Updated 18 April
IranWire has received a photo of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence agent, Masoud Momeni, who the Baha'i International Community said yesterday is "preventing and disrupting" the burial of Baha'is at Tehran's Khavaran cemetery. The bodies of five deceased Baha'is are being held in a morgue by Momeni, awaiting burial, one of which has languished there for 22 days.
Agents of #Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence including Masud Momeni continue preventing and disrupting Baha’i burials at #Bahai cemetery in #Khavaran. 5 bodies waiting in morgue, 1 has been there for 22 days. #Bahais continue to refuse forced burials at Khavaran’s mass gravesite.— Baha'i International Community (@BahaiBIC) April 17, 2023
A deceased Baha'i in Tehran, Behzad Majidi, was buried on 30 March at Khavaran cemetery, as IranWire first reported last week, without the cemetery officials observing Baha'i funeral rites, without notifying the family, and after officials had tried to charge the bereaved an "exorbitant" large sum for the burial.
The Baha'i International Community has now reported that an agent of the Ministry of Intelligence, Masoud Momeni, carried out the burial in relatiation against the Baha'is for not paying the sum and in a part of the cemetery previously used by the Iranian government as a mass grave for political prisoners.
The agent, whose Ministry of Intelligence affiliation was previously revealed by Tehran municipality staff, had first demanded that the family pay an exorbitant fee for burial within plots already owned and previously managed by the Baha'i community. He threatened the family that failure to meet his demands would result in the burial taking place at the site of the mass grave.
And in a further development over the weekend, the same intelligence agent threatened to bury another Baha'i under the same circumstance if the family of the deceased also refused to yield to his demands.
“What threat do the dead pose that justifies this ruthless treatment by the Iranian government,” said Simin Fahandej, a Representative of the Baha'i International Community (BIC) to the United Nations, “that they extend the persecution of Baha'is even after their death, following a lifetime of oppression imposed on them in every aspect of their living moments?”
The previous Tehran Baha'i cemetery, a cultivated site of about 80,000 square meters built before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was confiscated in 1980. A smaller and undeveloped plot of land adjacent to a mass grave site was then transferred to the community by Tehran’s deputy mayor.
A letter issued early in the Revolution, on September 16, 1979, signed by an official appointed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and addressed to a revolutionary police force, also said that the Baha'is were "permitted to build the cemetery and bury their dead" at the new site and that "no one is permitted to harass them".
Now the BIC says Baha'is are being asked for high fees to bury their dead in their own cemetery land and prevented from doing so according to Baha'i burial practices. Baha'i cemetery staff have been imprisoned as a result of the issues and even bereaved family members have been threatened with imprisonment.
Numerous other Baha'i cemeteries around Iran have also been confiscated or desecrated over the past 40 years.
“Baha'is have faced burial issues for over four decades. But now, adding to the burden of grief of both those Baha'is whose family members are being buried without formal burial rites, as well as those families whose loved ones are already buried in a previously used plot of land, is beyond cruel,” Ms. Fahandej added.
Two years ago, as part of a systematic 43-year campaign to persecute the Baha'is, the Iranian authorities began to block the community from using their part of the Khavaran cemetery and demanded that Baha'is use an adjacent site which was previously used as a mass grave. The Baha'is refused.
The intelligence agent Momeni, who in April 2021 wrested management of the Baha'i cemetery from the community, buried Majidi atop the mass grave site without respecting Baha'i funeral practices or informing his loved ones, depriving them of the opportunity to be present. He did so, according to the BIC, in retaliation against the Baha'is after they refused "on principle" to pay an "exorbitant" sum for the authorities to allow the burial within the Baha'i-owned cemetery plot. The BIC also insisted that other minority communities in the larger Khavaran complex do not face any such fees.
Momeni's actions in effect meant that the Baha'is were barred from using their own cemetery.
Momeni has reportedly also instructed cemetery workers to remove the barrier dividers between the Baha'i cemetery and the mass grave – in what the BIC called a further attempt to erase the ownership and identity of the Baha'i cemetery.
“The inhumane actions of the Iranian government have no limits, not even in death,” said Ms. Fahandej. “Now the authorities are trying to persecute many at the same time, both out of disrespect for the burial rights of the Baha'is, and by the desecration of the resting place of thousands of others. Baha'is do not accept these efforts on principle.”
The BIC added that the latest persecution of the Iranian Baha'i community came even as hundreds of families across Iran are "mourning a widespread loss of life".