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Iran: Information on the Babis (also known as Azalis) and their treatment in Iran

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 July 1997
Citation / Document Symbol IRN27211.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iran: Information on the Babis (also known as Azalis) and their treatment in Iran, 1 July 1997, IRN27211.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad006f.html [accessed 2 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

According to The Encyclopedia of Islam, Babis are "followers of the religion founded by the Bab" (1986, 846). "The Bab" was the title used by Sayyid (Ali Muhammad of the city of  Shiraz in Iran (Persia), who lived from 1819 to 1850 (ibid., 833). "Azali" is the "name given to those Babis [q.v.] who followed Mirza Yahya, called Subh-i-Azal [q.v.], after the death of the Bab" (ibid., 809).

According to The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, there was a split in the Babi community after 1863. The majority became Baha'is, and a minority became Azalis (1989, 753-754). According to the author of the article on Babis in The Encyclopedia of Islam, after the split within the Babi community between the Baha'is and the Azalis, "the Azalis remained always in the minority ... and even the number of 50,000, which some authorities have ascribed to them, seems in fact to be somewhat exaggerated (1986, 847).

The following information was provided to the DIRB in a 27 June 1997 conference call with the Director of Iranian Affairs and the Director of the U.S. Baha'i Refugee Office, both of the Baha'i National Center at Wilmette, Illinois. While the Director of Iranian Affairs has personally encountered "perhaps two or three families" that claim to be Babis, as far as both of the sources know, the Babis in Iran have no formal administrative institutional structure as a religious community. Unlike the Baha'is, Babis have traditionally not revealed their religious affiliations in public. According to the Director of the U.S. Baha'i Refugee Office, Muslims in Iran have traditionally used the term "Babi" as a disparaging term for Baha'is.  The Director of Iranian Affairs said that the Babi religion is not a sub-sect of Islam; like the Baha'i faith, it is a separate religion, entirely different from Islam.

The following information was provided to the DIRB in a 2 July telephone interview with a specialist on women in Iran at the department of Sociology at York University, Toronto. In general, the government is hostile to the Babis and Azalis, but the government is more hostile to the Baha'is because the Baha'is are perceived to have links to foreign countries, notably Israel, where their main shrine is located. Babis are tolerated by the government "as long as they don't practice or preach" their religion. The source does not  how many Babis and Azalis there are in Iran, but has met individuals in Iran who claimed, in private, to be Babis. Babis have traditionally dissimulated about their religion. For example, when filling out government documents that contained a rubric for religion, they would not indicate that they were Babis.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Director of Iranian Affairs, Baha'i National Center, Wilmette, Illinois. 27 June 1997. Telephone Interview.

Director of the U.S. Baha'i Refugee Office, Baha'i National Center, Wilmette, Illinois. 27 June 1997. Telephone interview.

The Encyclopedia of Islam. 1986. New ed. Vol. 1. Edited by C.E. Bosworth et al. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1989. 15th ed. Vol. 1. Edited by Philip W. Goetz. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Specialist on women in Iran, Department of  Sociology, York University, Toronto. 2 July 1997. Telephone interview.

Attachments

The Encyclopedia of Islam. 1993. New ed. Vol. 1. Edited by C.E. Bosworth et al. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 833-835, 846-847.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1989. 15th ed. Vol. 1. Edited by Philip W. Goetz. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 753-754.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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