Translation by Iran Press Watch
Editor’s note: Masih Alinejad is an Iranian journalist and author, as well as an activist for human and women’s rights. She is currently living in exile in the United States. One of her campaigns, “My Stealthy Freedom”, encourages women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without hijab. The campaign goal is for hijab to be a personal choice rather than a compulsory law. “My Stealthy Freedom” has garnered international interest, with hundreds of thousands of likes and participation on its Facebook page. This year Ms. Alinejad attended the annual conference for “The Association of the Friends of Persian Culture” in Chicago. The conference is organized by Baha’is for the purpose of promoting Persian arts and culture. The following piece is her Instagram post about the conference.
Today at The Association of Friends of Persian Culture Conference in Chicago, three-thousand participants, Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í compatriots, stood alongside one another, talked about the beautiful culture of Iran and embraced each other. I experienced the most motherly and fatherly embraces, of which I have been denied, in the past seven years. In my childhood, my head had been filled with bitter and hurtful terms which were used to describe our Bahá’í compatriots. The regime has manipulated the religious beliefs of the traditional groups of society, so that when they claimed that Bahá’ís are untouchable, they are prostitutes, they are spies, society would ostracize them. Gradually, the circle of untouchables, prostitutes and spies expanded in the lexicon of the Islamic Republic.
Now, I have been invited to give a talk at this conference, at a place where Mehrangiz Kar, Abbas Milani, Hosayn Ghazian and other pre-eminent individuals have also sat to talk about Iranian culture, the human rights of Iranians, and empathy among Iranians. Now, I am standing face to face with those Bahá’ís who, when they were executed in groups, were imprisoned, were called untouchable and prostitute, when their stores were shut down, were expelled from university and were deprived of embracing their families, we remained silent because we were not Bahá’í.
We must learn that, to defend the human rights of a Bahá’í we do not need to be Bahá’í. We just need to be human beings. We just need to look-into the eyes of those mothers whose children were executed for their religious beliefs, whose cemetery was consecrated, and were told just to weep. Unfortunately, the time for non-Bahá’ís came also, and they repeated the same accusations, this time against those who ignored the first victims. I am not a Bahá’í, but I will speak up for all my Bahá’í compatriots, to the best of my ability. What did the Americans do to defend the rights of Muslims in face of prohibition of visa for Muslims in the United States? Here in the United States, not a single Muslim has been executed for being a Muslim. When the government limited the issuance of visas to Muslims, Americans did not become Muslims, but they did demonstrate in the streets in defense of Muslims. What did we do? It is enough to embrace the Bahá’ís, when those who call these compatriots untouchable and prostitute have been empowered because of our silence, and now have turned those same accusation against more of our countrymen. It is our lack of action that makes this wall tall. It is our lack of compassion that makes violence normal and trivial. You don’t necessarily have to be a woman to defend the rights of a woman. Consequently, you don’t have to be a Bahá’í either to defend the rights of a Bahá’í. It is sufficient for you to just be a human being.