By Kamal Yazdan-Panah
Editor’s Note: The following is a translation by Iran Press Watch of a moving autobiography posted on the Baha’i World News Service (BWNS) online site. There are 16 associated documents, which are translated in summary. Clarifying comments in square brackets [ ] are by Iran Press Watch.
Preamble by BWNS
What you read below is not fiction, it is not a novel and it is not an expression of emotions. It is real life. It is profoundly sad. It is the description of the life of an Iranian by the name of Kamal Yazdan-Panah. He is a Baha’i. At the height of the storm of official oppression, tyranny, enmity, and opposition by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran [against the Baha’is] he remained a servant of his country, a support for his family, and a believer in his religion and convictions.
At a moment of history when for the twenty-first time the United Nations has passed a resolution condemning the regrettable situation of human rights in Iran, and at a time when the government of the Islamic Republic’s has closed the Office of the Defenders of Human Rights, and at a time when the cry of university students in Iran over tyranny and restrictions has reached its highest pitch, at such a time we read the true story of an exceptional man, whose life in Iran is not an exception. Alas, events described in this autobiography are commonplace in that land, though they give meaning and purpose to those who have arisen to defend him and his countrymen. We bow our heads before all such righteous beings. And we whisper a prayer for Kamal Yazdan-Panah, whose surname suggests that Almighty God [“Yazdan”] is his only refuge [“panah”], and for his family, and for all those who struggle but do not strangle.
The Account of Kamal Yazdan-Panah, under the title “Injustices inflicted on a Baha’i family during the time of the Islamic Republic, the embodiment of justice and equity”:
I, Kamal Yazdan-Panah, am an Iranian, and I am proud of Iran and of being an Iranian. I love my country so much that despite the injustices that I will recount, I have not been willing to obtain passports for myself and my family [to leave the country].
- Based on the attached documents (see documents 1, 2, 4 and 5, attached), after thirteen years and five months of faithful service, on 19 February 1980 I was dismissed from the Iranian Army without the slightest consideration for my rights and without any compensation (see documents 6 and 7, attached).
- Subsequently, I worked in several private companies, such as Shahkaran Kladimeh va Kalvin Company, installing mechanical and electrical systems. However, I was forced into involuntary unemployment because the business closed and its managers left the country.
- After a while, a friend and I rented a shop and started a business for air-conditioning repair. As the income was insufficient to cover our living expenses, we moved to Ekhtiyar-Abad village, 20 kilometers outside Kerman.
- On the morning of 1 January 1984, a group of armed individuals raided our home (in Ekhtiyar-Abad village), while my pregnant wife and I were on our way to the hospital with syringes and other medical necessities. They insulted and denigrated us, thoroughly inspected and ransacked our home, collected and confiscated our possessions, such as 300 books, paintings, picture albums, cassettes, and even my Paykan automobile – which was my family’s sole means of transportation – and then they blindfolded me and took me to Sepah Prison. I spent 93 days in solitary confinement subject to special interrogation, etc. After 14 months, although I received two commendations for helping prison authorities with technical structural issues (see document 8, attached; unfortunately, the second commendation letter was destroyed in a subsequent raid on 29 September 1998 when all of my personal documents, cassette and video tapes, 700 books, and a truckload of belongings in my residence in Ekhtiyar-Abad were again confiscated), I was sentenced to ten months of internal exile and taken to the town of Jahrom in the province of Fars on unfound charges, such as spying for the United States, England, Israel, and the Soviet Union, as well as lies about participation in efforts to overthrow the Islamic Republic and such.
- Having been established in Jahrom with my family, I managed, through the sale of certain equipment, to buy a truck and make a living through transporting loads. However, since this did not work out well, I rented a shop and continued my mechanical repair work. After a while, when I could not obtain a trade license, I opened a company named Farrokh Suzan Construction Company, Ltd., and started working with two of my Baha’i friends who had also been exiled to Jahrom. After five years, having every day gone to the police station or the Intelligence office to sign in the special exile registry, where each of us placed 1825 signatures in total, we were pardoned by the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini]. Because our relations and collaboration with the people were extraordinarily good, our business grew. After the news of the Imam’s pardon, we decided to stay in Jahrom, but the Intelligence Office informed us that we should leave within 15 days without a right to return [to Jahrom]. Effectively we were exiled from our place of exile and were denied the possibility to return [to what had become our home]. Our business was closed through a formal letter (see document 9, attached). We were not even given an opportunity to collect our tools and documents, nor to settle the company’s accounts, nor to get our child’s school records, which led to many more problems. The persecution heaped on us was so great that I am unable to describe it. The authorities did not even spare my child, who was in elementary school, and insisted that he should change his beliefs. He was given a book titled History of Prophets, on the first page of which was a [handwritten] attempt to change his beliefs (see document 10, attached). Under these conditions, we were forced to return to my native town, Kerman, where we spent some time living in my sister’s house, as we did not have a place to live, which created its own problems.
