these ugly incidents and incredible happenings that will stain for ever the memory of this twentieth century civilization.
Conscious as all Baha'is are, of the absolute necessity and wisdom of non-resistance and abiding loyalty to the sovereign authority in the land they live in, we can have but one recourse and can appeal for redress only to the recognized authority in whose jurisdiction such glaring offences are being committed. You will gather from the above-mentioned reports how grievous and perplexing the situation is at present. You will realize with horror the shameless brutality of the ignorant masses as well as the insatiable hostility and unrestrained power of the clerical element. You will admire the tenacity of faith and the Spirit of magnificent heroism displayed with undiminished splendor by those who only recently have adhered to the Cause.
Should the friends on the spot fail to obtain redress and this calamitous condition continue unchecked, I will I then inform you by cable, and request your National Spiritual Assemblies to communicate both by cable and letter with the recognized authority in Persia. You will in the name of all the Baha'is in your respective countries demand that prompt and effective action be taken for the protection and well-being of your fellow-workers in Persia. Any grievance that is submitted should be supported.by evidence based on the actual facts of the situation. It should be expressed and presented in a sober yet firm language, should be conciliatory in tone, and moving in its appeal. We must make it abundantly clear that in giving publicity to these disgraceful and atrocious acts, the Baha'is the world over are in no wise animated by a hostile and revengeful spirit, that their purpose is not to retaliate nor to accuse or offend any soul, but only to ensure the safety and tranquility of law-abiding, devoted and patriotic citizens.
And having resorted to very practical and legitimate means for that end, and done our best, through prayer and supplication, to mitigate the endless sufferings of our dear ones in Persia, let us rest assured of the high destiny of their sorely-tried fatherland. Let us also remember that having done our duty towards them whatever else befalls Persia is truly ordained from on high and is but the means for the working out of His purpose for 'that chosen country. Let us finally recall His promise that in the fullness of time the Government of Baha'u'Hah's native land will he universally recognized as the most honored of all earthly governments, that its sons will be so raised in the esteem of mankind as to become the envy and the admiration of all the world.
I feel confident that my dearly-beloved friends throughout the West, desirous to maintain the growing solidarity of the Cause, and fully alive to the critical conditions in Persia, will arise to do their utmost for the immediate relief as well as the ultimate deliverance of their long-suffering expectant fellow-workers in Persia,
May Baha'u"llah bless richly your efforts.
Your brother and fellow-worker,
(signed) Shoghi. Haifa, Palestine;
March 3, 1925.
P. S. Copies of this circular should be distributed only among declared believers, and extracts from it may be published in the Press. (Shociii.)