Translation by Iran Press Watch
by Rozita Eshraghi
Monday September 1, 2014
This Letter of Suffering is addressed to all who claim that no Baha’is have been imprisoned or discriminated against due to their beliefs, and that Baha’is have the same civil rights as others in Iran.
Look at me from where you stand, from up there where you think you will be forever.
All you need to do is to glance down and find me here, still standing. I am fifty years old now, weary and wounded, but still standing. In this darkness, I will throw a spotlight on my life, from the past to this moment; maybe you will see me then.
I start from my childhood, from my happy and kind family, whose every glance, every word, and every move planted the seed of love and kindness towards humanity in my heart. Experiencing joy in others’ happiness, and crying with them in their sorrows, and extending a helping hand when they have problems.
Look at Me
My childhood and adolescence were spent amongst people who were poisoned by prejudice and ignorance, prescribed to them by a bunch of people posing as physicians and guides. They considered me unclean, they looked for a tail and horns on my body, and they would accuse me of incest, and considered such acts as essential parts of our religious gatherings. I did not understand why they threatened us, why they threw filth and dirt on our car, why my friends were afraid to come to our house, and why I was monitored closely when I went to their houses. Why did my mother get very anxious when we arrived home a bit late? I would be filled with anger and fury, but my parents’ compassionate hand would stroke my head and they would tell me that these people are not at fault, they don’t have good guides, and they would ask me to forgive and forget and pray for them. I forgave and forgot, and prayed for them, but all the “why”s remained in my heart. The beginning of the years of my youth coincided with the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Due to my belief in non-interference in politics, I did not participate in any of the demonstrations, and no “death to” this or “Long live” that passed my lips. But this time a barrage of accusations poured over my head about being puppets of the Pahlavi regime. This is how my youthful years began. Those days, every day, were filled with calamities and tragedies that you and people like you brought upon my life.
My dear father, who had served the National Oil Company of Iran loyally for thirty years, withstanding all the discrimination and inequity meted out to him because he was a Baha’i over these years, abruptly lost his retirement payments. You and others like you never wondered how he would be able to provide for his family of eight in his old age.
My older sister was accepted to Shiraz University with the highest marks, but two years later, based on something called the Cultural Revolution, she was suspended because she was a Baha’i. I also was barred from entering university; however, we were told that if we stated that we were not Baha’is our family could go back to university and get retirement payments again.
Look at Me
Every morning that I woke up and heard the voice on the radio say: “According to the order of the Islamic Revolutionary Court…, a Zionist Spy by the name of … was executed, my youth vibrancy turned into lethargy. I did not even know what the word “Zionist” meant ˗ which country did they spy for? I was immersed in the suffering and sorrow of the dear families who were torn apart by the order of the likes of you and others like you, and again the kind arms of my parents would become my sanctuary, they would whisper to me not to worry, and leave all my affairs in the hands of God, Who has sworn not to overlook the atrocities of not even a single person.
Every morning, I would hear the pleasant voice of my mother chanting prayers and supplicating Almighty God, and I saw the depth of anxiety and worry in her eyes. My sister and brothers, who were studying abroad, invited us to leave Iran, but a deep and maybe unknown bond had tied us to this land. Life passed like this until the hands of fate brought a storm of calamities to our home. Mother’s worries were not unfounded.
Look at Me
On 29 November 1982, our loving home came under the attack of hatred and prejudice from you and people like you. My father, mother and older sister were arrested at 8 PM in our house and taken to answer a few questions. The next day I heard that forty other Baha’is had also been arrested on the same night, and the number of Baha’i prisoners in Shiraz now reached 80. You and people like you did not wonder even for a moment who would protect an 18 year old girl, the only one of the family left behind. Eight long and bitter months passed. The final verdict was issued. “Either Islam or death by execution” My family were under the harshest oppression, threat, insult and torture; I was spending my youth lonely and sad, in a house all by myself. My only fun was buying a little fruit for a 5 minute visit from behind a glass window with my sister Roya, and my dear mother on Saturdays, while enduring many insults and disrespect, and again buying a little fruit for a visit with my dear father on Wednesdays, and a repeat of the same scenario, only because I was a Baha’i and for no other reason.
Look at Me
I was nineteen years old when I heard the news of the execution of my dear father, mother and sister. Imagine me when I was not allowed to see their bodies, and after pleading with much fear, I was allowed to have a last visit for just a few moments with my family. This time the kind hands of my father and mother did not hold me, however an eternal smile on my father’s lips, and his hands, held in a fist, spoke of many untold stories. My father, my mother, and my sister, along with thirteen other Baha’is, were hung in Shiraz, crying of the love and innocence of Baha’is, but you did not hear. The world cried and you and others like you said “There are no Baha’is imprisoned because they are Baha’is.”
The corpses of my father and five other Baha’i men were given to the Saadi Hospital in Shiraz, and the corpses of my mother, the corpse of my sister, and the corpses of theother brave Baha’i women were clandestinely buried at the Shiraz Baha’i Cemetery, “Golestan-e Javid” in unmarked plots. You and others like you prevented me from holding a simple ceremony to part from my loved ones, and deprived me from ever being able to place a single flower on their graves. All my father’s belongings were confiscated, and neither the so-called “just” judge, nor the Shiraz District Attorney thought of the only remaining member of this family, a 19 year old girl.
They fired the last bullet and then they said: “Recant being a Baha’i and become a Muslim, we will find you a good husband, and we will give your belongings back!!”
