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Bahá’í Administration

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1974 edition
  • Pages:
  • 196
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Pages 175-180

Decision of League of Nations

From the official text of the minutes of the meeting of the Mandates Commission, as well as from its authorized report to the 176 Council, both of which have been made public, it is clear and evident that the terms of the conclusion arrived at are neither vague nor evasive, but set forth in unmistakable language the legitimate aspirations of an oppressed and struggling Faith. The decision neither implies compensation to the Bahá’í Community for the loss of the sacred buildings, nor does it expressly provide for the expropriation of the property by the State. To quote from the text of the official document, the Commission has resolved “to recommend the Council to ask the British Government to call upon the Government of ‘Iráq to redress without delay the denial of justice from which the petitioners have suffered.”
A glance at the minutes of the Commission’s meeting will suffice to reveal that in the course of the lengthy discussions conducted by the members of the Commission the following important facts have been stressed and recognized. The British accredited representative, present at the sessions of the Commission, has declared that “it was a fact that the Mandatory Power had recognized that the Bahá’ís had suffered an injustice and, ever since the award made by the High Court, the High Commissioner had been considering what means could be found to remove, either by an executive act or otherwise, the unjust effects of that decision.” Moreover, it has been acknowledged by the accredited representative that the Bahá’ís had been in bonafide occupancy of the property, that they had expended on it sums that exceeded the value of the site itself, and were thus, in accordance with the provision in the still operative Turkish Law, entitled to purchase the site. Allusion has also been made in the course of the deliberations of the members of the Commission to the fact that the action of the Shí’ah community with respect to Bahá’u’lláh’s sacred house constituted a breach of the Constitution and the Organic Law of ‘Iráq which, according to the testimony of the British accredited representative, expressly provided for the unfettered freedom of conscience. A question from one of the members had even elicited from the representative of the British Government the reply assuring the Commission that the Mandatory Power actually possessed means of exercising pressure on the authorities in order, if necessary, to insure that so fundamental an article in the Constitution would be respected. Furthermore, the opinion has been strongly expressed that the matter had assumed an “importance 177 which exceeded that of the individual case of the Bahá’ís,” inasmuch as “the judgment of the High Court was suspected of having been inspired by political prejudice,” with the consequent impression on the Commission that “from a moral point of view, conditions in ‘Iráq were not improving; that religious passions still ran high and that peace had not yet been brought about between the various religious communities.” It has even been proposed to supplement the report submitted to the Council with the observation that, in the opinion of the Commission, “a country in which the Sovereign and the highest law courts are capable of so flagrant a denial of justice would probably not be considered to be eligible to become a Member of the League of Nations.” The minutes of the Commission’s meeting further indicate that the contents of the letter addressed by the Prime Minister of ‘Iráq to the British representative in Baghdád and which accompanied the text of the petition of the Bahá’ís do not in the opinion of the Commission “meet any of the allegations of the petitioners” and are confined to a mere assertion that the judgment of the Court of Appeal was pronounced in accordance with the laws of the land. As to the memorandum submitted by the Mandatory Power in connection with the Bahá’í petition, and to which the minutes briefly refer, it is expressly stated that His Britannic Majesty’s Government considers the ejectment of the Bahá’ís while the case was still undecided to have been an illegal action, that the reasons adduced to justify such action were hardly admissible, and that the final verdict of the Court of Appeal is unsustainable, contrary to the law, and tainted by political considerations. The minutes further declare that although any petition presented to the Commission appealing from a decision given by a Court of Law is to be considered as not being in order, yet as the petition submitted by the Bahá’ís reveals such a state of partiality, servility and sectarianism it has been found desirable to depart from the general rule and to regard the petition in question as receivable by the Commission. And among the concluding observations in the minutes of the Commission’s meeting regarding the Bahá’í petition is this significant passage: “The revelations made in connection with this petition show the present position in ‘Iráq in an unfavorable light. In a country where the conduct of the highest authorities has led the Mandatory Power to pass such severe criticisms, where the 178 Supreme Court of Justice is under legitimate suspicion, and where religious fanaticism pursues minorities and controls power, a state of affairs prevails which is not calculated to insure the development and well-being of the inhabitants. The petitioners have suffered a serious denial of justice the