I am first an Iranian, then a Baha'i


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


7 Responses

  1. michelle

    April 1, 2009 11:08 pm

    I would change the title to ” I am an Iranian Baha’i.” All Iranians are proud of their culture but Bahais are proud of being obedient citizens of every country that they live in. Baha’is are also proud of being World Citizens. I am not sure if this was an appropriate title . Baha’is not only love the country they are born in, but they love the world.

  2. Ahang

    April 1, 2009 11:54 pm

    The title is a faithful translation of the original title in Persian. Please check the original piece in Persian to verify. Thanks.

  3. Mark Obenauer

    April 2, 2009 8:51 am

    This reminds me of the situation of nationalism being an issue within the German
    Baha’i’ community and the Guardian addressing this issue in some letters? Like
    Germans, Iranians have a history of nationalism and empire? I don’t know what happened in the title. It could have been a mistake?

  4. Ahang

    April 2, 2009 12:51 pm

    Dear Mark,

    No mistake. Iran Press Watch stands by its translation.

    Our purpose on this site is to provide accurate and timely translations or commentary on materials reproted in Iranian media or through related channels.

    While we recognize that the title of this piece may not please some people, we have no plans to make modifications since in our view it is an accurate translation of the original piece. Our job is to be honest reporters and to uphold the best standards of journalism. Period.

    Ahang Rabbani, Editor in Chief.

  5. sb

    April 2, 2009 3:13 pm

    I believe I can understand the emotion of the statement in made by the title of this article.

    Unfortuantely, many Iranians do not see Baha’i as being “culturally” Iranian. Baha’is the world over know that this is disasterous misconception, but most Iranian have been socially conditioned to feel that Baha’si are somehow foreign. Hence all the accusations that baha’si are “spies.”

    The oppressed Baha’i minority in Iran is experiencing a classic and dangerous hallmark of “cultural cleansing.” Attempts made to separate Iranian Baha’is constitutionally from their civil rights as citizens leads to the popular recogition as of them as “the other”, as “outsiders” to Iranain culture. This is precisely what the Nazis did in Germany to its minority Jewish population in the 1930’s, precursory to the Holocaust.

    It does appear that we must do everything possible to help Iranians discover the humanity and the “Iranian-ness” of Baha’is who live in Iran. Just yesterday, I surprised an Iranian shopkeeper that I see often by wishing her happy Naw Ruz. She simply didn’t know Baha’is celebrate this quintessentially Iranian (Persian) holiday and was amazed to learn it.

  6. Mark Obenauer

    April 2, 2009 8:43 pm

    Thank you for the clarification Ahang and sb. sb, I think I can also understand the meaning behind the title.


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