Skip to main content


  • Mehrdad Amanat

Violence toward corpses and graves, especially the unusual practice of exhuming and burning remains, persisted sporadically through the 20th century in Iran but found new dimensions in the form of mass graves and a systematic desecration of cemeteries in the period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This paper seeks to explore the roots of cemetery violence by examining the dynamics of apostasy and the experiences and challenges Babi and Bahaʾi converts faced in their interment practices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This period witnessed a significant change in communal identities. Unconventional self-definitions expressed in religious conversions and in fluid or multiple communal affiliations and religious convictions defied traditional boundaries and led to tension between nonconformists and religious authorities. One way for Shiʿi ʿulamaʾ and Jewish rabbis to reassert a conventional center was through the control of cemeteries, including by not allowing converts to be buried in these semisacred spaces.

Corresponding author
Mehrdad Amanat is an independent scholar in Los Angeles, Calif.; e-mail:
Hide All


Author's note: I am grateful to Professor Abbas Amanat for his thoughtful comments and suggestions on sources; Professor Nikki Keddie, Professor Houchang Chahabi, Professor Ali Ghaysari, and Dr. Anthony Lee for reading and commenting on my various drafts; Mr. Erfan Sabeti for online references; the editors of IJMES for their meticulous editorial care; the IJMES anonymous readers for their invaluable input and criticism; and Professor Rudi Matthee for providing me with important source material. I am also indebted to my anonymous sources in Iran. All errors and omissions are mine.

1 “Paʾiz” (Autumn), recited by Hila Sedighi, (accessed 1 April 2011).

2 In his memoirs, Ayatollah Sadiq Khalkhali, who was responsible for post-revolutionary summary trials, indirectly acknowledges the problem the revolutionaries faced in burying the remains of their victims whom they deemed infidels. Khatirat-i Ayat Allah Khalkhali (Tehran: Nashr-i Sayah, 2005), 369.

3 There are only a few recorded cases of the exhumation and burning of human remains in the 20th century. Soon after the Russian Revolution, the bodies of Rasputin and General Lavr Kornilov were exhumed and burned. See Mawdsley, Evan, The Russian Civil War (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987), 21. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, “the Red Guards were encouraged to deface Confucian temples and statues. The scholar's ancestral home was destroyed, and bodies of long-dead descendants were exhumed and publicly displayed.” Andrew Jacobs, “Confucius Statue Vanishes Near Tiananmen Square,” New York Times, 22 April 2011.

4 For an extensive discussion of fluid religious identities around the turn of the 20th century, see Amanat, Mehrdad, Jewish Identities in Iran: Resistance and Conversion to Islam and the Bahaʾi Faith (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011).

5 The only exception to the prohibition of the burial of a non-Muslim in a Muslim cemetery is that of an infidel woman pregnant by a Muslim man. Naraqi, A., Mustanad al-Shiʿa fi Ahkam al-Sharʿa (Qum: Muʾassasat Al al-Bayt, 1415 [1994–95]), 3:284; Qummi, A., Ghanaʾim al-Ayyam fi Masaʾil al-Halal wa-l-Haram (Qum: Markaz al-Nashr al-Tabiʿ li-Maktab al-Iʿlam al-Islami, 1417 [1996–97]), 3:564, cited in Tsadik, Daniel, “The Legal Status of Religious Minorities: Imāmī Shīʿī Law and Iran's Constitutional Revolution,” Islamic Law and Society 10 (2003): 396.

6 Mahdavi, Muʿizz al-Din, Dastanhaʾi az Panjah Sal (Tehran: Chapkhnah Vahid, 1969), 42. For a survey of the significance of cemeteries in Iran, see Mahmoud Omidsalar, “Cemeteries,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica (hereafter EIr).

7 For burial practices, see Hamid Algar, “Burial-Islam,” in EIr.

8 For a discussion of the public health consequences of transporting corpses (especially during cholera epidemics) and the resulting tensions in Iran–Ottoman relations, see Sabri Ateş, “Bones of Contention: Corpse Traffic and Ottoman-Iranian Rivalry in Nineteenth-Century Iraq,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 30 (2003): 512–32. For the abolition of this practice under Riza Shah in 1928, see Nakash, Yitzhak, The Shiʿis of Iraq (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), 200.

9 Omidsalar, “Cemeteries.”

10 Sangisari, Aʿzami, “Bavarha-yi ʿAmiyana-i Mardum-i Sangisar,” Hunar va Mardum 92 (1970/71): 52, cited in Omidsalar, “Cemeteries.”