direct responsibility for which rests on the authorities of ‘Iráq. The fact that this denial of justice could not be prevented or immediately made good was due to the weakening of the Mandatory Power’s control in ‘Iráq. The Mandatory attempted, but in vain, to redress the injury done to the petitioners by using the means of influence at its disposal under the régime set up by the 1922 Treaty vis-á-vis King Feisal and the ‘Iráq Government. These efforts would not appear to correspond fully to the engagements resulting from the British Government’s declaration, which was approved by the Council on September 27, 1924, and renewed by the British Government in 1926, whereby the Treaty of Alliance between the British Government and ‘Iráq ‘was to insure the complete observance and execution in ‘Iráq of the principles which the acceptance of the mandate was intended to secure.’”
This grave censure pronounced by the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations on the administration of justice and the general conduct of affairs in ‘Iráq, as well as the association of the humiliation afflicting Bahá’u’lláh’s sacred dwelling-place with the obligations implied in the Treaty of Alliance binding the Governments of Great Britain and ‘Iráq, not only proclaim to the world the enhanced prestige of that hallowed and consecrated spot, but testify as well to the high sense of integrity that animates the members of the League’s honored Commission in the discharge of their public duties. In their formal reply to the Bahá’í petitioners, the members of the Permanent Mandates Commission have, with the sanction of the Council of the League of Nations, issued this most satisfactory declamation: “The Permanent Mandates Commission, recognizing the justice of the complaint made by the Bahá’í Spiritual Assembly of Baghdád, has recommended to the Council of the League such action as it thinks proper to redress the wrong suffered by the petitioners.” A similar passage inserted in the report of the Finnish Representative to the Council of the League runs as follows: “The Commission has also considered a petition from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of ‘Iráq, a community 179 which has been dispossessed of its property by another community and has been unable to recover it by legal means. The Commission is convinced that this situation, which is described as an injustice, must be attributed solely to religious passion, and it asks that the petitioner’s wrongs should be redressed. I venture to suggest that the Council should accept the Mandate Commission’s conclusions on this case, which is an example of the difficulties to be met with in the development of a young country.” This report, together with the joint observations and conclusions of the Commission, have been duly considered and approved by the Council of the League, which has in turn instructed the Secretary-General to bring to the notice of the Mandatory Power, as well as the petitioners concerned, the conclusions arrived at by the Mandates Commission.
Dearly-beloved co-workers! Much has been achieved thus far in the course of the progress of this complicated, delicate and highly significant issue. The Bahá’í world is eagerly expectant, and fervently prays, that the Almighty may graciously assist the Government chiefly responsible for the well-being of ‘Iráq to take “without delay” such steps as will insure the execution of the considered judgment of the representatives of the Sovereign States, members of the Council, and signatories of the Covenant, of the League of Nations.
I will, if deemed proper and advisable, inform you of the manner in which the admiration and the gratitude of the National Spiritual Assemblies, representative of the divers communities in the Bahá’í world, should be expressed and tendered to the authorities of the League of Nations who have been chiefly responsible for this noble, this epoch-making decision. For none can doubt that the published verdict pronounced by the Mandate Commission sets the seal of international sanction on the triumph of God’s persecuted Faith over the ecclesiastical and civil powers of hostile Islám. Within the ranks of the orthodox Sunnís and of the bitter and fanatical Shí’ah, the chief sects of the Muslim Faith and constituting respectively the bulk of the ruling class and the population of ‘Iráq, a feeling of consternation must necessarily prevail. For however obscured their vision they still can recognize in this historic judgment the herald of that complete victory which is destined to establish the ascendancy of what, in the words of the members of the Commission, is but “a 180 small minority, drawn from a lower social grade, and possessing neither political nor social influence,” over the combined forces of the Islámic population of ‘Iráq.
I must not fail in conclusion to refer once again to the decisive role played by that distinguished and international champion of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, our dearly-beloved Mountfort Mills, in the negotiations that have paved the way for the signal success already achieved. The text of the Bahá’í petition, which he conceived and drafted, has been recognized by the members of the Mandates Commission as “a document well-drafted, clear in its argument and moderate in tone.” He has truly acquitted himself in this most sacred task with exemplary distinction and proved himself worthy of so noble a mission. I request you to join with me in my prayers for him, that the Spirit of Bahá’u’lláh may continue to guide and sustain him in the final settlement of this most mighty issue.
Your true brother,
Haifa, Palestine,
March 20, 1929.