The Baha’i faith is the youngest of the world religions and the second most widespread after Christianity. It is well known for its belief in the essential unity of all religions and its global outlook. Its core beliefs of peace, harmony and tolerance, as well as its high regard for ethical conduct, make it a faith with a broad and potent appeal in the modern world.
For almost two centuries the followers of the Baha’i religion in Iran have been victims of persecution. From the pogroms during the Qajar dynasty in the nineteenth century to the present regime’s attempts to eradicate the Baha’i community, they have been used as a scapegoat, falsely accused of being disloyal to their country, branded enemies of Islam, and even denounced as foreign agents. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 their children have been barred from entering the nation’s universities and more than two hundred Baha’is have been executed. Many hundreds more have been imprisoned and tortured.
Now Iran is at a turning point. A new generation of ordinary people sceptical of the clergy and government’s hostility, as well as scholars, commentators and emerging leaders, have come to question the historical portrayal of Baha’is and called for them to be given equal rights as fellow citizens. In 170 Years of Persecution, Fereydun Vahman documents the history of the Baha’i faith in Iran, recording not only their plight but also the greater plight of the nation as it aspires to form a modern identity built on respect for diversity rather than one based on hatred and self-deception.