11 Mary Boyce, “Death (1) [among Zoroastrians],” in EIr.

12 Omidsalar, “Cemeteries.”

13 Jalal al-Ahmad complains about this irony in his Nifrin-i Zamin (Tehran: Entesarat-i Ravaq, 1978), 56. Isfahan's Takht-i Fulad cemetery is known to have originated in the 14th century. During the Pahlavi period, part of this cemetery was converted into the city's first airport runway, which stood next to the tombs of revered Shiʿi scholars of the Safavid period. Parviz Varjavand, Ganjinah-yi Asar-i Tarikhi-yi Isfahan, 221, 493, cited in Fath Allah Mudarris, Tarikh-i Amri-i Bahaʾi dar Najafʾabad (Darmstadt, Germany: ʿAsr-i Jadid, 2004), 209. According to Mahdavi, eight schools were built over cemeteries in Isfahan alone during the 1950s. Mahdavi, Khatirat, 282, 334.

14 Cohn, Norman, Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993); Shaked, Shaul, “Iranian Influence on Judaism: First Century BCE to Second Century CE,” in Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 1, ed. Davies, Louis W. D. and Finkelstein, Louis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); and Irani, K. D., “The Conceptual Basis for the Interaction between the Ancient Traditions of the Jews and the Iranians,” Irano-Judaica 3 (1994): 9098. For a useful introductory summary, see Foltz, Richard C., Spirituality in the Land of the Noble (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004), 4556.

15 One example of scientific collaboration involved Jewish relatives of the renowned scholar and statesman of the Ilkhanid period, Rashid al-Din Fadl Allah (d. 1318), whose grandfather collaborated with “Sevener” Shiʿi Ismaʿili scholars in the fortress of Alamut in northern Iran in the 13th century. See Azkaʾi, Parviz, Tarikhnigarani-i Iran (Tehran: Bunyad-i Mawqufati-i Duktur Mahmud Afshar Yazdi, 1994), 311–15. For the Ismaʿilis’ acceptance of all other sects and creeds, including the Jews, see Bayani, Shirin, Din va Dowlat dar Iran-i Ahd-i Mughul (Tehran: Markaz-i Nashr-i Danishgahi, 1367 [1988/99]), 1:202.

16 Joseph Wolff, the eccentric Jewish convert to Christianity, refers to some of the Jews of Mashhad in the 1830s as “Jewish Sufis.” They were most likely attracted to an alternative view of Islam that was not concerned primarily with the shariʿa and its preoccupation with “ritual impurity.” See Wolff, , Researches and Missionary Labours among the Jews, Mohammedans, and Other Sects (Philadelphia: O. Rogers, 1837), 9395.

17 Khalili, Elyeh, Yahudiyan-i Kurd-i Iran (Los Angeles, Calif.: Ketab, 2004), 88.

18 For the rise of Usuli Shiʿism, see Algar, Hamid, Religion and State in Iran, 1785–1906 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1969), 3236. For Usuli Shiʿi law, see as-Ṣadr, Muḥammad Bāqir, Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence, trans. and intro. Mottahedeh, Roy (Oxford: Oneworld, 2003).

19 In 1899, following a fatwa by Tehran ʿulamaʾ, Jews were banned from the Amir caravansary, a thriving trade center in Tehran's bazaar. Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 199.

20 See ibid., 182, n. 30, for an example of the restriction on Jewish physicians appearing in public on rainy days in 1892.

21 In the Western scholarly literature, Babis and Bahaʾis have received a somewhat contradictory treatment, often influenced by Iran's anti-Bahaʾi rhetoric. In line with his fascination with the Shiʿi ʿulamaʾ as the primary force for positive change, Hamid Algar marginalizes Babism as “ultimately no more than a side issue in Qajar history.” Algar, Religion and State in Iran, 151. This view is contradicted in a recent work that refers to Babism as “the very first Shiʿi revolution . . . deeply rooted in its historical antecedents” and as the link to “medieval Shiʿi revolutionary reason,” noting that it became a major influence during the Constitutional Revolution. Dabashi, Hamid, Shiʿism: A Religion of Protest (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, 2011), 201202.

22 Amanat, Abbas, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844–1850 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989); MacEoin, Denis, The Messiah of Shiraz: Studies in Early and Middle Babism (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2009).

23 For a translation of selections from these tablets, see Bahaʾuʾllah, , The Proclamation of Bahaʾuʾllah (Haifa: Bahaʾi World Centre, 1967). For Bahaʾuʾllah's more developed social teachings, again in translation, see Tablets of Bahaʾuʾllah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahaʾi World Centre, 1978). For an extended discussion of Bahaʾuʾllah's life and ideas, see Cole, Juan R. I., Modernity and the Millennium (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). For a discussion of modern and traditional aspects of Bahaʾism, see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, esp. chapter 3.

24 There is an extensive literature on Bahaʾi persecutions including many firsthand accounts. For a powerful example, including disturbing details of the persecution of the Bahaʾis of Yazd and its vicinity in 1903, see Malmiri, Muhammad Tahir, Tarikh-i Shuhada-yi Yazd (Karachi: Muʾassasih-i Matbuʿat-i Milli-i Pakistan, 1979). For accounts by non-Bahaʾis of this episode, see Momen, Moojan, The Bábí and Bahá’í Religions 1844–1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts (Oxford: G. Ronald, 1981).

