Eyewitness Account of the Massacre of Bahá'ís in Nayriz on Naw-Ruz 1909

By Baharieh Rouhani Ma'ani

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #113
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 5–8, 2012
(see list of papers from #113)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 14
under new title
"Eyewitness Account of the Massacre of Baha'is in Nayriz on the Naw-Ruz `Abdu'l-Baha Interred the Remains of The Bab on Mt. Carmel"
© 2013, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    At the turn of the twentieth century the people of Iran, tired of despotic regimes and the inordinate influence of the clergy, demanded changes in the way the country was governed. Their struggles for democratic reform bore fruit when Muzaffiri'd-Din Shah Qajar signed the decree in 1906 for the establishment of parliament and for constitutional monarchy to replace absolute rule by the sovereign. He died shortly after signing the decree. His successor, Muhammad-`Ali Shah dissolved the parliament and tried to reestablish dictatorship. Iranians arose again, dethroned him, and brought to power his underage son, Ahmad Shah. The incessant fighting between the proponents of democracy and their opponents, the entanglement of the government in disputes that ensued, and the rule of self-seeking and inexperienced kings weakened the central government and gave rise to lawlessness. The situation was particularly dire in places further away from the capital, where rebels exploited existing tribal rivalries, unfurled the banner of rebellion against the government, plundered properties, established themselves in the name of Islam, and used their triumph as license to declare holy war on defenseless Bahá'ís. The worst affected area was Nayriz and its surroundings.      

    Mirza Muhammad-Shafi Rouhani, author of the history of the Bábí-Bah'a'í Faith in Nayriz, titled Lama`atu'l-Anvar, Depicting the Soul-Stirring Episodes of Nayriz, was twelve years old when the Bahá'ís of Nayriz were engulfed in a raging battle between the supporters of Shaykh Dhakariyya and forces of the local government, which suffered defeat and left the Bahá'ís of Nayriz at the mercy of the rebels. Many Bahá'ís left their homes and took refuge in hiding places outside the town. The victors offered monetary reward to anyone who killed a Bahá'í male ten years and older and produced his head as evidence. The reward was three times higher when a male Bahá'í was arrested and delivered alive. Women and children, including boys under ten, were granted amnesty. Mirza Muhammad-Shafi's father was then in the Holy Land on pilgrimage. As he was unable to keep pace with the men who were fleeing on foot for a place of safety many miles away, his mother dressed him as a girl and together with the women of the family left their hiding place and returned to town. He has left a vivid description of what transpired before, during and immediately after Shaykh Dhkariyya's rebellion, which culminated in the martyrdom of nineteen Bahá'ís on Naw-Ruz 1909, the day that witnessed one of `Abdu'l-Bahá's most remarkable achievements of His ministry, the interment of the remains of the Báb in the Mausoleum He had built on Mount Carmel in Haifa for the purpose. That description and some related matters form the contents of this paper.      

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