Imprisoned Baha’i Leader Writes to Oprah




Dear Ms. Oprah Winfrey-

I am writing this letter to you at the beginning of the eighth year of my 20-year imprisonment. I saw your extraordinary performance in the movie “Selma”, and it moved me to send you this letter from far away, because of its humanist themes when dealing with unjust discrimination. I saw that in your country also, people have experienced discrimination, and that, along with great men like Martin Luther King who have fought against it, many artists have attempted to put this oppression and injustice into words and images. The story of the Baha’i community in Iran is also a bold story of unjust oppression. Even hearing small parts of this story will stir the hearts of open-minded human beings.

For more than 170 years, this community has been struggling with the oppression and cruelty that result from religious prejudice. The Baha’i Faith’s Herald was executed, and its Messenger of peace and love was exiled after being chained and imprisoned. Its followers have experienced execution, burning, terrorism, imprisonment, abuse, deprivation of their rights to education and employment, confiscation of their belongings and homes, displacement and homelessness because they believed in a Faith whose goal is the unity of humankind, universal peace, the equality of men and women, and the elimination of gender, religious and racial prejudices.

Ms. Winfrey, I have tried to write this short and earnest letter and  send it to you because your work has a huge impact on public opinion, and because you are an encouragement to activists and artists who are working to eliminate discrimination against this oppressed community. I believe that writers and artists, especially those involved with the media and filmmaking, can play a vital and worthwhile role in the elimination of this situation. Will they see this oppression and work to publicize it? Sparks of hope can be seen in the heart of darkness. I hope you and other artists with awakened consciences will bolster this hope even more.

I’m hoping for a day when no human being is discriminated against due to the color of their skin, their race, gender, religion, ideas and opinions; when everyone can exercise their rights despite their differences, enabling them to be colorful flowers in one garden.

Saeid Rezaie, Former member of the management committee of the national Baha’i community of Iran



14 Responses

  1. James Elijio

    June 2, 2015 8:27 am

    Interconnectedness of every form of creation is a truth to which peoples of the world are increasingly awakening. That awareness is greatly enhanced when we reflect on the implications of consciousness of the oneness of humanity, the theme round which the Revelation ordained for a global age revolves. Discrimination of every kind is not confined to one part of the world; it is widespread. But no human being enjoys experiencing the impact of such a heinous social disease, regardless of its strain. At least on the basis of the recognition of our interconnectedness, our oneness as a human family, it is just, highly noble, and a requirement for social well-being, that we do our best to get rid of every form of discrimination wherever it resides with the aim, and in a manner, that it would not readily recur. The Baha’i writings indicate that as one soul in many bodies, a portion of humanity cannot suffer whilst the other parts of that organism does not. Ensuring the well-being, peace, security, prosperity and happiness of others, is ensuring our own well-being, peace, security, prosperity and happiness. Will not every responsible citizen of the world make every effort towards that end?

  2. Maureen D. Page

    June 2, 2015 1:20 pm

    I am amazed by this wonderful letter but extremely puzzled as to how prisoners can view American movies in prison. Please confirm that he saw the movie in prison!
    Thank you
    Maureen Page

    • Terry

      June 2, 2015 4:05 pm

      I am concerned that this story may not be true. It is beginning to go viral. Please provide some proof of authenticity. The only source given was Facebook.

      • Sina

        June 3, 2015 1:31 am

        Mr. Rezaie’s daughter translated the letter and posted it on facebook. My conjecture is that they showed this movie in prison and used it as a propaganda tool against America, portraying the American government as a racist and violent government.

  3. Charlotte Solarz

    June 2, 2015 6:04 pm

    So after checking the many resources that cover the stories of the imprisoned Baha’i educators and their students arrested tried and convicted, students whose credentials were won outside the official educational system have been accepted by ranking universities, and then add the Iranian businesses shut down, and Baha’i cemeteries being bulldozed and homes raided, holy sites razed, and harassment of little school children, even by their teachers, all this under encouragement by the Iranian regime through their own documented instigation to get rid of the presence of Bahai (Iran’s largest numerical minority) — and after you check the veracity of this story with agencies and congressional reports within our own government, the United Nations’ identification of the Iranian repression of Baha’i as well as many other governmental public condemnations of these specific oppressions , then finding this story all too true, will you help to do whatever you can to ease this miscarriage of human rights? All help is appreciated and will redound to the benefit of all prisoners of conscience. Thank you truly.

  4. Kim Bowden-Kerby

    June 2, 2015 9:59 pm

    The letter is beautiful – but I also think it is not authored by the person it is attributed to. I cannot imagine that prisoners in Iran are shown movies, much less American ones.

    • Saba

      June 3, 2015 1:46 pm

      Well, Selma is not just any American movie. It is an American movie about sufferings and discrimination that some American citizens have endured.

      I’m not surprised if the Islamic Republic celebrates the movie just to promote their own propaganda of how evil the America is. It happens very often that the Iranian regime accuses the west, and specially the US, of human rights violations, just to make itself look better, or more normal, to its citizens.

      I haven’t watched Selma and I don’t know how much it fits this description, but in general, if a movie that they want to screen contains any scenes with nudity or sexuality (or “wrong” sexual orientation!) they will simply censor those parts and show the rest (For example, they recently screened The Imitation Game in Tehran’s movie theaters, after “correcting Allan Turing’s sexual orientation and changing the dialogues and editing enough to make the new story plausible).

  5. Sina

    June 3, 2015 1:29 am

    Mr. Rezaie’s daughter translated the letter and posted it on facebook. My conjecture is that they showed this movie in prison and used it as a propaganda tool against America, portraying the American government as a racist and violent government.

  6. Sheila

    June 3, 2015 7:00 am

    Imagine, this person is not for real, but I promise you that every word in this letter is true and even more. Because, I am a Kurd and they did the same thing to us. Forcibly, we left our home when I was only 12 or 13 years old. They bombed my town and my house. They killed 22 members of my family and took everything we had included our clothes! I don’t know how I am still alive with all the pain and sorrows that this killer Regime gave me and my family and many many more people in Kurdistan and Iran. I still remember everything very well. I have been living with that nightmare all these years. There is not a single day that I don’t think about my pass and as a little girl what I saw…. You just cannot imagine….!!! Peace on earth!

  7. Saba

    June 3, 2015 2:10 pm

    The key point here is that Selma is not just ANY American movie. It is an American movie that shows the suffering and discrimination that a group of Americans have gone through.

    I won’t be surprised if I learn Islamic Republic is using the movie to promote its own propaganda of how evil the US is towards its own citizens, to claim the human rights violations in the west, and specifically in the US, are much worse than what the Iranians suffer from.

    The only thing that would potentially bar them from screening the movie in full, would be scenes of nudity and sexuality. I haven’t watched Slema and I don’t know if it fits the criterion, but even if it does, the simple solution would be censoring those scenes.

    Just recently, Tehran’s movie theaters screened “a new version” of The Imitation Game in which the sexual orientation of Allan Turing had been “corrected” to hetero, and the movie had been edited enough to depict this new story.

  8. vafa-canada

    June 3, 2015 10:25 pm

    Oprah Winfrey should take on the cause of the YARAN and promote their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

  9. paul p

    June 7, 2015 1:29 pm

    People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Every time this evil regime attempts to show how another regime is bad it manages to draw attention to its own corrupt and vicious ways that are so non-Islamic. Its treatment of the second largest faith in Iran is a litany of crimes against humanity that illuminate the theocracy’s debased behaviour. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. I hope Oprah W does investigate the truth and bring on board others to press for change.


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