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Social and Economic Development in an Iranian Village: The Baha'i Community of Saysan

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Saysan in the north-west province of Azarbayjan is one of the villages in Iran where almost all of the inhabitants became Baha'is. This paper looks at the history of the Baha'i community in Saysan, focussing in particular on social and economic development in the village. Although facing considerable problems of geographical isolation, poverty, lack of education and persecution by surrounding villages, the Baha'i community responded to its situation in an organised, united and creative manner. It established the community institutions of the Baha'i Faith to provide consultative decision-making, leadership and a focal point of unity. It created new and innovative income-generating pathways that enabled the rising population of the village not only to survive but to establish community projects such as schools. In doing this, it also experienced the problems that many developing village communities face, the fact that their young people, once educated, find that their potential cannot be developed within the confines of the village and are attracted to the cities for further education and occupational opportunities unavailable in the village. This problem was also being tackled in the village when the Islamic Revolution of 1979 occurred, as a result of which, in an operation of ethnic cleansing, all of the Baha'is of the village were cleared and their houses razed to the ground by bulldozers.
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Keywords: Azarbayjan; Baha'i; Iran; Saysan; development; persecutions; school; village

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2009

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