magazine (), July - August 1998]
Chairman of the Ahlus Sunnah Association in Iran, The Dismal Reality of Ahlus Sunnah in Iran
Dr. Abdul Rahman Albaloushy Uncovers
The Dismal Reality of Ahlus Sunnah in Iran
Abridged Translation By Keysar Trad
Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Baluchy completed his secondary education in Iran, after which he was admitted to the Islamic University of al-Madinah al-Munawarah in 1979 where he studied Arabic before joining the Usuluddin (Principles of Faith) and Da'wah college. He reached his second year of studies before the policy to expel Iranian students was implemented. He went to Syria to complete his Shari'ah studies at Damascus universi, where he graduated in 1984. He also studied under the scholars of Damascus, such as Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Arna`out and others. Upon graduation, he enrolled for his Masters degree at al-Awza'y college in Beirut where he graduated in 1989. His thesis was on the Baluchi people and Baluchistan. He enrolled for his Ph.D. at the same college and graduated in 1995. His Ph.D. thesis was on "The Transformation of Islamic Thought in Iran from Sunni to Shi'ah during the Safawi Rule". This same topic was not accepted for his Masters Degree owing to certain political reasons.
|Is there a single capital city in the world without a Sunni mosque, with the exception to Tehran -the capital of the Shi'ah-, which has forty Christian churches and a cemetery for the Baha'is||There is no Sunni director in any of the government authorities, ministries, embassies, or local and provincial governments, hospitals or principalities; not even in the lowest government posts anywhere in Iran.|
|Whilst we are living in the twentieth century, we find a third of the population of a nation deprived of their most basic rights. Is there any other country on the face of the earth which prevents its people from choosing names like Umar, A'ishah, Hafsah, Abu Bakr, Zubair...||The double-faced regime was able, through raising the banner of Islamic unity, to fool many Muslims outside Iran as they ask them to attend their conferences, and transform their way of thinking within a short period of time.|
Would you kindly give us a glimpse of the history of Ahlus Sunnah in Iran, the main areas where they are concentrated and their numbers?
It is an established fact that Iran was a Sunni nation until the Tenth Century of the Hijri calendar. During this period, Iran produced thousands of scholars in every discipline; the most salient of these facts is that the six most authentic Hadith books (ie. Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, etc.) were written by scholars from Iran, or scholars who received their education in Iran. However, when the Safawid Shi'ites took control, they established their government on the skulls of the Sunni scholars and jurists. This was one of the reasons for the evacuation of the largest cities that were at the foremost centers of religious sciences, such as Tibriz, Isfahan, Ray, and Tus. There were many Sunni Muslims who were killed, forced into Shi'ism, or compelled to flee to the mountains, leaving Iran as a center for conspiracies against Islam and the Muslims. Fredinand, the ambassador to the Austrian King, remarked: "Had it not been for the Safawids in Iran, we would have been reading the Qur'an this day like the Algerians," meaning that his nation would have been conquered by the Ottoman Muslims. However, the Safawids conspired with the crusaders and the imperialists to halt the Islamic expansion into France and Vienna.
The Sunni Muslims in Iran number about 15 to 20 million, living mainly in the mountainous and border regions. They are mainly Kurds, Turks, Baluchis, and Arabs. There is also a good number living in the cities.
How was the condition of Ahlus Sunnah before the revolution, did they participate in it, and how and what was their reward from this participation?
Ahlus Sunnah hail from non-Persian people. They were regarded as second class citizens under the Shah regime, since they mostly resided in rural areas, as well as the fact that their creed differed from that of the Shi'ah. As the Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis and others of Ahlus Sunnah did not have any role in the idolatrous Persian nationalism, they did not have equal rights socially nor economically with Persians, "The Chosen People"! The Shah regime was secular, non-religious, so it dealt with religions and sects in a similar way. Some of the Ahlus Sunnah scholars have opposed the Shah and his secular regime, and some of these scholars initially sympathised with the Khomeini revolution such as Sheikh Ahmad Mufti Zadah as well as a few others, may Allah forgive them. Sheikh Ahmad Mufti Zadah opposed Khomeini shortly after the revolution. He was arrested and imprisoned for 10 years, even though his sentence was only for five years. He was only released when the authorities felt that he was on the brink of death. I was a witness to the words of Ahmad Mufti Zadah to Khomeini in the latter's house where he said: "Khomeini, you promised me an Islamic republic, however you established a Safawi-Shi'ite republic. Although I believe that I am not permitted to raise arms against you [such was his belief, unfortunately], however, I will fight you politically."
