By Roya Taqva
Editor’s Note: In May 2006, a group of over 80 individuals was arrested in and around the city of Shiraz, Iran. They were involved in a teaching program benefitting underprivileged children. The group had been granted permission for their activities by the Islamic authorities of the city. Muslim members of the group were immediately released. However, 54 Baha’is were detained for a few days, and afterwards released on bail. In August 2007, they were tried by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court. They were charged with “offences against state security”. Three of them were sentenced to four years imprisonment for “organizing illegal groups” and “propaganda on behalf of groups that are opposed to the Islamic system”. The other Baha’is in the group received a one year suspended sentence provided that they participated in a three year Islamic indoctrination course.
Below is a summary of a letter written by Roya, the sister of Sasan Taqva, one of the three individuals now serving a four year sentence. Haleh Houshmandi, whose name is mentioned in the letter, is among those with a suspended sentence. On March 15, 2009, while Haleh and her husband were on a trip, their home was raided by officers of the Ministry of Intelligence. She was summoned to appear at a detention facility run by the Ministry of Intelligence upon her return to Shiraz. She has been detained since March 18, (see http://www.iranpresswatch.org/2009/03/arrested-shiraz/). When Babak, her husband, inquired about the charges against Haleh, he was told: “Your wife is a Baha’i and for now that is sufficient reason for her arrest”.
A Letter to My Brother Sasan
By Roya Taqva
To my dear brother Sasan,
It is only a few hours until the start of a new year, Naw-Ruz, and again you are not with us this year. As I write, I am remembering what our father said a few days ago. He sighed and said, “I wish every day of the week was Tuesday (visiting day at the prison), and that the visiting hour would last a long time”.
My dear brother: where in the world is teaching moral values to children and helping them with their school assignments a crime?
God, you know how hard it is to wait for the end of a jail term. You know how this waiting turns hair grey and consumes hearts. Please turn our family’s sorrow into ease. God, we are proud of the acts of service of my brother and the rest of the group. However, they are paying a great price for standing strong and serving underprivileged children. God, you hear the cries and laments of my parents. You know that waiting in sorrow has been their nightly food and sustenance.
Dad, every time I see tears running down your face in the privacy of your home, and see you strong like a mountain in public, I feel very proud to have been born into this family.
Mom, every night that I hear you cry while I am lying in my bed, I raise my hands to the heavens and ask God to turn the darkness of night into the dawn of tranquility.
My dear sister, you live far away, but I know how the absence of our brother has consumed your entire being.
My dear brother, the heart of your little sister, Roya, is full of sorrow. For seventeen months, her dear brother and friend has been the subject of her writing.
My dear brother, this New Year again you are not with us. When our mother placed your picture near to us at the time of the New Year, seeing her sad face and noticing the lump in her throat could have melted stone.
Those souls treading the path of love and unity have been entrapped by the forces of darkness, but God, I know the ocean of your bounty is surging. I am able to bear the hardships surrounding us because I wholly trust in your wisdom. I am certain that we have a bright future ahead of us. The day will come when this group of young adults, now suffering for their acts of service, will lay brick on brick and build a new world, which will be given as a gift to Iran and the world. It is as clear to me as is the existence of the sun in the sky that these imprisonments will bring hope for a glorious future.
You know Sasan, this year Babak and his son are alone too. Haleh Houshmandi is not with them. She is celebrating the New Year in prison, while her Lord watches over her. Before she was taken away, Haleh had been like a dear child for our parents in your absence.
[Translation by Iran Press Watch.]
April 18, 2009 2:53 pm
It is hard to comment on what has so eloquently been described. My prayers are with you.