Editor’s Note: The following is a translation of an interview by Radio Zamaaneh with Elnaz Ahmadi, a Baha’i who was forced to leave Iran because of her religion.
I am first an Iranian, then a Baha’i
I want to tell you my story. I’m a 24-year-old Baha’i and reside in the United States. I have been living here for nine years now.
Because I wanted to continue my education, my family was forced to leave Iran. Due to their advanced age, my parents had a difficult time with relocation to America – unlike younger generations who migrate and settle here. However, they came and eagerly welcomed all the difficulties so we could continue our studies, enter university and become somebody!
We had problems in Iran. For instance, since I liked reading and also performing in school, I would wear a chador and recite the Qur’an in front of the entire school. However, I would not participate in congregational prayer, and this would cause a few of my friends to wonder why I refused to attend the prayer sessions. They would constantly ask me, “Why do you not attend congregational prayers with us?” I would try to avoid an answer. One day, one of them insisted a great deal and asked in the name of his martyred brother, so I responded and said, “Because I am Baha’i.”
After the next class on that very day, school officials came and announced that I was expelled from school. They asked, “Why have you taught your religion?” The admonished me strongly and told me that I was not allowed to touch the Qur’an anymore. Eventually, however, they allowed me to stay.
We decided that it was time to leave Iran. I was 13 at that time and my brother was 17. We went to Turkey first and then to America. And now my brother and I are completing our final year in the university. We hope to finish our studies so that if it is God’s will and there is a chance, we can go back and work on improving our nation. That is because after all, we are first Iranian and then Baha’i.
On the other hand, we have just learned that my maternal cousin was arrested a week ago and remains incarcerated. Her crime was that she was a Baha’i and has carried out religious activities. They charge that she gathered children and taught them religious things.
However, I don’t think that outside of the area of Baha’i children she would have taken a step, since we know that teaching the Faith in Iran is not wise. It is most likely that the children they had gathered were all Baha’is, and she was teaching them how peace can spread from one spot to the entire world.
Why should my 26-year old cousin be locked up in prison along with a number of other Baha’i youth, while her family and her husband are completely unaware of her whereabouts or her condition? And God only knows when they will let her go, if in fact they ever let her go. Or if they ever issue a verdict in her case, if in fact they do issue a verdict.
My heart is filled with anguish from hearing such stories which we hear again and again – and God only knows how much longer they will continue!
[Source: http://www.zamaaneh.com/humanr/2009/03/post_70.html. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]
Download: Original interview in Persian