25 Estimates by outside observers of the number of Iranian converts to the Babi–Bahaʾi religions are sketchy, ranging from an astonishing two million in the 1880s, including “many Jews,” to the more plausible estimate for the mid-1930s of “thousands and perhaps ten thousand of [converted] Jews,” including “around a quarter of the Jews of Hamadan” (an estimated 8,000 in total) and 700 Jews in Tehran. Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 4.

26 See ibid., esp. 5–6, 89–91, 204, for a discussion of the roots of this paradox.

27 According to the Christian missionary Henry A. Stern, who visited Iran in the 1850s, the prominent Jewish physician Hakim Harun of Kashan confessed that “Christian salvation was in perfect harmony with the Scripture, and far superior to the fanciful system of Rabbinism.” Stern further claimed that Harun had assured him that many of the Jews of Kashan “will as intensely love Christ and his Gospel, as they formerly rejected the one and despised the other.” Stern, Dawnings of Light in the East (London: C. H. Purday, 1854), 254–60.

28 A number of Jews in Tehran and Shiraz converted to Islam around 1884 as a result of unfulfilled expectations that the Messiah would put an end to their miseries. Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 83–84.

29 See ibid., chap. 4, for a discussion of the roots of Jewish–Bahaʾi conversions.

30 Fischel, Walter, “The Bahaʾi Movement and Persian Jewry,” Jewish Review 2 (1934): 52; idem, “The Jews of Persia, 1795–1940,” Jewish Social Studies 12 (1950): 154. The shift in Fischel's views may have been related to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

31 Netzer, Amnon, “Conversion of Jews to the Bahaʾi Faith,” in Irano-Judaica 6 (2008): 290323.

32 For an extensive history of the persecution of Jews in Iran, see Levy, Habib, Tarikh-i Yahud-i Iran, vol. 3 (Tehran: n.p., 1334 [1956]); and Fischel, “The Jews of Persia.” For a standard Bahaʾi narrative, see Malik-Khusravi, M., Tarikh-i Shuhada-yi Amr, 3 vols. (Tehran: Muʾassasih-i Milli-i Matbuʿat-i Amri, 1972). However, these sources often leave out the social and political roots of anti-minority riots.

33 Examples of the rural population participating in urban riots include the famous anti-Jewish riots in Mashhad in 1839 and the looting of Hafiz al-Sihha's home in Hamadan in September 1896. See Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 53, 197.

34 Mulla ʿAbdullah Burujirdi in Hamadan in the 1890s is a classic case of the ʿulamaʾ's manipulation of local politics through violence. Following his fatwa, his followers instigated riots against the local Sheikhi community and subsequently looted the governor's mansion. These events were followed by anti-Jewish persecutions in 1892 that led to the forced conversion of Jews to Islam. Ibid., 183–95.

35 For an assessment of the psychological roots of anti-Bahaʾi riots, see Amanat, Abbas, “The Historical Roots of the Persecution of Babis and Bahaʾis in Iran,” in The Bahaʾis of Iran, ed. Brookshaw, Dominic Parviz and Fazel, Seena (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), 170–83.

36 The Dehkhoda Loghatnama links the source of such modern Persian insults to pre-Islamic Egyptian practices related to mummies, which seems far fetched and rather in line with the nationalist attempt at cultural sanitization. “Pidarsukhtah,” in Dehkhoda lexicon, Loghatnamah, (accessed 14 February 2012).

37 Roux, J.-P., “Une survivance des traditions turco-mongoles chez les Séfévides,” Revue de l'Histoire des Religions 183 (1973): 118; Auboin, Jean, “L'avènement des Safavides reconsidéré,” Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 5 (1988): 1100.

38 Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, trans. Urumiyi, Muhammad Hasan (Tehran: Kitabforush-yi Islamiya, 1977), 13:650–53.

39 Tabatabaʾi, ʿAllamah Muhammad Husayn, Shiʿite Islam (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York, 1975), 28.

40 Whether for personal or political reasons, the Qara Khitai (Gürkhan) “exhumed and decapitated” the corpse of Khwarazm Shah Muhammad after they turned against him to join the Mongol army around 1220. Biran, Michal, The Empire of Qara Khitai in Eurasian History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 87nn, citing al-Jawzi, Sibt ibn and Qizughli, Yusuf ibn, Mirʾat al-Zaman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1907). The 14th-century Jewish convert, statesman, and revered historian Rashid al-Din Fadl Allah, who played a crucial role in Iran's reconstruction during the post-Mongol period, was executed in 1318 on the Ilkhan's order. Some ninety years after his Muslim burial—curiously coinciding with the European Inquisition—the party of his opponents tried to stigmatize him as a nonbeliever. They removed his remains from the Muslim cemetery and reburied them in the Jewish cemetery, thereby denying his belief in Islam and reassigning him a Jewish identity. His redefinition as a Jew may well have been a strategy to invalidate his endowment and confiscate its vast assets. Samarqandi, Dowlatshah, Tadkirat al-Shuʿaraʾ (London: Luzac, 1901), 330.

