Images of hate
The Iranian media are full of anti-Bahai propaganda, much of it state-sponsored. New items are generated each week, and reproduced on dozens of sites. The stories are usually about the Bahais as servants of Russian/British colonialism, agents of zionism, spies for Israel and so forth: the usual fabrications recycled. The stories are often accompanied by images which represent the supposed Bahai threat to Iranian society. I’ve made something of a ‘stamp collection’ of these images, with the thought that there might be a research paper in this, for me or someone else.
Some of the images lower on the page are offensive.
The Greatest Name with a cracked face is from the “mid-night” blog, which is not very active, and has copied a story that is being relayed on many Iranian sites. It says there is increasing Bahai activity using satellite media, and that Bahai missionaries continue to teach the Faith, even in prison. The Bahais are said to be supported by Israel, and to call international attention to the supposed violation of the human rights of minorities in Iran. However since the Bahai sect is not considered a religion, but rather deviant, it is right that it should be restricted.
This ‘pied piper’ image is one of the more popular representations of the Bahai threat. I copied this one from Patoghu forum, 24 November 2009. the story that goes with it is the same as the one above.
The image originally represented a Knight Templar, in a painting by Russian artist Valyeriya Stoylova.
This image seeks to associate the Bahai Faith — an Iranian religion with a cosmopolitan world-view – with the United States. I found it used on friendfeed, on 29 November, 2009.
The ‘Rasputin’ image was used by an individual posting to the ‘Negar’ discussion forum, 11 February 2010, to illustrate a post alleging Bahai links to Zionism, the British, Israel, and the Pahlavi regime; the author compounds anti-Bahaism with antisemitism.
The octopus image is used in an article about the Iranian Bahais’ supposed control of the property and construction market, written in 2007. It appears to have been taken from anti-semitic literature, since the octopus wears the Star of David and is “seated” in North America.
The wolves illustrate a story about foreign and Bahai influence on Iran’s domestic media (!), on “voice of the revolution” blog, March 1, 2011. It would appear that the Iranian publications concerned have no real relation to Bahais at all; rather this is the use of the label “Bahai” by one faction in Iran to smeer a rival faction, and demand that the authorities crack down on their opponents.
The image of building supplies, with the star of David and the word “Baha’i,” accompanies a story about a number of Bahais in Shiraz being arrested for speculating in trade supplies and equipment, and so causing recent price rises. The story appears on the site of the “Watcher’s Institute,” which is dedicated to detecting threats to the Iranian Way of Life. (Page accessed April 8, 2013; page dated November 17, 2012)
Not all the images used are blatantly images of hate at the level of cartoons. What are we to make of this ‘hand and eye’ image? Is the reference to the Masonic movement perhaps? It accompanied an article on the Bahais in the Pahlavi era, in Aftab magazine, 14 February 2010. However I have seen something similar in Iran, as designs on copper hands whose five fingers are said to represent the five pillars of Islam.
A blog purporting to survey the current status of the Bahais in Iran, dated February 2009, uses the ‘pied piper’ image above, and also this image of a dossier being handed over between shadowy figures, to illustrate the supposed Bahai involvement in espionage. The seal of the US Department of Defence, and the Israeli flag, are in the background. The text claims that, in the previous six months the Bahais have been concentrating their espionage activities on the security forces, missile sites and Iran’s internal affairs. It does not explain how a community that is barred from employment in the public service and the armed services, and is under constant surveillance, has been able to achieve this without leaving any evidence of its activities.
The image of a fiend in Hell (presumably directing the Bahais towards the lower-level accomodations), illustrates a blog showing the Bahai holy places and historical sites that have been destroyed in Iran. One wonders why the text ‘Bahais in hell’ is in English.
The ‘Hidden Watcher’ image was used, along with the ‘pied piper’ image, to illustrate an article on Tebyan on 7 March 2010, listing Shiah theological objections to the Bahai Faith. The hidden watcher is placed by a paragraph that says that Bahais claim that the Bab and Baha’u'llah are the promised ones of Islam, whereas the Shiah say that the twelfth Imam, born in the second century (and, they believe, still alive ‘in occultation’ pending his return) is the promised one. So what at first glance is an image saying ‘the Bahais are lurking in the corners’ may be intended to say ‘the Hidden Imam is aware of everything.’ Like the ‘hand an eye’ image above, it may be a sign of Shiah orthodoxy.
This ‘ghoul’ image was used by Fars News Agency, to accompany a story about the Bahais on 24 February, 2010, but I have seen it quite often before. In this case the Bahais are accused of spreading their faith by selling disposable cups in the bazaar, bearing images of cartoon characters from other countries.
The “puppet” image represents Abdu’l-Baha as an Israeli and British puppet. Abdu’l-Baha, who lived in Palestine for most of his life, died in 1921, long before Israel existed. The photograph appears to be taken in the United States during his visit there. The story that accompanies the image, dated 28 December 2009, claims that the ‘green wave’ movement protesting the Iranian elections is a Bahai movement, and that Bahais were behind the Ashura protests in which several people were killed.