- After moving my company to Kerman, I continued my previous work with Mana Company, which was a subsidiary of Development and Renewal Housing Organization, and was engaged in a project to build a high-rise for Saderat Bank. Again, Islamic Association started their campaign and stopped my work. In this effort, they exerted such determination that it remains beyond all possibility of description. Yet, at the end, owing to the good will of the company’s officials who were fully satisfied with my work, their attempts were frustrated. As our work had greatly pleased the management, I was put in charge of maintaining and servicing electrical and mechanical systems. After six months of excruciating labor, my business was again locked up by chains through the efforts of the Islamic Association of Saderat Bank. They also refused to pay the agreed expenses which included the salaries of my employees and taxes that I had to pay. Because of their kindness and goodwill towards me, the officials of Mana Company exerted much effort in this regard, but it did not resolve the situation. At the end, they took away all my working documents and gave the job to someone else.
- Once again, after many trials I started doing various jobs until I was hired by another installation company with the same management team as Mana Company, and I began working on Kerman’s steel factory (in the city of Bardsir). Once again the company officials were pressured by Islamic associations. But because they needed mechanics and the installation of the electricity was half done, they reluctantly allowed me to continue my work until the factory was completed.
- In 1996, even though I had received a commendation letter from the Central Heating Systems Union, my work permit, which was for one of the most menial jobs in Iran, was revoked (see documents 11 and 12, attached). After repeated visits and meetings with the Office of Intelligence and Housing where I tolerated many insults, humiliation and threats, I managed to obtain a verbal promise that they would reissue my work permit. At the end, they reneged on their promise and I was left without a permit.
- Through a request by the same construction company in the city of Mahan, we started working on a building complex named International Center for Advanced Environmental Sciences and Technology. The persecution started again, and the intervention of the Intelligence office and Islamic Association reached a point that I could not physically bear it. As a result, my facial nerves were paralyzed and half of my face lost sensation and is now deformed. It should be mentioned that initially we had a ten-month contract which, owing to delays in the budget, lasted for fifty months on the initial budget. (One can imagine the pressure I had to endure over those five years with the inflation rate in Iran!) Nonetheless, with the unceasing kindness of the company officials, we continued our work despite increasing intervention and religious pressures over my belief in the Baha’i Faith. Ultimately, however, the maintenance work for equipment and installed units was given to someone else.
- Though I no longer had a business permit and after a period of unemployment, I was asked to work for ThyssenKrupp Assanbar through the insistence of the managing director. I was hired as the office manager of Kerman region and started this service. Because of our financial difficulties, my wife, who had been expelled at the beginning of the revolution from her civil service job of two years, came to my aid. Moreover, my son and a Baha’i friend joined us, and the four of us started marketing, sales and installation of equipment. We had just left our previous problems behind when Sepah Pasdaran [Islamic guards] interfered, and through their orders the ThyssenKrupp expelled all four of us. On my daughter’s wedding night – she was being wedded to the same Baha’i friend that was working with us – they gave us the termination papers as a wedding gift (see documents 13 and 14, attached).
- Once more a construction company that we had worked for on several projects invited me to work on a new project called Bahonar Kerman Copper Factory (document 15, attached). As I did not have another job, I accepted it. From the beginning, the Islamic Association started its activities against me and finally I was told that because I was a Baha’i, I could not continue to work there. Thus I was forced to stop working and awaited the decision of the construction company. After four days of discussions by all the consulting engineers, supervisors and managers, I was called back to work. After that I was invited to a meeting with the representatives of the consulting engineers and supervisors – altogether about 11 people. Minutes were prepared and officially I started to work (document 16, attached). However, once more, the same opposition [by the Islamic Association] started all over. Through the interference and insistence of the Islamic Association, and their pressure on the company’s management to dismiss me, on Monday, 1 December 2008, guards stopped me from entering the project area – even though all my personal tools and equipment was still within that area. Next day, through the mediation of the project manager, I returned and was surprised that the guard did not stop me. I entered the factory and went to the project manager’s office. He told me to remain at my station until the necessary discussions between security and the company’s chief were concluded. At the end they decided that I could continue working on the condition that I gave a written statement that I believed in all the Prophets and in His Holiness Muhammad, so that they could consent to the righteousness of my work! (See document 17, attached). However, the next day at 10 in the morning I was told to collect my tools and leave the factory. I did – this was the next day after I had given the statement.
Even though we believe, “He doeth what He willeth”, I say again that I am an Iranian, I love Iran and I firmly believe that “The future of Iran will be great and splendid. … All the other countries of the world will look with respect and honor to Persia; be assured that this country will progress to such a degree that it will dazzle the eyes of all learned men of the world.” [From ‘Abdu’l-Baha]
This ephemeral dust,
[Posted on Friday, 26 December 2008, at: http://news.persian-bahai.org/kermani. Translation by Iran Press Watch: The Baha’is.]