Sen's daily

January 23, 2016

Bahai burial again impeded in Tabriz

Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 18, 2016.

Officials at the public cemetery in Tabriz, the Wadi-ye Rahmat cemetery, have impeded the burial of Mrs. Afruz Bakhshi (افروز بخشی), who died on Friday, January 15. Siamak Shafi`i (سیامک شفیعی), the son of Mrs. Bakhshi, who is at present in Washington, told Bahai News that officials at the cemetery in Tabriz had been refusing to bury Bahais since 2012. In September 2015, a national policy was announced, that Bahais may only be buried in one designated cemetery in each province.

After the death of his mother, his father washed the body in his own home. Washing the body in a prescribed manner is part of both the Bahai and the Muslim burial rites, and is normally done in a separate washing facility on the cemetery land. Mr. Shafi`i said that he knew it was not appropriate to wash the body in the home, for psychological and health reasons, but his father and the family had no choice, as they did not wish her to be buried according to Islamic rites.

The body was then wrapped in a shroud and placed in a coffin, and the Bahai burial prayer was recited. The use of a coffin in addition to a shroud is part of the Bahai ritual, whereas in Islamic customs the coffin is used only to transport the body, which is buried in a shroud only. Next morning he went to the cemetery to bury her in the Bahai way — in a coffin — but officials at the cemetery said they could not allow a burial in a coffin,
or the performance of Bahai rituals, so the family should bury her according to Islamic rites, without the coffin. Alternatively, they could take the body to the Bahai cemetery of Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh). This isolated cemetery was vandalised in August, 2015, and it is two hour’s travel from Tabriz. The Bahai practice is to bury a body within one hour’s travel of the place of death. The officials also suggested taking the body to Miandoab, which is two and a half hours by car from Tabriz. The cemetery officials also offered to conduct the burial themselves (i.e., according to Islamic rites). The body was placed in the morgue. Mrs. Bakhshi’s husband approached various local authorities in Tabriz, but was told that the policy comes from “higher up.” When he returned empty-handed to the cemetery in Tabriz, the cemetery officials said that they would take the body to a cemetery site specifically for Bahais in Miandoab on Monday, January 18. Mr. Siamak Shafi`i said that the “Miandoab” cemetery is actually closer to Mahabad, which is three hours from Tabriz, and is a rocky place, so that a bulldozer is required to dig a grave, and the Bahais would have to travel more than two hours to take each body. The Bahais were allocated a separate cemetery so that Muslims would not be buried alongside Bahais [and also to remove the Bahai presence from a public space ~Sen]. Mr. Shafi`i said that when the bodies of deceased Bahais are taken to the “Miandoab” cemetery by city officials, their families are told they have been buried, and in some cases the Bahais know that the deceased were buried with Islamic rites. He said that officials had been doing this for more than four years now, and 47 Bahais have been buried in this way. Five years previously, his wife’s grandmother died, and become the Bahai to be excluded from the cemetery in Tabriz.

In past years [when the Bahai community in Iran was allowed to organise its affairs], his father was one of those responsible for washing and burying deceased Bahais. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, and especially in 1987, the family, who were then living in Ilkchi, suffered attacks by ‘extremist forces’ and their possessions, land and house were expropriated.

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Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.


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