Various sources, June 18, 2016.
According to Gold News, on March 4 this year, a group of Bahais from Tabriz met with Ayatollah Tehrani to present a sampling of the indignities suffered by deceased Bahais in Tabriz over the past four years. The problems are experienced by Bahais throughout Iran. Bahais are buried in coffins with the graves oriented to Akka, in Israel, while Muslims are buried in shrouds, which require smaller graves that are oriented to Mecca. Separate cemeteries or separate sections are therefore a practical requirement, as well as being required by the existing anti-Bahai prejudices. Prior to the 1979 Revolution, Bahai ‘Spiritual Assemblies’ (elected bodies that administer the affairs of local Bahai communities) administered Bahai cemeteries, but many members of these local Assemblies, including eleven in Tabriz, were executed following the Revolution. In August 1981, the Assemblies were disbanded by the Bahais, on government instructions. Local and nation facilitators were appointed, in part as intermediaries with government bodies in matters relating to the Bahai community, but in March 2008, Mahvash Sabet, one of the national facilitators (Yaran) who had travelled to Mashhad to deal with a burial, was arrested. Two months later her six colleagues were also arrested, and local facilitators across Iran ceased serving as intermediaries with the government. The Iranian government therefore has a problem of their own making.
The Bahais from Tabriz told Ayatollah Tehrani that since September 3, 2011, the burial of Bahais in Tabriz has not been allowed. The decision was apparently made by high-ranking government officials, but has not been publicized. As a result, Bahais have had to wash and shroud the bodies of those who have died at home in their own homes. Where Bahais have died in hospital, their families are sometimes not even informed, but buried unceremoniously by the authorities far from Tabriz, in the districts of Miandoab or Urumeyyeh. A distant grave is not only cruel for the family of the deceased, it is contrary to Bahai rites, which stipulate that a body should not be carried more than one hour’s travel from the town where he or she died. In the past few years, at least 35 Bahais from Tabriz have been buried in other districts in this way.
Some of these events in Tabriz have been reported previously on Sen’s Daily. On June 13, 2016, Bahai News reported that the body of Mrs. Rezvanieh Nabavi Dehkharqani (رضوانیه نبوی دهخوارقانی) is still in the morgue at the Vadi-e Rahmat Cemetery in Tabriz, five days after her death, because authorities will not issue a burial permit. After she died on June 8 2016, her body was washed and shrouded in her home, and the Bahai prayer for the dead was read. Then her body was delivered to the morgue to await a burial permit. A later report indicates that the body was taken to Miandoab by government agents, and buried there.
Bahai News also reported, on June 17, that a Bahai who died six days previously has suffered a similar fate. Hussein Aqa Zahedi Muhammadpour (حسین آقا زهدی محمدپور), aged 92, died in the southern city of Ahwaz on June 12, 2016. Permission for burial in the Bahai cemetery in Ahwaz was withheld. Security forces (in Iran, Bahai burials are a “security issue” !) told the family that they should take the body to the town of Hendijan, 200 kilometers to the south. Thus far, the family have no indication who is responsible for barring burial in the Bahai cemetery, except that it is “on orders from above.”
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