41 According to a Safavid chronicle, Ismaʿil “uprooted and eradicated most of the lineages of sayyeds and sheikhs . . . destroying the graves of their ancestors, not to mention what befell their successors.” Hafiz Husayn Karbalaʾi (Ibn Karbalaʾi Tabrizi), Rawzat al-Jinan wa-Jannat al-Jinan, ed. Jaʿfar Sultan al-Qurraʾi (Tehran: Bungih-i Tarjumih va Nashr-i Kitab, 1970), 2:159, 491, quoted in Hamid Algar, “Islam in Iraq, Safavid Era,” EIr.

42 According to a contemporary source, upon the capture of Tabriz in 1501, Ismaʿil ordered the remains of tribal chiefs who had collaborated in the killing of his father to be “disinterred and burnt in the market-place . . . and to show a greater indignity to those chiefs, he ordered the heads of thieves and harlots to be cut off and burnt with the bodies.” Zeno, Caterino, Travels in Persia (London: Hakluyt Society, 1873), reprinted in Travels to Tana and Persia (New York, 1963 [1873]), 52. Also cited in Tahiri, Abulqasim, Tarikh-i Siyasi va Ijtimaʿi-yi Iran (Tehran: Kitabha-yi Jibbi, 1970), 152.

43 Shah Mirza had collaborated with another presumably Babi lūṭī named Yahya Sayyid-i Babr (Tiger). Both had been arrested and imprisoned in Tehran in 1863 on typical trumped-up charges of raping women during the holy Shiʿi ceremony of ʿAshuraʾ. Nevertheless, their rebellion continued at least through 1870. Ittihadiyyih, Mansurih, ed., Khatirat va Asnad-i Muhammad ʿAli Ghaffari (Tehran: Nashr-i Tarikh-i Iran, 1982/3), 1920. For Bahaʾuʾllah's disapproval of Shah Mirza's rebellious activities, see Mazandarani, Asad Allah Fadil, Asrar al-Asar (Tehran: Muʾassasih-i Milli-i Matbuʿat-i Amri, 1973), 3:186–87. The shaykh of Mazgan (Shaykh Abulqasim) was originally from Nushabad, northeast of Kashan. He had moved to the nearby Babi village of Mazgan to escape persecution and lead the local Babi community. Tafti, ʿAbd al-Husayn Ayati Avarih, al-Kawakib al-Durriyyah (Cairo: Saʿada Press, n.d.), 1:438–40; Nateq-i Isfahani, “Tarikh-i Amri-yi Kashan va Quraʾ-i Tavabi',” 1309 [1930], MS no. 2016D, National Bahaʾi Library, Iran, 13–14.

44 The date of this incident was 26 June 1883. Asad Allah Fadil Mazandarani, Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq, vol. 6, manuscript copy, (accessed 23 July 2011), 979–82. Rayhani reports on the reaction to this incident by one of Tehran's leading Shiʿi clerics (and later constitutionalist) Sayyid ʿAbd Allah Bihbahani, who publicly protested the execution of Mulla ʿAli Jan, calling it a violation of the sanctity of the station of a mujtahid. Rayhani, “Memoirs,” cited in Mehrdad Amanat, “Negotiating Identities: Iranian Jews, Muslims and Bahaʾis in the Memoirs of Rayhan Rayhani (1859–1939)” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2006), 190–91. See also Sulaymani, ʿAziz Allah, Masabih-i Hidayat (Tehran: Muʾassasih-i Milli-i Matbuʿat-i Amri, 1958–77), 4:499537. According to one Bahaʾi observer, Mazandarani's instructions, based on his understanding of the new faith, included rules of cleanliness as well as covering for women peasants. Isfahani, Mirza Haydar ʿAli, Bihjat al-Sudur (Pune, India: n.p., 1331 [1913]), 237–39; and idem, Stories from the Delight of Hearts, trans. A. Q. Faizi (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1980).

45 Rayhani, “Memoirs,” 190–91.

46 The women's network served an educational and community support function and provided services to Bahaʾi prisoners such as paying visits to bring them food, washing their cloths, and filing petitions on their behalf. Momen, Moojan, “The Role of Women in the Bahaʾi Community,” in Religion and Society in Qajar Iran, ed. Gleave, Robert (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 346–69.