This occurred during the same meeting where my brother Mawlawi Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, the representative for Baluchistan in the Authoritative Council, opposed clause 13 of the Iranian constitution, and then resigned from the Council. He later formed, along with Sheikh Zadah, the centralised Consultative Council of Ahlus Sunnah, and held two annual meetings, one in Tehran and one in Baluchistan. Mawlawi Abdul Aziz was also able to obtain a promised allocation of 10,000 square meters of land in Tehran to build a mosque and a centre for Ahlus Sunnah. This promise was given due to internal and external pressures, when the regime was still weak and developing.
This promise, however, was blatantly dishonoured as soon as the regime became stronger. The land allocated for constructing the mosque was confiscated, as well as the offices and bank accounts of the Consultative Council, whose scholars, members and supporters -both men and women- were detained.
The regime continued in its efforts to destroy the infrastructure of Ahlus Sunnah, spreading between their ranks deviations, innovations and acts of Shirk. They unashamedly told the imprisoned students of Sheikh Zadah: "We hoped that you would have taken up arms against us, so we could have had an excuse to uproot you, as we did with the other parties."
The regime then persecuted any person who dared to call for their rights, and punished them with imprisonment or execut, or degrading their character, as was the case with the martyr Bahman Shakoury. Many Sheikhs were imprisoned, exiled, tortured and humiliated, such as the Baluchistan parliamentarian member Mawlawi Nathar Mohammad who was subjected to sever torture and made false confessions under duress, until he escaped and was able to flee to Pakistan. He was not able to get a visa to enter any of the Gulf countries, not even as a labourer. Sheikh Mawlawi Muhyiddin and Sheikh Dost Mohammed Sirawani were also imprisoned, then exiled to the city of Najaf Abad, as well as many other Sheikhs. There is also Sheikh Ibrahim Dammini who continues to be imprisoned and put to torture for more than five years.
Ahlus Sunnah were rewarded under the current sectarian government with a life of dishonor and subjugation, and their situation is far worse -as I have experienced myself- than that of the Muslims in occupied Palestine. Is there a single capital city in the world without a Sunni mosque, with the exception to Tehran -the capital of the Shi'ah-, which has forty Christian churches and a cemetery for the Baha'is. In all, even the infidel minorities have their temples and places of worship and their freedom of worship, yet Ahlus Sunnah are not allowed to build any mosque or cemetery. Khameni stated after the revolution: "all the Persians in the world can look at Iran as their nation", they are, therefore, first class citizens of Iran, even if they were Magians from India. As for us, we must be exiled from our land because neither us nor our parents accepted Shi'ism or Magianism!
The regime planted the seeds of conflict amongst the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah, and strove to deride the character of the notable scholars, replacing them with government servants.
It then instigated internal conflicts between the scholars, the leaders of the community, and the intellectuals to create an environment filled with distrust and insecurity. They also used some of the ignorant people who adhere to supposedly Sunni Tariqats (orders), to attack the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah, especially Sheikh Ahmad Mufti Zadah, labeling him as a Wahhabi, although the Sheikh did not adhere to the Salafi creed.
The regime then aimed at Ahlus Sunnah schools, and tried to influence their curriculums to incorporate Shi'ateachings, labeling anyone who refuses to do so as a Wahhabi, a "crime" punishable by death in Iran! Add to this that many school principles were initially anti-Salafi, which resulted with many pupils being suspended, expelled, and beaten for merely raising their hands in their prayer, or for defending Sheikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, or Abul 'Ala al-Maududi.
