Ban on Burying Baha’is in Tabriz
The authorities often send the bodies of deceased Tabrizi Baha’is for burial in Miandoab, and the families of the deceased are not permitted to wash the bodies and perform the Baha’i burial rites. Baha’i religious laws require that the deceased be buried in a location within an hour’s distance from the place of death (the distance between these two cities is 170 km, which takes about 2.5 hours).
An informed source who spoke on this subject with the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center says that to date the burial of at least 44 Baha’i citizens in Vadi-i-Rahmat cemetery has been prevented. According to this source, when a Baha’i passes away in Tabriz, the family often transfer the body to Vadi-i- Rahmat cemetery and make a request for burial to the authorities. However, cemetery authorities prevent the washing and preparation of the body for burial in accordance with Baha’i law. After several days, they transfer the body to Miandoab and bury it without the prior knowledge of the family. The authorities then contact the family of the deceased and inform them of the place of burial after the fact. The authorities also demand that the families of the deceased Baha’is pay the expenses for storing the body at Vadi-i-Rahmat cemetery and its transportation to Miandoab.
In some cases, the families of the deceased wash and prepare the bodies at home. According to the informed source who spoke with the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, in some cases the families, with the cooperation of the ambulance services that transport the bodies, transfer the bodies to their homes where they wash and prepare them for burial in accordance with Baha’i law. According to this source, this has consequences for hygiene and is against regulations. Nevertheless, in order to observe their religious laws, Baha’is in Tabriz have no other choice, since Vadi-i-Rahmat cemetery will not allow them to perform these rites, and buries Baha’is in Miandoab without the proper religious rites.
In the process of following up on the reasons for preventing the burial of deceased Baha’is, all the authorities at Vadi-i-Rahmat cemetery as well as the Tabriz City Council and the Eastern Azerbaijan Provincial government claim only to be executing orders, and accept no responsibility in this matter. To the Baha’i community of Tabriz, it is not clear which government institution has issued the order to prevent the burial of Baha’is in Vadi-i-Rahmat cemetery. According to the informed source who spoke with Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the government authorities have been cordial in their interactions with the families of the deceased, yet none of them have accepted responsibility for this decision.