Behrouz Tavakkoli – A Profile in Courage



By Naeim Tavakkoli

Editor’s Note: Iran Press Watch is pleased to share the following profile of Behrouz Tavakkoli outlined by his son, Naeim.  Mr. Tavakkoli is one of the seven members of the national body responsible for coordinating activities of the Baha’is of Iran, known as Yaran [Friends].  One of the members of this group was arrested in March 2008, and the remaining members were abducted last May.  To this day, they have not been charged with any wrongdoing, nor have they been provided access to their lawyer, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace laureate.

I am pleased to say a few words about my father.  Behrouz Tavakkoli was born in 1951 in a small town, two hours distant from Mashhad, the capital of Khurasan.

He grew up in that area, and at an early age developed an interest in photography.  I remember in my childhood having found his “darkroom” in my grandparents’ old house.  He also played volleyball and used to run.  Eventually he entered university, where he studied psychology and received his degree at 23.  He then joined the military service and served in the army as a lieutenant for two years.

While in the service and stationed in Mashhad, my father married my mother, Tahirih Tooski.  From this union, they had two sons:  I am the eldest at 31 and my younger brother, Nabil is now 24 years old.  My father was about 26 when he left completed his military sevice – mandatory for all Iranian men – and resumed his profession by participating in further advanced study so that he could serve as a social worker in rehabilitation centers.  Soon afterwards they moved to Sari, a pleasant town in northern Iran and close to the Caspian Sea.  His life passion was helping people through social work and providing a means for rehabilitation.  His job as a specialist was to provide technical support for organizations that took care of mentally and physically handicapped patients.  To this day, he often talks about his work in the 1970s, prior to the Islamic Revolution, when he served as a social worker.  It appears that it was the happiest time of his life.

Some time later, we returned to Mashhad and for some 13 years we lived in Gonbad, a smaller city close to the Turkmenistan border.  During the last 9 years, my family has lived in Tehran where he has been able to serve the community and people.  In fact, to my knowledge, all the Yaran lived or moved to Tehran, or somewhere close by, so they could be more effective in their service to the community.

After the Revolution, as with all other Baha’is in Iran, he was fired from his job on account of his religion.

My father was an active Baha’i all his life.  When he turned 15, he began participating in the Baha’i youth association institute, which served the youth of the community from the age of 15.  He served for a long time in this institute.

In either the late 60s or early 70s, he was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly while he was a university student in Mashhad.  He served in that capacity until he moved to Sari, where he was once again appointed to serve in the youth institute.  However, within a couple of years he was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of that town.

With the emergence of the Revolution and persecutions engulfing the Baha’is of Iran, he was soon appointed an Auxiliary Board member, and served in that office until 1982-3 when our family returned to Mashhad.  Because of the pressure of harassment and the constant attacks of the enemies, we lived in seclusion for the next four years, and no one knew of our whereabouts except my uncle and aunt.  We often lived in hiding, and got good at becoming “invisible”.

Once the intensity of persecution had lessened to some degree, our family moved to Gonbad – a small town of relatively humble circumstances. My father started a series of Baha’i studies classes for youth and adults.  During these years, he developed a millwork carpentry shop, so he could earn a living.  He continued with that work in Gonbad.

It was in the late 1980s that he was asked to serve on Yaran group, a service that he continued for the next 19 or 20 years until his arrest last May.  The first 10 years of this service was in Gonbad and the rest in Tehran.

Before this arrest, he had been detained every so often, but typically just for a couple of days.  However, three years ago, while he was taking a bus to visit Baha’i communities in Khurasan as a part of his service for the Ruhi training institute, he was arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.  This arrest was sudden, and we did not have news of him or know his whereabouts for some 10 days.  At the same time, Fariba Kamalabadi (another member of the Yaran group) was arrested with him.  Eventually, they released Fariba after about two months, and my father after four months of incarceration.  They had spent most of their time in solitary confinement with no charges against them.  After that imprisonment, my father developed serious kidney and orthotic problems.

When he returned to Tehran, in addition to his services as a member of the Yaran, he resumed his teaching of Baha’i classes for various age groups, which were different from the earlier Baha’i studies classes.  In recent years he would teach “teaching methods for training of children” and “family consultation skills”. In addition, he used to teach courses for BIHE (Baha’i institute for Higher Education) in the Psychology Department.

He is an ordinary person propelled to do extraordinary things.  When he was called upon to serve as a member of Yaran, he gave up every thing else so he could devote himself fully to that service.  This included permanently giving up his occupation, which he had been engaged in while in Gonbad.

My father is not an unusually brave man, or gifted with exceptional talents, nor does he possess the ability to learn faster than others.  But when it comes to serving the Faith, he fears nothing – absolutely nothing.  And I also remember him intensely studying the Faith all the time in order to have deeper knowledge of its teachings and to learn better ways to share its healing message with those around him, or gain insights about new techniques and methods of managing the Baha’i community.

Once I remarked that Baha’u’llah had admonished us to moderation in all things.  My father responded, “But you have to define moderation for yourself in relation to the Faith’s priorities.”

When it came to service, my father knew no moderation.  Every single day of the week, for 18 hours a day, he was engaged in the most intense work of the Cause.  I remember him as a tall, slim, pleasant looking young man.  I don’t know when he became an old, ill man.  May God watch over him in prison.


