Editors’ Note: Today, June 18, marks the anniversary of martyrdom of 10 brave and devoted Baha’i ladies in Shiraz. Iran Press Watch is pleased to mark their sacrifice of love with the following essay.
Dedicated to the loving memory of the 10 women who were put to death in Shiraz on 18 June 1983 because of their adherence to the Baha’i Faith!
Pondering upon the voyage that has led humankind to its present-day place and purpose, one cannot overlook the reality that advancement and innovation, nobility and fulfilment, comfort and gratification, have all come to us by means of supreme sacrifice.
Many have walked the face of the earth throughout the years and centuries, and — partaking of the provisions and treasures offered by creation — have passed into the vastness of forgetfulness; yet there are those who have covered – with mighty strides – the same distance in order to leave behind a mark of distinction, not only by the way they lived but also by the manner in which they died … Those who have not merely walked upon the earth, but rather irrigated it with the tide of love that has surged in their hearts for humanity.
The world today stands on a ground more solid than ever before for the realisation of the need for a brotherhood that is worthy of humankind; and speaks more proudly than ever for the liberty it now offers humanity in the recognition of the rights of every single human being! Many have indeed been the pure souls of every race, religion and creed who have impressed their prints on the book of creation with the suffering they have endured for freedom and liberty and with the sacrifices they have made in the path of justice and equity.
Amongst such noble souls who stood up for their right – and the right of others – to believe were 10 Iranian women who lived amongst us not so far back in history; and gave their lives in utter submission on 18 June 1983 in the nation’s Southern city of Shiraz for refusing to deny the truth of a religion they had espoused. To these women, the Muslim clergy in Iran gave four chances to simply state in mere words their recantation of their faith; however, instead they decided to drink from the chalice of martyrdom and to adorn the pages of history with the crimson that was the beautiful colour of the blood streaming out from their loving hearts.
One of these 10 women, a mere child of 16, by the name of Mona Mahmudnizhad, spoke of liberty and the right to believe only months before her martyrdom in one of her school essays. In this essay entitled, liberty and upholding-liberty in Islam, she writes:
“The fruit of the religion of Islam is liberty and upholding liberty. Whoever tastes this fruit shall partake of its benefits. Liberty is a resplendent expression amongst all other glowing expressions in the world.
Humankind has always strived for liberty and freedom; so why is it that this freedom is at times taken from us? Why has freedom not always existed from the start of humanity? Why has the world always seen tyrants who have imposed their will upon others? Why are there people who are willing to inflict any sort of injustice upon the others in order that they may safeguard their own interests? What really is true liberty? What is the true meaning of freedom? How does it even come into being?
Some claim that they work to establish equality, and therefore they need freedom! In response to them, I say that absolute equality will never be possible regardless of whether you live in utmost freedom or under utter suppression. Instead, one must strive for the equality of rights; and one can work towards attaining equality of rights even in the absence of freedom…
Why is it that you don’t allow me the freedom in society to express my aspirations; so that I may say who I am and what I seek! So that I may be able to introduce my religious beliefs! Why is it that you don’t grant me the freedom of speech and penmanship, so that I may print my thoughts in newspapers and speak out in radio and television?
Yes, freedom is a heavenly gift, and this gift must be bestowed upon all; yet, you do not allow me to speak out freely as a Baha’i!
Why is it that you do not wish to know that a new religion has appeared? Why is it that you do not remove from before your eyes those thick veils covering the brilliant new Revelation that has dawned?
Perhaps you feel in your subconscious mind that you are not free! That is certainly a reality; and you do indeed lack freedom! You are devoid of the freedom to think! You have put limitations on your thinking and frozen your thoughts…
Freedom is a heavenly gift; so do not deprive yourselves of such a gift! By God; it is a pitiful sin to do so! God has granted this freedom within the essence of every human; and therefore you as a creature of God cannot deprive me of it; and I, as a creature of God, shall not grant you permission to deprive me of it.
God gave me the freedom to think; and thus I thought and reflected and reached the certitude that Baha’u’llah is the Truth. God granted me the freedom to express; and thus I cry out and express that Baha’u’llah is the Truth. God granted me the freedom to write; and thus I write with eloquent penmanship that Baha’u’llah is “Him Whom God Shall make manifest”. He is the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, and His book is a Divine Book. God granted me the power to think, to write and to believe; and — in giving me such powers — God’s will was not contingent upon a freedom that you would bestow upon me.
Therefore the outcome of your taking our freedom away lies only within the sins you have stored for yourselves. Do give us our freedom then, for we have the power to believe in God and Baha’u’llah; and this power no earthly weapon can destroy! Nay, your efforts will only strengthen our faith. One of the Teachings of Baha’u’llah is the unification of humankind; thus we have the freedom to strive to attain it. Another one of His Teachings is non-involvement in politics, thus we are free not to interfere in your politics…”
Such were some of the words of a teenager spoken in turbulent days, when men and women were taken to the gallows for no other sin but believing in what they felt in their hearts to be the truth!
Numerous indeed were homes that were set on fire…properties that were confiscated or looted…bodily injuries that were sustained…and emotional bruises that resulted.
Children watched in despair as their belongings were burnt to ashes…as their fathers and brothers were slapped and kicked around…as their mothers and sisters were pulled by the hair and shoved into cars and driven away….
And yet for all who gave their lives, martyrdom was the ultimate expression of liberty. They had the freedom to believe and nothing — not even giving up their lives — was to stand in the way of their right to believe!
And such have been the marvellous acts of heroism upon the stage of the recent drama in the land of Persia! The heroes and heroines of this theatre of love, those who set out dancing on their way to the habitation of their Lord, have indeed been overwhelmed by sorrow and pain, calamity and tribulation, sacrifice and martyrdom; but all of this they welcomed as proof of their love and vindication of their faith. All of this they bore willingly in the fervent hope that their sacrifice may further the cause of the oneness of humankind.
For each and every man, woman and child, who has ever championed the cause of equal rights for humanity and of the freedom to believe and to co-exist in peace, may the songbirds eternally sing salutations and praise; and may those dear souls forever be remembered with gratitude and reverence.
- Mrs. Nusrat Yalda’i, 54 years old
- Mrs. ‘Izzat Janami Ishraqi, 50 years old
- Miss Roya Ishraqi, 23 years old
- Mrs. Tahirih Siyavushi, 32 years old
- Miss Zarrin Muqimi, 28 years old
- Miss Shirin Dalvand, 25 years old
- Miss Akhtar Sabit, 20 years old
- Miss Simin Sabiri, 23 years old
- Miss Mahshid Nirumand, 28 years old