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Iran Destroying Graves of Baha'is Executed for Teaching Sunday School Classes

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I was shocked and outraged to learn that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in the process of destroying the graves of, among others, ten women who were executed in Shiraz, Iran 30 years ago. Their executions changed the course of my life.

When I was thirteen years old, knowing nothing about the Baha'i Faith and living in a completely different hemisphere from Iran, I saw a short music video about a 17-year-old girl who was executed there.

Her only crime was her belief in a new religion, and that she taught the equivalent of Sunday school classes. I remember thinking that if someone so young had beliefs so deep she was willing to be executed rather than deny her beliefs, then the very least I could do was to learn more about them.

From that point on, I read as much as I could about the Baha'i Faith, and continue to be astounded by the profundity of the teachings for which Mona Mahmudnizhad and nine other women were executed on June 18, 1983. If you have not yet learned of the story of their lives, I encourage you to watch this short powerful video:

Now, reports are being received that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in the process of excavating the historically important Baha'i cemetery in Shiraz where Mona's remains and those of some 950 Baha'is lie. You can read the sad details here.

This latest attack on Iran's Baha'i community comes as the May 14 sixth anniversary of the incarceration of its seven member ad hoc leadership group approaches. The number of Baha'is in prison for their beliefs stands at 136, more than double the number of three years ago. They are denied government jobs and private sector employers have been pressured to dismiss them. Baha'i businesses are routinely closed at the whim of the authorities. Since the 1979 revolution over 2,000 pieces of real property have been confiscated, over 225 Baha'is have been executed or killed by mobs, the community has been the target of an incessant stream of vitriolic propaganda in the state-controlled media, its youth have been barred from the country's university system, and 12 of the educators of the community's self-initiated alternative informal system of higher education are in prison.

Even the dead are not spared. Baha'i cemeteries are routinely desecrated in Iran with the destruction of grave markers and the spraying of offensive graffiti. However, the latest action of the Iranian government, aimed at the total destruction of a major Baha'i cemetery, is beyond outrageous. But, in the midst of this darkness one can feel the gentle and powerful love of Mona's beautiful spirit. It changed my life many years ago, as it continues to affect the hearts of many thousands in Iran and across the world.