BWNS, May 1, 2014
Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, has announced that reports indicate that the excavation at the the Bahai cemetery in Shiraz, known as the Golestan Javid, has begun and that graves are being destroyed. Some 40 to 50 trucks are lined up to remove the earth and accelerate the work. “We are urgently calling on the international community to raise its voice in protest at this disturbing act. We also appeal directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to halt this act of desecration.” Some 950 Baha’is are buried in the cemetery, including the “ten Baha’i women of Shiraz,” who were hanged on 18 June 1983 at the height of the government’s campaign of execution against Baha’is.
Reports received so far indicate that workers for the Revolutionary Guards had completed an excavation some 1.5 meters deep and 200 square meters in area. The hole is near a number of very old gravesites in the western part of the cemetery but is not yet deep enough to have disturbed the remains, it is believed.
Ms. Dugal said the local Baha’is have made appeals directly to the Revolutionary Guards asking that it construct the proposed building on the areas of the site where there are no graves – and turn the areas with the graves into a green space, leaving the dead undisturbed.
“Appeals were made to various city and provincial authorities, including the commander in chief of Revolutionary Guard, the municipality of Shiraz, the Friday prayer Imam, the governor of the city, Iran’s prosecutor general and the head of the judiciary, with no results,” said Ms. Dugal.
Owned and used by the Baha’is of Shiraz since the early 1920s, the site was confiscated by the government in 1983, at which time its grave markers were leveled and its main buildings destroyed. Its ownership has since changed. Three years ago, the provincial office of the Revolutionary Guards announced it had taken over the site, and a sign was posted indicating that it planned to build a “cultural and sports building” there.
Between 2005 and 2012, at least 42 Baha’i-owned cemeteries in Iran were attacked in some manner. These attacks, often carried out with implicit if not direct government support, have involved the firebombing of mortuary buildings, the toppling of gravestones, the uprooting of landscape shrubbery, the spray-painting of anti-Baha’i graffiti on cemetery walls, and the exhumation of bodies. Similar symbolic violence through the destruction of Bahai and Jewish graves has been documented in the Qajar era.
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