47 ʿAli Jan was buried along with a number of other Bahaʾis in a cemetery next to the shrine of Sar-i Qabr-i Aqa. The adjacent quarter (Kuch-yi Babi-ha) was known for its concentration of Bahaʾis. Mazandarani, Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq, 6:445–47, 979–82, also cited in Momen, “The Role of Women.”

48 Rayhani, “Memoirs,” 252–53.

49 Ibid. Amu Ibrahim Nam or Namkun (“moist”) may have been so named in reference to his craft as one who moistened silk during a stage in its production. A yakhchal is a mud structure for storing ice. Ice was manufactured in shallow pools during the winter then stored in deep underground pits and covered with hay for use in the summer.

50 Aqajan Shakeri, “Shakerinama,” transcription of unpublished manuscript (Tehran[?], 1961), in Mousa Amanat Papers. For details of Shakeri's life see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, Ch. 7.

51 Shakeri, “Shakerinama,” 5–6, 45.

52 Ibid., 45.

53 Ibid., 63.

54 Ibid., 78–79 and notes.

55 For a description of the unruly chaos in the Arak region and the murder of Ayatollah Khomeini's father there, see Muradi-Niya, Javad, ed., Khatirat-i Ayat Allah Pasandidih (Tehran: Nashr-i Hadis, 1375 [1996]), esp. 2830.

56 Shakeri, “Shakerinama,” 78–79 and notes.

57 The Persian chargé d'affaires in Washington who took part in the recruitment of the Shuster mission, Mirza ʿAli Quli Khan, was from a family of Kashan notables and the son of Zarrabi, ʿAbd al-Rahim Kalantar, the author of Mirʾat al-Qasan (Tarikh-i Kashan), ed. Afshar, Iraj (Tehran: n.p., 1335 [1956/7]). For more details, see Gail, Marzieh, Summon Up Remembrance (Oxford: G. Ronald, 1987), and idem, Arches of the Years (Oxford: G. Ronald, 1991).

58 Shuster refers to the Bahaʾi employees he met though his unnamed host as “fifteen or twenty very efficient servants.” He rebuffed the efforts of Iran's finance minister to fire his employees despite rumors that Bahaʾis were trying to take over Iran's finances. Shuster, W. Morgan, The Strangling of Persia (New York: Century Co., 1920), 4, 2122. For an example of a Jewish rabbi during this period who had reached the rank of gendarme officer (sultan) in his first career, see Shofet, Yedidiya, Khatirat-i Hakham Yedidiya Shufit, ed. Kohan, Manuchehr (Los Angeles: n.p., 2000), 123.

59 After Riza Shah's unveiling campaign in early 1936, in an attempt to prove the state's “Islamic credentials . . . all Bahaʾi officers in the army were dismissed on the direct order of the Shah.” Chehabi, H. E., “The Banning of the Veil and Its Consequences,” in The Making of Modern Iran: State and Society under Riza Shah, 1921–1941, ed. Cronin, Stephanie (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon 2003), 213.

60 For details of the Hafizi family, see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, esp. chapter 8.

61 See ibid., esp. 77–93, for a full discussion of the conversion riots among Jews in Hamadan and elsewhere in Iran.

62 For the role of the expanding Basra trade with Hamadan and the role of Baghdad Jews, see Kedourie, Elie and H. D. S., “The Jews of Baghdad in 1910,” Middle Eastern Studies 7 (1971): 355–61.

63 The Presbyterian missionary and Biblical scholar James Hawks established one of Iran's first “modern” schools in Hamadan informally around 1877 and formally in 1884. Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 107–11. The Alliance Israélite Universelle School was founded in 1900. A. Netzer, “Alliance,” EIr; Ringer, Monica, Education, Religion, and the Discourse of Cultural Reform in Qajar Iran (Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers, 2001). For opposition by Jewish rabbis to modern schools, see Adamiyat, Faridun and Natiq, Huma, eds., Afkar-i Ijtimaʿi va Siyasi va Iqtisadi dar Asar-i Montashir Nashudih-i Duran-i Qajar (Tehran: Intisharat-i Agah, 1976/77), 309.

64 For details of the Hafizi family during the 1892 persecution episode, see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 181–83.

65 Yuhanna Khan Hafizi, “Tarikh-i Zindigani-yi Hajj Yuhanna Khan Hafizi,” manuscript, n.d., Mousa Amanat Papers, pp. 118, 135.

66 For details of the Nur Mahmud family history including inheritance disputes, see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 96–101.

67 A vital source for the study of multiple identities is the accounts written by converts. See ibid., esp. chapters 4 and 5.

68 Interview with Besharat Kahvari-Amanat, 25 May 2009.

69 For the case of a Jewish woman in Tehran from an affluent family who converted to Islam in the mid-1870s and successfully claimed a part of the family inheritance see Amanat, Jewish Identities in Iran, 98–100.