However, the double-faced regime was able, through raising the banner of Islamic unity, to fool many Muslims outside Iran as they ask them to attend their conferences, and transform their way of thinking within a short period of time. They became false witnesses within their own people, beguiling them with what they have been taught about the greatness of Islamic unity, without knowing anything about the plight of Ahlus Sunnah inside Iran. They repeat in all simplicity: "we are brothers, there is no difference between us." Despite the imprisonment of the scholars and the demolished Islamic schools, they go to the grave of Khomeini, which has become a worshipped idol, offering their worship, and placing flowers at this grave. Their stance has misled many young minds and opened the way for them to accept or tolerate Shi'ism. A person is further baffled when he realises the superficiality of these people, their oblivion to the reality and their inability to comprehend the situation. They keep on defending the Rawafidh Shi'ah who are weaving conspiracy after conspiracy against Ahlus Sunnah.
Can you elaborate on the current condition of Ahlus Sunnah in Iran?
Currently, after two decades of the Shiite revolution and the fortification of their rule, they have not secured the rights of the Sunni minority, nor their covenants with them. They began by imprisoning the scholars and the Muslim activists, exiling some, and executing others. They also started to expel Sunni Muslims from government, commerce, and manufacturing posts, and to destroy their infrastructure. I still recall what the Iranian secret service said vengefully to some of the imprisoned Muslim activists: "You are like the large room with large spotlights (the more eminent scholars) and smaller lights (the general scholars), and candles (the general activists); we will first extinguish the large spotlights." This stage has been accomplished as they have killed most of the prominent scholars. "Then we will extinguish the smaller lights"; in this respect many activists have been killed and many others exiled. "Then we will turn the fan to put out the candles." This is an indication of the final stage of forcing people into Shi'ism against their will.
As you can see, the tragedy of Ahlus Sunnah in Iran is unlike any tragedy in the world, considering the nature of the race problem, the falsification of news by the Iranian official press, Government cronies, and the positions of many Muslim movements and activists on the outside who are siding with Iran. Although Muslim minorities everywhere are facing calamities and catastrophes on a large scale, the situation in Iran is further exacerbated under the government of Taqiyya (deceit), lies and hypocrisy, in the name "'unifying' the different sects". Yet it simultaneously slaughters the Sunni scholars and casts their dissected and mutilated corpses into the streets and the garbage dumps. Whereas the plight of Muslims is broadcasted internationally, no TV station or newspaper dares to highlight the case of Sunnis in Iran. Ahlus Sunnah are deprived of their basic civil, social, and human rights, not to mention the right of political participation and equality with the Shi'ah. The erection of a Sunni school or mosque in Iran is regarded as an unpardonable crime. Many Sunni Muslims, who supported such projects (even if it were in the past), were imprisoned, killed, or had their beard shaved for merely contributing to the building of a mosque or to any simple activity relating to Ahlus Sunnah. There are also hundreds of periodical prisoners and many killed purely on suspicion. The following are only some of the names of the prominent scholars who have been kidnapped, poisoned, or killed:
Moreover, the following are some of Ahlus Sunnah's mosques and Islamic schools that were destroyed:
What in reality is the representation of Ahlus Sunnah in the various government posts in Iran such as parliament, ministries, etc?
This is an important question. Ahlus Sunnah, who compose approximately one third of the Iranian population, have in all honesty no representation at all. In fact, the situation has reached a stage of oppression and deprivation where Ahlus Sunnah no longer contest these posts and are satisfied with looking to satiate their food needs withoubeing prosecuted. There is no Sunni director in any of the government authorities, ministries, embassies, or local and provincial governments, hospitals or principalities; not even in the lowest government posts anywhere in Iran. There are some Sunni parliamentarians just like in most Middle Eastern countries, however, these are token positions so that the common people can be fooled. Before a person's political nomination is accepted in Iran, he must be approved, by law, by the security agencies which naturally reject any Sunni activist, even if this person was to somehow attempt to appease them. These agencies employ the lowest form of people, and the most vile. This means that even if someone was elected by the people, the council has the right to ostracise him from Government. So of what use is such a parliament, especially with respect to the Sunni parliamentarian who does not have a party to protect him? Even if he obtained such a post, what could he possibly offer his people? The whole council therefore has no practical value. This is supported by Khomeini's address to Mawlawi Abdul Aziz after the Iranian revolution: "We do not have a shura process, the principle with us is that the Imam rules, and imitators follow suit. We took the idea of a council from your creed, for this reason, you will not find any value placed on a council." This is a great shame. Whilst we are living in the twentieth century, we find a third of the population of a nation deprived of their most basic rights. Is there any other country on the face of the earth which prevents its people from choosing names like Umar, A'ishah, Hafsah, Abu Bakr, Zubair, or most of the names of the companions amongst the ten foretold of Paradise?
