April 27, 2021
Baha’is in Tehran have been made to bury their loved ones not in the space allocated to them in Tehran’s Khavaran ceremony, but in a mass grave for political prisoners who were murdered in the 1980s.
The families of some of the victims of Iran’s 1988 massacre of dissidents revealed on Friday that at least two new graves had been dug in Khavaran. Pictures of the new graves surfaced online and were attributed to deceased Baha’i citizens by the website Bidaran and others.
Agents from the Security Office of the Behesht-e Zahra Organization, which manages Khavaran, have recently barred the Baha’i community from using the burial plots assigned to them; these ought to have been sufficient for several decades.
Instead, Baha’is have been told that they should either bury their dead in the narrow spaces between the current Baha’i graves, or use the same mass burial site used for those murdered by the regime in 1988.
The authorities claim to have recently emptied the mass grave. This has also led to widespread concern among many who see the move as an attempt to destroy the remains of executed political prisoners, while a serious investigation into the killings has yet to be carried out.
The latest news has sparked anguish among international Baha’i organizations and rights campaigners. Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, said: “Prohibiting individuals from burying their loved ones in a befitting manner, when they are already in grief, is beyond inhumane.
“The Baha’is respect the resting places of all and, given that over many decades the Baha’i community has faced the desecration of its own cemeteries, they do not want anyone to experience the same pain by burying their dead where others recently lay.”
Some of the families of the 1988 massacre victims have also pushed back against the move, publishing an open letter to Pirouz Hanachi, the Mayor of Tehran. A copy of the letter was shared with IranWire.
Addressed to the responsible authorities
Mr. Pirouz Hanachi, Honorable Mayor of Tehran
Khavaran is the memory of our lost loved ones.
Unfortunately in recent days, we have heard news about changes to Khavaran Cemetery that are against human dignity.
On Friday, April 23, in a visit to the nameless graves of our loved ones, we saw what was shocking to believe.
Graves were being dug in the mass graves of our loved ones and two deceased Baha’is were buried in those graves.
More than thirty years have passed since the killing of our children, wives, sisters and brothers. According to the evidence, the soil of Khavaran is the burial place of their pure bodies.
What is the purpose and intention of this change, and based on what belief have they [the authorities] ordered such an act?
Dear Mayor and members of the city council! It is our civil and human right, as families, to be aware of the exact location of the graves of our loved ones and to be able to honor their memory by attending their graves. Now, after being deprived of this right for about forty years, we want no changes to this cemetery.
We urge you to refrain from forcing our Baha’i compatriots to bury their deceased loved ones in a mass grave, and not to sprinkle salt on our old wounds.
Members of Tehran City Council
Office of the President
Ministry of Interior