International pressure stopped Iran’s executions of Baha’is in the 1980s. Today, it can do the same thing for Baha’is in Yemen. The world must not let another teenage girl die.
The date was June 18, 1983. A seventeen-year-old girl was publically hung in the middle of a polo field in Shiraz, Iran, during the night. Her crime? Being a Baha’i.
The girl’s name was Mona Mahmudnizhad. Among people who knew her, she was called the “Angel of Shiraz” for her sensitivity. One example of her sensitivity included her crying when her teachers left her school to work somewhere else since she had become so close to them.
In the Baha’i community, Mona participated in advanced religious classes with students who were much older than herself. She also participated in teaching Baha’i children’s classes.
After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the government of Iran started a systematic campaign of violent persecution against Baha’is, which included executions.
Mona was one of ten women who was hung that night, after having been imprisoned and tortured for many months. She was one of at least 207 Iranian Baha’is who were either executed or murdered by clerical mobs or fanatics, following the Revolution.
In the mid-1980’s, Iran began to slow down on Baha’i executions due to international condemnation from the United Nations and leaders around the world, including Ronald Reagan.
But yesterday, September 18, 2018, showed that Iran isn’t willing to give up the slaughter just yet. In Sanaa, Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi party Ansar Allah that is currently in control of the country began to prosecute 24 Baha’is, including a teenage girl, falsely accusing them of atheism, and spying for America and Israel. They could potentially face the death penalty.
I don’t know anything about the teenage Baha’i girl in Yemen. What I know is that now that Iran can’t get away with murdering Baha’is on their soil, they are willing to do it elsewhere.
Baha’is are a non-violent group whose goal is world peace. Yet, across the Muslim world, Baha’is are subjected to arrest, torture, vigilante violence (often inspired by clerical preaching), denial of higher education, destruction of their graves and cemeteries, and destruction and burning of their homes, all because they are viewed as apostates from Islam.
This persecution could potentially result in a genocide of Yemeni Baha’is. Houthi leader Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi has vowed to “Butcher every Baha’i.”
The persecution of Yemeni Baha’is comes from Iran’s instructions given to the Houthis.
Similarly to what the international community did for Iranian Baha’is in the 1980s, it must speak out for Yemeni Baha’is today. The UN must pass resolutions condemning Iran and the Houthis. People all around the world must protest.
We can’t let there be another Mona.
Tara is a journalist and campaigner based in San Francisco, US