For almost two centuries, followers of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest religious minority, have been persecuted by the state. They have been made scapegoats for the nation’s ills, branded enemies of Islam and denounced as foreign agents. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Baha’is have been barred from entering the nation’s universities, more than two hundred have been executed, and hundreds more imprisoned and tortured.
Now, however, Iran is at a turning point. A new generation has begun to question how the Baha’is have been portrayed by the government and the clergy, and called for them to be given equal rights as fellow citizens. In documenting, for the first time, the plight of this religious community in Iran since its inception, Fereydun Vahman also reveals the greater plight of a nation aspiring to develop a modern identity built on respect for diversity rather than hatred and self-deception.
‘An exceptional book written in an exceptional time in the modern evolution of an ancient nation… a comprehensive and heart-breaking, infuriating but incisive, eloquent yet scholarly account of a virulent, obsessive hatred that has profoundly shaped the construction of Iran’s modern identity. It is a masterful weaving of abstract historical events with intimate stories of suffering, demonstrating how the choices made by the wielders of power shape the lives of ordinary people going about their lives.’
– Iran Press Watch
‘175 Years of Persecution offers a lucid academic account of the lives of the Baha’is under such intolerable conditions… This book is a must-read for all interested in modern Iran.’
– Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History, University of Toronto
‘Vahman, a very learned specialist in Iranian studies, offers a significant addition to our understanding of modern Iranian history… Important reading.’
– Roy Mottahedeh, Gurney Research Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Mantle of the Prophet
‘Fereydun Vahman’s book 175 Years of Persecution provides, in accessible narrative vignettes, a sweeping account of the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community. Many articles and reports have documented the persecutions, but usually focusing on a chronologically and geographically confined space, often with a clinical approach. However, like Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee on the genocidal campaign against Native Americans, or James Allen’s Without Sanctuary, a visual history of lynching in the American south, here we have a work that brings the human impact to the fore. Vahman weaves together a larger story from individual, mob, or state-sponsored acts of murder, arson, gravesite desecration, imprisonment, dismissal from jobs, deprivation of pensions and education, etc. In clear and readable prose suitable for students, activists, and the general public, this book memorably describes the beleaguerment of the Baha’i community in Iran since its inception and makes it clear why the situation of Baha’is has been described as a bellwether of the prospects for true political rights and civil society for the entire Iranian polity.’
– Franklin Lewis, Associate Professor of Persian Language & Literature, University of Chicago