The rest of my life has been spent living with this pain, though I am also filled with pride. I married a Baha’i youth who was also expelled from university. Five months after our wedding he was sentenced to a one year prison term for being a Baha’i, and for participating in Baha’i gatherings, and for service to other Baha’is; and you and others like you said and wrote that no one is in prison for being a Baha’i. Time Passed.
Look at Me
When I had two children, a two year old and the other a few months old, my husband left for the mandatory national draft. His commander bluntly told him that whoever has two children would normally not be sent to the front;, however because you are a Baha’i, even if you had a hundred children, you would still be sent to the front, and he sent him to the war zone ˗ but your voice is still ringing in my ears, saying: “No Baha’i is discriminated against because of his beliefs.”
Look at me in the light that I have shed on my life, after I had three children. They put up with all types of discrimination and abuse in school. I remember to this day that the third grade teacher of my child asked the children to bring ice to school for a science lab, but told my child not to bring any ice, because the water from his melting ice would be unclean. The teacher also did not review my child’s note book to avoid touching the note book of a Baha’i child. My children were all gifted, but were not allowed to attend the school for gifted children ˗ because they were Baha’is.
Two of my children got into the university; the first one was discharged after three semesters of studying industrial design. The person in charge of university security told my child and my husband that we had uselessly occupied the space that could educate a Muslim child. My other child was suspended from school after 4 semesters studying accounting ˗ he was threatened not to follow up on this matter or he would be hit by a car in the street. My third child was barred from attending university using the deceptive and meaningless excuse of “Incomplete Application”. You, again, in front of the camera, without making eye contact, said: “No Baha’i is suspended from university because of being a Baha’i.” My husband has changed more than fifteen jobs so far just to be able to make a living in this country that he loves, and my children also inevitably will have to follow his path.
My letter of suffering has no end. Two years ago, on a hot afternoon in Ramadan, five Intelligence and Security officers came to our house. Again and again, they violated our home and our family’s privacy. They took all our writings and books related to Baha’i Faith, as well as carpets with religious designs, and old memories and calligraphy left to us from generations ago; all in all they took a van full of items from our house ˗ and they also took my husband with them. They took my husband and nineteen other Baha’is, who were arrested on the same day in various cities of Iran, in the city of Yazd. They were under interrogation, investigation, and harassment. Finally they were freed on bail, and today after two years they have been sentenced to two to five years of prison. But you still continue to say what you used to say.
My mind is full of questions that remain unanswered. What crime have we committed? Besides our religious duties having to do with our own Baha’i community, and prayers, and consultation on solving the issues of Baha’is who have no refuge, what wrong have we done? It has been thirty years that we have resided in the city of Isfahan. Where was Yazd? When we went to Yazd to petition for justice, the head of the Yazd provincial court told us: “You are obstinate and have no place in the Islamic Republic” and his deputy, with old prejudice and hatred, proud of his malevolent idea, stated: “You are not citizens of Iran. You have no place in our laws. In my opinion you have no right to life. If it were up to me, I would know exactly what sentence to give you.”
You see, there are judges under your supervision, who purely due to their hatred and prejudice towards Baha’is will sign the sentence against 20 Baha’is, without any review and even without having any information about their crimes, merely because they are Baha’is ˗ on top of this, they believe they deserve even worse.
Look at Me Again. Yesterday a cemetery in Shiraz belonging to the Baha’i community in Shiraz ˗ where my family’s’ remains are buried as well ˗ was bulldozed, and trucks removed the dirt to make sure no trace of thirty years of atrocities was left ˗ and you say that “Baha’is are free.” We are not free even after death.
I’m talking to you. Look down from the seat of power and see me. A regular Baha’i in Iran, this is the face of my 35 years of living under the justice of the Islamic Republic. I am now fifty years old. I am still standing. My spouse, my children and millions of other Baha’is around the world are standing next to me. Still the endurance, the patience and the courage of my family and of the hundreds who have lost their lives in this path, are the inspiration in my life. To this day, still the calming music of my parents’ voice is heard in my head, above all the voice which says: “leave all my affairs in the hands of God, Who has sworn not to overlook the atrocities of not even a single person.” “Oppose every wrongdoing with kindness; let prejudice and hatred leave this sacred soil forever.” Their words were not meaningless, I witness today their fruit. There are an increasingly large number of fellow citizens who no longer consider me unclean. They are not afraid to enter my house, and they even look at me with respect. For my perseverance in the face of all these calamities, they view me with admiration, and they consider my home a safe place. They no longer, in a corner of their minds, think that these Baha’is might have done something wrong. They now know that I am not guilty, they are even confident that my parents and my sister too were undoubtedly innocent. The deputy of the provincial attorney may not consider me to be an Iranian citizen; however my countrymen have accepted me as a citizen, and vouch for my truthfulness and kindness. They defend me, they are sympathetic and try to help with my problems, and they even express sorrow, and feel ashamed and embarrassed. They look to you for answers. Claims, such as that no Baha’i is in prison because of being a Baha’i, or that Baha’is have equal rights in the law, or we have Baha’i professors at public universities, are no longer convincing to these people.
Let go of your long-standing enmity. We are your countrymen. We are your fellow citizens. We are your neighbors, your family and your relatives. We disseminate and praise kindness and we share the same right to life that God has bestowed on every one of us. Justice and equity are the right of all people ˗ including Baha’is.