The “Kremlin” image shows Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u'llah (cropped from the version shown here) with British, American and Israeli flags. It is part of the web page header for an anti-Bahai site called the Bahai Room. Not only does it contain manipulated photographs of Baha’u'llah, it has some sort of malware that tries to access your computer – blocked in my case by Avast! Explore this one at your own risk.
The skull in red and blue headdress accompanies a story on the official Fars News site (15 April 2010), which alleges that the activities of the misguided sects of Wahhabis and Bahais have increased. The technique is a create a vague sense of alarm in the populace, about ‘activities’ which are not detailed. The images that accompany such vague stories convey a lot of the meaning. In this image, the skull is immediately readable. The red head-dress represents Arabs in general, and the Saudi government in particular; the blue head-dress is the colour of the Israeli flag and shows the Star of David. The crown of thorns is an allusion to Christianity. Fars News borrowed the image from the “wahhabiun” blog, which deals in both anti-Bahai and anti-Saudi propaganda, but used this particular image to accompany a story claiming that the Wahhabi sect was established by the British. The text says that Wahhabism is the dark side of Islam.
Naturally Wahhabi Islam, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, has no connection with either Israel or the Bahai Faith, yet in the past two years Bahai and Wahhabi have often been mentioned together in the government-sponsored press in Iran — too often for it to be anything but a centrally decided policy. (The image was used again on April 7, 2013). The idea is that by grouping together the most progressive and most conservative of religious movements, the Bahai and the Wahhabi, their names will have negative connotations for those somewhat inclined to progressive or to conservative approaches to religion.
The four images presented below appeared alternately in an animated window on a blog (28 March 2010) dedicated to showing that the ‘green wave’ reform movement in Iran is a zionist plot or worse. The article above the animation is about a satanist cultural invasion of Iran by means of Lord of the Rings and ‘new’ styles of music (rock and jazz being included among the new styles), all orchestrated by Hollywood, Zionism and and the Satanists. The images appear under a heading “Death to the misguided Bahai sect,” and the words below read “End hypocracy.” The two wolves and the gremlin are immediately readable, but what are we supposed to understand from the woman with not a wisp of hair showing under the chador? A closer look reveals she is wearing lipstick! That explains it.
The “glowing globe’ image, from the blog of the “Jasmine Foundation,” accompanies an article entitled Bahaism and the Pahlavi Regime, which alleges that Bahais cooperated with the Pahlavi government. Bahais obey their governments wherever they live, but the Iranian Bahais were nevertheless heavily persecuted under the Pahlavis: their schools and institutes were closed, their national centre and a number of cemeteries were destroyed, a number of Bahais were killed and many fled to other countries. At that time the Hojjatiyeh – the group that has achieved ascendency within the Iranian regime in the past few years – was cooperating with the Pahlavis, and specifically with SAVAK, because the Hojjatiyeh and SAVAK had a common cause in persecuting the Bahais. This image, like the “pied piper”, the “hidden watcher” and the blue hand with an eye, seems to be saying that Bahais have access to dangerous supernatural knowledge or powers.
This image from Aviny.com (accessed 8 April 2013) heads a contents page, listing anti-bahai materials on subjects such as the opinions of senior Shiah clerics about the Bahai Faith, the Bahais and economic sabotage, a bibliography of anti-Bahai literature, and so forth. The message of the image is that Bahais are Israeli spies. The Persian text in the image reads “Bahaism” however the word use is not deliberately offensive in the way that “Bahaism” in English would be a deliberate provocation.
The ‘bound figure’ image is somewhat different, in that it suggests that Bahais are victims rather than a threat. It accompanies a story (Nik-nama site, January 25 2011) that Bahais marry their close relatives “such as daughters, sisters, aunts and uncles.”
This is a common theme in Iranian anti-bahai propaganda. I have translated an explanation of the “forbidden degrees of marriage” applicable for Bahais, written by Abdu’l-Baha, on this blog. It says in brief that the principle is “distance is nearer than nearness,” but no one definition of the forbidden degrees can be given that would be suitable for all times and places, therefore the matter is left to the Bahai administration to determine, and modify, as circumstances require.
Finally, a little light relief. In October 2009 a new image appeared at the Javan News site. The story that goes with the image just says that the spying activities of the Bahais are increasing, without saying how a community excluded from education, government jobs, large corporations and the police and military can spy on anything, or why Israel should tell its spies not to pretend to be Shiah and infiltrate something, but rather to say they are Bahais so they can be subject to continuous surveillance from the intelligence ministry, frequent home searches and the confiscation of their computers, and be deprived of access to higher education, pensions and even basic human rights. The latest threat to Iran’s national security, if we are to believe this image, is Bahais lurking in folded beach umbrellas!
The photograph appears to be taken at dawn. Clearly, when the sun comes up, it’s going to be a long day of sun, sand and sects on the beaches of Iran.
[A survey using Google image search, on the words فرقه بهائیت (Bahai sect) with the settings "past week" and "past year," run on April 8, 2013, showed that old images are still being recycled, quite arbitrarily (the image is the skull in red and blue headdress, discussed above, while the story is about Bahais supposedly committing incest). However my subjective impression is that the volume of hate images found by Google is considerably less than 3 years ago. I do not know whether this may be due to Google filtering offensive images more effectively. ]