Editor’s Note: Some time ago, Iran Press Watch invited the site’s readers to share their momories of the last 30 years under the rule of the Islamic regime. One of the readers shared the following. For security reasons, the author’s name is withheld in this case.
Recently (February 2009) Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic of Iran, declared that all Baha’i administrative activities were illegal. He added that Baha’is as citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran had benefitted from all opportunities provided to citizens of the country and had even been treated more favorably than others by the Islamic government. This announcement brought back memories of the many favors bestowed upon my family over the past thirty years — memories that I had hitherto been consciously or subconsciously trying to forget!
This “favorable treatment” started soon after the revolution and the establishment of the Islamic regime in Iran. My mother, a retired teacher, had her pension cut off. She used to tell that us that a teacher’s pension is like a narrow stream of water; it is not much, but it constantly flows. This was her reward after spending thirty years of her life teaching to the best of her ability, spending evenings at home planning lessons, checking assignments and marking tests.
Shortly after, Baha’is were expelled from all government offices, organizations, and universities, etc. My brother and his wife, along with many others, received official letters from the newly established Revolutionary Government informing them of their dismissal due to their association with the “misguided Baha’i sect”. We have in our possession the original letters and their official translations into English. These were the “favors” the government bestowed after many years of service.
My older sister completed her Master’s degree in science, just before Baha’is were expelled from the universities. She had done a lot of research in the medical field. In an underdeveloped country, where only a small percentage of high school graduates are even accepted into post-secondary studies, she could have offered so much to the progress and development of our country, but she was prohibited from entering the work force. A few months later, she received a letter from the governing authorities, addressing her as a “Master of science graduate”, then adding that her graduate degree was invalid, and asking her to return the certificate to the address indicated. The salutation alone confirmed her right to a title they were now determined to revoke.
Two years later, the Islamic Militia, armed with machine guns, showed up at the door of our home, and they did so in the middle of the night just to ensure that the experience was as terrorizing and horrifying as possible. Sorry, I should say, to shower my family with even more “favors”! They ordered each family member into a separate room, interrogated all and then took my younger sister with them, telling my family that she would be taken for questioning and sent back to her home the next day.
For days and days we had no news of her whereabouts. She spent almost two years in jail before being released on bail. She was also an intelligent and highly motivated university graduate, someone who could have contributed a great deal to the development of the country. Instead, she spent most of her days sitting in a cell staring at blank walls. My sister and the other detainees were interrogated regularly; forced to respond to the same questions over and over. They listened to whatever was preached at them and silently endured the insults to their faith. The prisoners were also taught “crafts” while in jail. They had to save the pits from dates they were given as a part of their food rations, rub them against the cement walls of their cells, shape them into rectangular prisms, soak them in water, and, with the use of a needle and thread, join a bunch of them together. I hope that someday there will be an exhibition of these artworks, so that the world can see how a country used the talents of their university graduates to create such valuable, useful arts and crafts!
The “bounties” continued being showered upon my family. Next, the Islamic Militia decided to confiscate our home. For a while, two large militants appeared regularly at our door, intimidating and threatening my father to force him to voluntarily evacuate himself and his family from his own home. They were also summoning my father, a frail 70-year-old man, to their office. While towering over him and positioning the sharp edge of a metal ruler over his head, they would insult and threaten him with violent gestures of the ruler. All my father could do was stand there, wondering whether or not this time the ruler would land on his head.
When the threats did not work, the Islamic Authorities drafted an eviction notice, ordering my family to either evacuate within 24 hours or be arrested. To make the entire process even more pleasant, the militants timed their delivery of this eviction notice in such a way that my family was left with a mere 3 hours before the deadline expired. Our blessed neighbors came over and argued with the authorities until they finally agreed to give my family a few extra hours to move their belongings out of the house. The neighbors kept going back and forth to our house, moving as much its contents as they could carry to their own homes, for temporary safekeeping.
These are the same neighbors that the Islamic government has been desperately trying to turn against their Baha’i countrymen, instilling fear by gathering signatures, inciting and provoking. Although my family no longer lives in the same neighborhood, after the “bounty” of homelessness was so graciously bestowed upon them, a quarter of a century later, the bonds of friendship with our previous neighbors are as strong as ever. The negative attention my family has received over the years from the Islamic Authorities has not only failed to scare off our friends and neighbors; it has instead inspired them to investigate the beliefs of this much persecuted segment of the population.
The “favors” showered upon us were not limited to our generation, nor to our parents’. Our children and grandchildren have also been recipients of this continued stream of “bounties”. They are growing up and living in a society intent on spreading lies, insults and hatred through government-controlled radio, television, newspapers and various other publications. My nieces and nephews are continuously insulted in their classrooms and are unable to speak out in their own defense, as any reply would be construed as an illegal teaching activity. Lies ring in the ears of their young classmates, instilling them with such fear that they scream in sheer terror at the very sight of their Baha’i peers. The fearful environment established by some teachers will undoubtedly have a lasting negative effect on the psyche of all their students. Recently, a close relative of mine was detained. She spent weeks and weeks in solitary confinement, only to be released upon paying a heavy bail, not knowing when and whether she will be called back.
This is just a summary of the “favorable treatment” one Baha’i family has received, and only a few examples of the many favors that continue being showered upon them. There are, however, countless Baha’i families that have suffered so immensely that the “bounties” my family has partaken of seem quite insignificant in comparison.
An Iranian Baha’i