70 According to Iran's leading rabbis of the late Pahlavi period, rabbis often competed to perform services for communities with limited resources. On one occasion, such competition led to the conversion of Rabbi Mulla Aqa Baba ben Rahamim Shirazi to Islam. Shofet, Khatirat, 123–24, 349–51.

71 Rayhani, “Memoirs,” 288–89.

72 The description given in the missionary account of Aqajan and his cousin Rahamim almost certainly confirms the identity of the two related Jewish Bahaʾi leaders referred to in Bahaʾi sources. See The Gospel in All Lands (1881): 176.

73 Hafizi, “Tarikh,” 34; Ishraq-Khavari, ʿAbdulhamid, Tarikh-i Amri-yi Hamadan, ed. Raʾfati, Vahid (Hofheim, Germany: Muʾassasih-i Matbuʿat-i Bahaʾi-yi Alman, 2004), 47.

74 Shamʿun was a Nestorian priest from Urumia who had entered the services of the Presbyterian church in Hamadan. Labaree, Benjamin, “The Conversion of a Persian Jew,” The Gospel in All Lands 3 (1881): 176.

75 According to Lord Curzon, the numbers of Jewish Bahaʾi convert households in the 1880s in Kashan, Hamadan, and Tehran were 50, 100, and 150, respectively. Curzon, N. G., Persia and the Persian Question (London: Cass, 1892), 496. Others have estimated that by the 1930s a quarter of the Hamadan Jews had converted to the Bahaʾi faith.

76 Hafizi, “Tarikh,” 93.

77 Mirza Eshaq was a brother of the prominent Bahaʾi advocate Hajji Mihdi Aqa Rafaʾil (later known as Arjomand). Ibid., 188.

78 Ibid., 92–94; Ishraq-Khavari, Tarikh-i Hamadan, 137–41.

79 Kamran Ekbal, “Baskerville,” EIr.

80 Hamid-Husayni, “Shahid-i Amrikaʾi-yi Mashruta,” 15 April 2011, I am grateful to Professor John Gurney for pointing out this source to me.

81 Ardakani, Sadri-Nawwabzada, Amr-i Bahaʾi dar Ardakan, ed. Rafati, Vahid (Hofheim, Germany: Muʾassasih-i Matbuʿat-i Bahaʾi-yi Alman, 2009), 400407. This source is written from the point of view of the victims of persecution and, to an outside observer, may seem bitter at times. The author's insistence on the collusion of unidentified foreign agents in anti-Bahaʾi campaigns may seem conspiratorial. However, most of the main events relating to the Ardakan riots are corroborated by another, hostile, source. See Sipihri-Ardakani, ʿAli, Tarikh-i Ardakan (Yazd, Iran: Kanun-i Kitab-i Vali-i ʿAsr, 1985), 1:5659, also cited by Rafati. A chapter entitled “Babi-Koshi-yi Awwal” (The First Babi [/Bahaʾi] Pogrom) deals with the 1903 persecutions. Another chapter, “Babi-Koshi-yi Duvvom” (The Second Babi Pogrom) deals with the 1951 persecutions. The author includes copies of original documents that were “appropriated” from the homes of Bahaʾis. These include a 1951 petition from Bahaʾis to local authorities describing methods of intimidation by anti-Bahaʾi elements to prevent the Bahaʾi farmers from harvesting their crops.

82 Ardakani, Amr-i Bahaʾi, 414.

83 Interview published in Payam-i Inqilab 72:29, cited in Sipihri-Ardakani, Tarikh-i Ardakan, 1:56–57.

84 For another example of an economic boycott against Bahaʾis in the small semirural town of Najafabad near Isfahan in this period, see Khatirat-i Ayat Allah Husayn ʿAli Muntaziri (Los Angeles: Sherkat-i Ketab, 2001), 87–90.

85 The pro-shah cleric Muhammad Taqi Falsafi was instructed by Ayatollah Burujirdi to seek the shah's support for the anti-Bahaʾi campaign that the ayatollah spearheaded. The message Falsafi brought to the shah was simple: “Now that the oil issue has been settled and the members of the [pro-Soviet leftist] Tuda party have been dealt with, we have to give some thoughts to the Bahaʾis and do something about them.” Falsafi, Hujjat al-Islam Muhammad Taqi, Khatirat va Mubarizat-i Hujjat al-Islam Muhammad Taqi Falsafi, ed. Davvani, ʿAli (Tehran: Markaz-i Asnad-i Inqilab-i Islami, 2003), 190–91, also quoted in Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, “Anti-Bahaʾism and Islamism in Iran,” in Brookshaw and Fazel, The Bahaʾis of Iran, 214–15.

86 For a full discussion of the 1955 persecutions and the murder of seven Bahaʾis in the village of Yazdel near Yazd, see Vahman, Feraydun, Yeksad va Shast sal Mubarizih ba Diyanat-i Bahaʾi (Darmstadt, Germany: Intisharat ʿAsri Jadid, 2009), 241–75; see also Akhavi, Shahrough, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1980), 7690.

