14th May, 2016
Translation by Iran Press Watch
The interviewer (Nader Soltanpour): Mr. Muhammad Nourizad 1; political activist and critic of the Iranian government, is with us on the phone from Tehran.
The interviewer: Mr. Nourizad, it seems that imprisonment had a great impact on changing the views of some people in relation to the Baha’i community of Iran. Mrs Faezeh Hashemi was in the same prison hall as Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, and you too ‒ being in prison and living there with Baha’is had a great influence on your position. Why?
Nourizad: Mr. Soltanpour, the truth is that after 2009 our position changed because we saw with our own eyes that the Shi’ite government killed its own citizens; the curtain of their atrocities was drawn. We discovered their true nature. We realised, witnessed and believed with our own eyes, whether we were in prison or outside, that Baha’is are our most admirable and peaceful fellow countrymen. We have not seen in them anything but decency, whereas Shi’ite Ayatollahs had educated us so that we were supposed to believe, and consider them ‒ Baha’is ‒ to be fifth class humans. This is very cowardly behaviour. In Iran all Baha’i citizens have been deprived of all economic, cultural and social rights. This is an extreme injustice; so great indeed that I, as a Shi’ite Muslim, have nothing to offer except my feelings of shame.
The interviewer: Mr Nourizad, you are among the first personalities in Iran to openly show support for the Baha’i community. What were the reactions of people after your previous actions, which are continuing?
Nourizad: Yes, perhaps the most distinct action which I performed was to kiss the feet of a Baha’i child whose mother and father were in prison, and at the same time to offer my apologies, because I am ashamed of the injustices heaped upon this family. After the picture of this incident was published, contrary to my expectation, I felt and supposed that I might face numerous attacks. To my surprise, I received a great deal of positive feedback. There was encouragement from my co-religionists, high ranking army officers, army personnel, my friends, politicians, previous prisoners, government officials and especially from many educationists with a unity of heart, who supported my move and welcomed my action. Many of them expressed that they also are ashamed of these actions as I am, but that they do not have the courage to express it.
At this juncture I want to recall Mrs Nargis Muhammadi 2, Mr. Isa Saharkhiz 3 and Mr. Ismaeil Abdi 4, with whom, two years ago, I went to a Baha’i friend’s house in remembrance of those Baha’i leaders who were in prison.
Just now as I am taking to you, Mr. Soltanpour, I have come to visit Mrs Kamalabadi. Here, there are approximately twenty to thirty Baha’is who themselves have a loved one in prison, gathered here in memory of the imprisoned Baha’i community leaders. Now, my eyes just caught Mrs Kamalabdi, who is supposed to go back to prison tomorrow. During her eight years of incarceration, she was not allowed even one day out. Then a few days ago she was allowed to be free, but only for five days, to see her daughter, who has recently given birth to a child. Although she requested to stay a few days longer, merely because of these visits by people like Nasreen Sotoodeh 5 and others, they are returning her to prison.
Interviewer: Mr. Nourizad, how much have these types of visits by people like you, Faezeh Hashemi 6 and others, impacted the Iranian Baha’i community? Is it possible that more pressure will be brought to bear on them, as they are becoming under the spotlight and visible in the eyes of the government, or will this possibly reduce the pressure?
Nourizad: Now, I am certain that Baha’is don’t procrastinate. They are not going to retreat. Consider that Mr Khanjani, at 85 years of age, was not able to leave the prison, even for one day, after eight years of imprisonment and despite the passing of his spouse: the authorities did not allow him to come out for even one day to attend her funeral.
A Baha’i student in the application for university admission deliberately writes in the column for religion that he is a Baha’i, despite his knowledge that he will be prevented from continuing his studies. These people that I know of are not going backward even one step. But it is a great shame upon the brow of our Ayatollahs who force these conditions on Iranians in their own country just because they believe in the Baha’i Faith
Please note that Baha’is are paying their taxes and their youth complete their compulsory military service, but none of them are employed because of their religion. Their shops are sealed and closed and their properties are confiscated. They sentence them to long terms in prison and have already killed some of them. In any case, I, in contrast with all these Ayatollahs, have nothing to offer except to be ashamed of these actions.
Interviewer: Mr. Nourizad, these days there are a lot of religious rulings from Grand Ayatollahs which are published in the mass media or even in their own epistles regarding their views with respect to the Baha’i community. Now, these days, what efforts have been made? Are all these efforts having any effect on these Grand Ayatollahs? Is it changing their views to think that Baha’is are citizens of this country?
Nourizad: I think all these Ayatollahs know very well that a human being who is a Baha’i must have his rights respected. But Ayatollah Khamenei issued a religious ruling and condemned them. Other Ayatollahs and Sources of Emulation are fearful and are not brave. Mr. Soltanpour: one of the conditions of being a Sources of Emulation is supposed to be bravery, but all these Ayatollahs are really frightened and cowardly before this cowardly religious ruling, raise both their hands passively in total obedience, and don’t have the courage to defend the rights of Baha’is, who in this society are treated as fifth or sixth class citizens.
Interviewer: Mohammad Nourizad, Political activist and critic of the Iranian government, we thank you for sharing your experience and views with us.
1. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Nourizad
2. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narges_Mohammadi
3. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isa_Saharkhiz
4. See for example http://www.amnestyusa.org/get-involved/take-action-now/iran-release-ismail-abdi-ua-17115
5. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasrin_Sotoudeh
6. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faezeh_Hashemi
May 23, 2016 11:54 am
I am so proud of Mr. Nourizad courage to defend the Baha’i’s openly! He may be killed for this but he has not relented! I hope and pray that his actions encourage more people follow suit. There is strength in numbers. The Baha’i’s will gain their freedom one day, the importance of his effort is to hasten the time! Baha’i’s have done nothing but serve the Iranian people with love, respect, and patience! A great example is my dad, Dr. Alimohammad Hashemi, MD who helped the poor for over 45 years. He not only did not charge the poor but also paid for their medicine!
May 23, 2016 5:19 pm
The BBC interview with Muhammad Nourizad is an excellent presentation of a courageous proponent of human rights in the face of fanaticism. However, in his condemnations of Ayatollahs and Sources of Emulation, Mr Nourizad apparently was not aware of the efforts by one of them, Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, whose work has been profiled on IPW. He, and other Shi’ite clerics, are beginning to question, and even rebel against, the blind prejudice that has become a short-sighted unthinking national policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and an embarassment to the Prophet and Founder of their faith, peace be upon Him.