Do Ahlus Sunnah have an organised movement? What is the extent of its popularity? And how are Ahlus Sunnah facing the present situation?
Ahlus Sunnah had organised movements at the outset of the revolution, when parties were still present. However, when the government became stronger, they prohibited all the Salafi groups. The danger of the Sunni groups was obvious, amongst these was the central shura council for Ahlus Sunnah, the Kurdistan movement for equal rights, the Union of Muslims in Baluchistan, the Majdia. movement in Zahran, and others. The funds of these groups were confiscated and presently, there are no openly organised Sunni groups. In fact, the Sunnis in Iran are deprived of rights which are freely given even to the disbelievers, such as charities to care for the orphans and the widows and others.
As for dealing with the present situation, we are currently only able to offer patience and to take one blow after another. They are like the orphans - they do not have a government to defend them or to dare to mention their plight except on special occasions. They do not have a Sunni group outside of Iran to sponsor them apart from what we initiated a few years ago here (in London).
Do you expect any change in the policies of the present government towards Ahlus Sunnah after the election of Khatemy?
There is a minor change in the policy of the government towards us. Khatemy is not blood thirsty and does not like the shedding of blood nor the stealing of our money as did Khameni and Rafsanjany. Khatemy has changed many of the blood thirsty officials in the Sunni areas with other Shi'ah who are not as blood thirsty. However, he was not brave enough to appoint one Sunni official. Had Khatemy taken this opportunity, the tyranny and oppression would be reduced dramatically, however, I do not think that he intends or is able to bring equality between Sunni and the others. I have sent an open letter to him in this respect.
What is the policy of Ahlus Sunnah for their future dealings with this situation? Does the declaration of the Afghan Islamic Emirate have any effect on the internal situation?
Our policy with this bitter reality is to be patient and abstain from armed conflict. We do not wish to repeat the experiment in Hama, Halab, Tripoli and others which were very bitter experiments. Particularly as we know that there is no government, or even an organisation which dares to or intends to support or sponsor us.
Yes, the existence of a Sunni Muslim government in Afghanistan will have a definite effect on us. This is why we are witnessing every effort from Iran to halt the establishment of an Islamic government in Afghanistan. The minister for Iranian foreign affairs declared a number of years before: "We will never permit the establishment of a Wahhabi government in Afghanistan". In the view of these devils, any Sunni government is a Wahhabi government. In summary, the existence of any Sunni government is in our interest. It is notable to bear in mind that the Shi'ah/Safawi State which existed during the Ottoman rule fell at the hands of the Afghan Sunnis.
Is there a message to other Sunni Muslims throughout the world from their brothers in Iran?
We see ourselves as creedal and intellectual extensions of our brothers. What we are facing today is a direct result of our affiliation to the Ahlus Sunnah creed and for no other reason. It is the responsibility of the Muslims in every organisation as groups and as individuals to be concerned over their religion and their faith. We know the reason for the backdown of the authorities and the governments, however, what excuse could there be for the charities, wealthy Muslims, Islamic organisations, and groups? They do not have an excuse before Allah.
I have hope that our Muslim brothers will not just look at us through the policies of their groups and parties, but to look at us through Islam as the martyr Sheikh Abdullah Azzam looked at the Afghani cause.
I also have a parting word for those who share our creed who visit Iran regularly. We hardly fin any of them any concern towards their religion and the people of their creed. I advise these people to be conscious of Allah and have some concern for their creed and those who subscribe to the same creed. Their visits are proof against us and cause us harm and lead to the murder of many of our members. They are like puppets in the hands of the political regime, they say to us: "Here are your Imams, your scholars and Sheikhs, they are praying behind us, visiting the grave of the Imam, and do not ask for a separate mosque for themselves in Tehran, they say we pray all together in one mosque, so why do you differ with your scholars? You must be Wahhabi!"
Finally we thank Nida'ul Islam magazine for their attention and concern with our plight, we pray for their success.