87 Kushestani-Nijad, M., Ruhaniyat-Bahaʾiyan (Nimih-yi Avval sal 1334), az Sukhanraniha-yi Hujjat al-Islam Falsafi ta Qasd-i Muhajarat-e Ayat Allah Burujirdi az Iran, Muʿasir, Tarikh-i (Tehran: Markaz-i Asnad-i Inqilab-i Islami, 1386 [2007/2008]), 9495. The anonymous letter was originally sent to the biweekly journal Mard-i Mubarez and is cited in Khandani-ha 67 (1955): 48.

88 Police report reproduced in Shahsavari, Surayya, ed., Asnad-i Faʿaliyyat-i Bahaʾyan dar Dowrih-yi Muhammad Riza Shah (Tehran: Markaz-i Asnad-i Inqilab-i Islami, 1999), 272.

89 For the role of secular intellectuals in promoting a politicized anti-Bahaʾism, see H. E. Chehabi, “Anatomy of Prejudice: Reflections on Secular Anti-Bahaʾism in Iran,” in Brookshaw and Fazel, The Bahaʾis of Iran, 170–83.

90 Qabil-Abadah-i, Aqa Mirza, Vaqayiʿ-i Amri-yi Abadah, ed. Dihqan, Ghulam ʿAli (Hofheim, Germany: Muʾassasih-i Matbuʿat-i Bahaʾi-i Alman, 2007), 166–67 (editor's supplement citing an account by Aqa Muhammad Taqi Afnan).

91 The marble tombstone was reported to have been 150×50×60 centimeters in size and was inscribed with a prayer by ʿAbd al-Bahaʾ for the victims of the Nayriz rebellion. Ibid., 246.

92 Ibid., 166–71. For conditions surrounding Muhammad Riza Shah's early rule in this period, including manifestations of the nationwide labor unrest of 1944 in the nearby cities of Isfahan and Shiraz, see Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran between Two Revolutions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982), 352.

93 In Shiraz, some 300 Babi women were either “taken by the Sirbaz [soldiers] and Government Servants” or became beggars. Report by the British agent in Shiraz, Mirza Fadlullah Qazvini, Kemball to Thomson No. 383, 15 December 1853, Foreign Office 248 150, cited in Momen, The Bábí and Bahá’í Religions, 151.

94 Qabil-Abadahʾ-i, Vaqayʿi-i Amri-yi Abadah, 30–31. This source cites the number of severed heads as being over 200.

95 Among the converts was a certain Hajji ʿAli Khan, who became a Babi/Bahaʾi in Tehran around 1884, evidently after falling in love with the Babi/Bahaʾi activist Bahiyya Khanum, daughter of Ismaʿil Zabih Kashani. ʿAli Khan at one point even became the governor of Abadeh. Ibid., 234–35. Mirza Husayn Khan Kalantar (d. 1898), the third generation of his family to become governor of Abadeh, was well known as a Bahaʾi and was later persecuted for his beliefs.

96 Ibid., 40–41, 241–44.

97 Milani, Abbas, Eminent Persians (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2008), 204. Given Hoveida's false but unrelenting Bahaʾi association, his body may have been taken to Kafirabad, a burial site reserved for “infidels.”

98 Nahid Faridiyan, “The Account of My Mother's Passing and Burial,” ten-page handwritten undated manuscript. I am grateful to Soheila Razavi for providing me with a copy of the manuscript.

99 For an account by the widow of Farhad Asdaqi, who was executed in 1984 for membership in Iran's Bahaʾi National Assembly and the whereabouts of whose corpse is unknown, see Roofia Shahid Asdaghi, “24 Years Ago . . . ,” (accessed 20 May 2009).

100 For the account of Maryam Shiranlu Subhani's burial obstacles in May 2009, see 9 June 2009, For another case relating to Semnan, see “ʿAdam-i Ijaza-yi Dafn-i yik Mutivaff-yi Bahaʾi,” (accessed 22 July 2011).

101 In Mashhad, where the Bahaʾi cemetery has been confiscated, the body of a woman was reportedly left unburied in 2011, and permission for burial was not issued for at least one month. F. Ghazi, “Vadar kardan-i sharhvandan-i Bahaʾi bih khuruj az Iran,” 2 April 2011,

102 “Qabr-Sazi Tavassut-i Firqa-i Zallih-i Bahaʾiyyat,” 2 November 2010, (accessed 14 April 2011).

103 For reports on the desecration of the Bahaʾi cemetery and various cases of burial-related harassments in Semnan, see (accessed 15 July 2011).

104 “Bih Muzayida Guzashtan-i Qabristan-i Bahaʾiyan dar Mazandaran,” (accessed 2 January 2012).

