The May 2009 report of the Sentinel Project focuses on Iran and provides a preliminary assessment of the danger that the Bahá’í community faces in Iran. The report provides a detailed account of the plight of this community and then frames these into 8 stages which have been defined by Gregory Stanton.
The video helps in recognizing these stages in the hope that we will consistently bring attention to and prevent the carnage that we have witnessed so many times, and is now well underway in our country.
Excerpts from the Sentinel report contains the following specific material for the first 6 stages as it pertains to the Bahá’í community of Iran.
- Classification: Article 19 of the Iranian constitution guarantees the rights and freedoms of all Iranian citizens regardless of ethnicity, race, or language. It does not, however, explicitly mention religion as being irrelevant to individual rights. On the contrary, the enjoyment of such rights is actually contingent upon membership in the correct religions. Article 13 defines the legally recognized religious minorities as Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. Thus, all the people of Iran are classified by religion and Bahá’ís are implicitly defined as an out-group and deprived of all legal rights and protection within Iran.
- Symbolization: This is the process by which a target group comes to be identified not as individual human beings but merely units within a collective. They are then labeled – sometimes even with their proper group name, as in the case of Bahá’ís – in such a way that supposed characteristics can be easily generalized to all members of a group. Such generalizations are especially successful in the case of Bahá’ís, who represent a tiny minority of the Iranian population. As a result, the majority of Iranians have never actually met a Bahá’í and lack any experience against which to compare the information they are told. This is an important step in the formation of stereotypes and the dehumanization of the target group.
- Dehumanization: Bahá’ís have long been the targets of propaganda and hate speech in the Iranian media, a campaign which has intensified in recent years. They are often attacked as threatening and subhuman on religious, political, and social grounds…Once Bahá’ís are effectively dehumanized, it will be easier for perpetrators to kill them and for observers to either support the extermination or remain neutral bystanders.
- Organization: The Iranian state has a number of forces at its disposal which could be used to perpetrate a genocide of Bahá’ís. These forces include the conventional army, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, the police, and the Basij militia…In the case of paramilitary forces such as the Basij militia and especially non-state groups such as the Ansar-i Hizbullah, their ostensibly weaker connections to the state may allow the regime to deny its involvement in any large-scale anti-Bahá’í violence…
- Polarization: The Iranian government is working, especially through the media, to separate Bahá’ís as far as possible from the rest of society. This strengthens the position of both clerical and secular conservative hardliners who wish for their destruction while neutralizing the moderate centre which has the most potential to help Bahá’ís. This has been accomplished by casting Bahá’ís as both heretics and internal enemies linked to powerful foreign threats. Any Iranian who advocates equal treatment for Bahá’ís or defends their rights is then accused of being in league with these enemies.
- Preparation: The Iranian government has taken a number of steps to weaken the position of Bahá’ís within Iran and to prepare them for possible extermination. Most notably, Bahá’ís have been excluded from government employment, have only restricted economic participation, and are barred from higher education. Many of their historical and cultural sites, including cemeteries, have been destroyed in order to erase every trace of their existence. Bahá’í property and financial assets are often confiscated, and both vandalism and violence against individuals are increasing. In late 2005, the headquarters of the Iranian military instructed various police forces, intelligence agencies, and the Revolutionary Guards to identify and monitor all Bahá’ís within Iran…
Stages 7 and 8 are Extermination and Denial. Let’s hope that this ominous warning will not come to pass and Iran will be spared from becoming a site of genocide.