105 Hisam Misaqi, “Murdigani Kih Jaʿi Baray-i Aramidan Nadarand,” (accessed 2009). For a visual document on the desecration of the Bahaʾi cemetery at Najafabad, see (accessed 2 January 2012).

106 For details of Riza Shah's interments in Johannesburg, Cairo, and, finally, Iran in 1947, see Milani, Abbas, The Shah (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 110.

107 For architectural details of the mausoleums of Riza Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini, see Rizvi, Kishwar, “Religious Icon and National Symbol: The Tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran,” Muqarnas 20 (2003): 209–24.

108 Bahaʾi International Community, The Bahaʾis in Iran: A Report on the Persecution of a Religious Minority (1982).

109 A fine example of the “depressed courtyard” can be observed in Kashan's Aqa-Buzurg mosque and madrasa, built around 1840. Naraqi, Hasan, Asar-i Tarikhi-yi Kashan va Natanz (Tehran: Intisharat-i Anjuman-i Asar-i Milli, 1969), 254–61. For a critique of the architecture of the Khavaran Cultural Center, see Miʿmari-yi Muʿasir-i Iran (Tehran: Nashr-i Hunar-i Mimari-yi Qarn, 2005), 457–58. For images and details of the center and its submission in 2007 for the Agha Khan Award for Architecture, see (accessed 22 July 2011).

110 Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila, Human Rights, The UN and the Bahaʾis in Iran (Oxford: George Ronald, 2002), 347.

111 Tablet from ʿAbd al-Baha’ cited in Vahid Rafati, “Burial v. In Bahai Communities,” EIr.

112 Aslani, Mehdi, Kalagh va Gul-i Surkh (Cologne, Germany: Arash, 2009), 345.

113 Milani, Farzaneh, “Power, Prudence, and Print: Censorship and Simin Danashvar,” Iranian Studies 18 (1985): 325–26.

114 The first image that brought the Khavaran burial ground to public notice is believed to be that of a resurfaced corpse. See image posted by Nima-Azad at (accessed 2 January 2012).

115 For a comprehensive report on the 1988 mass killings, see Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (hereafter IHRDC), “Deadly Fatwa, Iran's 1988 Prison Massacre” (6 September 2009),

116 Aslani, Kalagh va Gul-i Surkh, 345.

117 Ibid., 347–48; IHRDC, “Deadly Fatwa,” 57–59. For some personal details of the relatives of the victims of the mass killings, see M. Raha, “Khavaran Rose Garden, the Story of a Mass Grave” (1997), (accessed 22 July 2011). For a video of the annual commemoration, (accessed 2 January 2012).

118 See Amnesty International's public statement, “Iran: Preserve the Khavaran grave site for investigation into mass killings,” 20 January 2009, (accessed 22 July 2011). A fatwa by the prominent dissident marjaʿ Ayatollah Montazeri condemned the destruction of a Muslim cemetery as “impermissible” but called the destruction of non-Muslim tombs legally “questionable.”

119 Bani-Sadr was accused of being a jadīd al-Islām, apparently because of his family connection to the Bahaʾi scholar and convert Sadr al-Sudur. See (accessed 2008). For accusations of jadīd al-Islām by the anti-Bahaʾi and anti-Semite blogger ʿAbdullah Shahbazi against many others, including the “rogue” intelligence official Saʿid Imami, see (accessed 2008). For denials by the ʿAsgar-Uwladi brothers, see and (both accessed 2008). For the ʿAsgar-Uwladi brothers, see (accessed 2008). For Misbah Yazdi, Muhammad Ali Ramin (referred to indirectly) and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, see Dr. Mihdi Khaz'ali's blog, and (both accessed 2008). A number of the previous postings belonging to 2008 were no longer available in 2011. For accusations against Rahim-Mashaʾi, see ʿAbd Allah Shabazi, “Mush-ha az Kishti-yi Ahmadinejad Kharij Mishavand” (Rats Flee Ahmadinejad's Vessel), (accessed 2 January 2012). I am grateful to Erfan Sabeti for bringing the previous links to my attention.

120 (accessed 14 April 2011). For a defense of the supposed accusation of “Jewness,” see “Bayaniyya-i Hizb Allah,” 5 April 2011,

121 See Amir-Entezam, ʿAbbas, An suy-i Ittiham (Tehran: Nashr-i Nay, 2002), 2:423. See also “Nimih-yi Pinhan, Sima-yi Karguzaran-i Farhang va Siyasat,” Kayhan, vol. 4, 1999.

122 The desire to uncover and burn corpses can be seen as the manifestation of a collective depravity. If necrophilia can be seen as the desire for the absolute passive partner, perhaps the desire to destroy a corpse indicates an urge toward the total obliteration of the “Other.”

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 43 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 286 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.