12 Responses

  1. Nasser

    February 2, 2009 12:27 am

    “Verily, with exceeding joy, with heart and soul, do these oppressed of Thine offer themselves up for all mankind in every land.”

    From the following prayer by Abdu’l-Bahá —Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, 218.10–218.18

    O my Lord, my Defender, my Help in Peril! Lowly do I entreat Thee, ailing do I come unto Thee to be healed, humbly do I cry out to Thee with my tongue, my soul, my spirit:

    O God, my God! The gloom of night hath shrouded every region, and all the earth is shut away behind thick clouds. The peoples of the world are sunk in the black depths of vain illusions, while their tyrants wallow in cruelty and hate. I see nothing but the glare of searing fires that blaze upward from the nethermost abyss, I hear nothing save the thunderous roar that belloweth out from thousands upon thousands of fiery weapons of assault, while every land is crying aloud in its secret tongue: “My riches avail me nothing, and my sovereignty hath perished!”

    O my Lord, the lamps of guidance have gone out. The flames of passion are mounting high, and malevolence is ever gaining on the world. Malice and hate have overspread the face of the whole earth, and I find no souls except Thine own oppressed small band who are raising up this cry:

    Make haste to love! Make haste to trust! Make haste to give! To guidance come!

    Come ye for harmony! To behold the Star of Day! Come here for kindliness, for ease! Come here for amity and peace!

    Come and cast down your weapons of wrath, till unity is won! Come and in the Lord’s true path each one help each one.

    Verily, with exceeding joy, with heart and soul, do these oppressed of Thine offer themselves up for all mankind in every land. Thou seest them, O my Lord, weeping over the tears Thy people shed, mourning the grief of Thy children, condoling with humankind, suffering because of the calamities that beset all the denizens of the earth.

    O my Lord, wing them with victory that they may soar upward to salvation, strengthen their loins in service to Thy people, and their backs in servitude to Thy Threshold of Holiness.

    Verily Thou art the Generous, verily Thou art the Merciful! There is none other God save Thee, the Clement, the Pitiful, the Ancient of Days!

    —Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, 218.10–218.18

  2. Akhtar

    February 2, 2009 1:01 am

    Naem-i aziz,

    Thanks for sharing the story of the life of a man who has been born to serve. Let’s hope we’ll see the day that he, Farbiba, Said, Mahvash and the rest of the Yaran come out of prison, and we’ll learn from their courage, decidation and sacrifice.

  3. Loie M. Mead

    February 2, 2009 6:54 am

    I offer my prayers for assistance to Behrouz Tavakkoli and his family. I say the prayer that was given us in Portland, Oregon and I repeat it 9 times. I deplore the shameful acts of the Iranian regime as it attempts to extinguish the Light of God for this age. How does this regime expect to ever achieve the qualifications for real governance in the world of nations? The detention of Mr. Tavakkoli and the Friends is outrageous and the world knows it. What an irretractable condemnation it will become if the Iranian regime fails to reckon with its current crimes against the Baha’is it has falsely arrested and detained!

  4. Julie Swan

    February 2, 2009 12:57 pm

    Thank you to IranPressWatch and Naeim Tavakkoli for this profile. Behrouz Tavakkoli’s soul is protected by prayers and blessings because of his love of God/Allah, God’s love of him, and the support of Yaran in every country of the world. His service will be remembered by Yaran for all time in this glorious age. May his wife and sons be comforted. The more fierce the opposition of the Yaran, the more God’s Message for this age is spread among His people. “Say God sufficeth unto me; He is the One Who holdeth in His grasp the kingdom of all things.”

  5. S.

    February 2, 2009 2:15 pm

    I am struck by the simple beauty of this man’s life which no amount of harrassment or ill treatment can daunt and I admire the tribute given here by his son. What a hero for us to look to as we engage ourselves in acts of service. We are saying prayers for Mr. Tavakkoli and all Baha’i prisoners of Iran in Alexandria, VA.

  6. Bill

    February 2, 2009 3:43 pm

    I know members of Mr. Tavakkoli’s extended family in the U.S. the entire family serves the Faith. Mr. Tavakkoli’s brother spent some two decades in Iran serving the Faith and caring for the Baha’is while his wife and children lived in the U.S. These Baha’is serve in ways that the Western Baha’is cannot imagine.

  7. Soheila H

    February 2, 2009 7:52 pm

    I’ve known Mr. Tavakoli, Tahereh khanom and Nabil from the old good days of back home. His spirituality, kind manner and gentle attitude, his detachment and dedication has always been appreciated. My son Shayan and Nabil were friends and classmates in high school and I used to go to their home every now and then. The artistic job that Mr. Tavakoli had done in carpentry was remarkably great! He was always smiling and talking with a gentle voice. I remember him and his dear Family in my daily prayers and hope that may God refresh and gladden their spirits.

  8. Amoo

    February 3, 2009 6:18 am

    A very nice read, it reminds me of when my father was serving as a member of NSA in Iran in early 1980 before he and his colleagues were kidnapped and ….
    These people are walking on another planet, breathing another air, ….. though they look like an ordinary person.
    Well that’s what happens when Baha’ullah touches one’s heart.
    May all Yaran and freinds in Iran be safe and free.
    Ya Baha’ullah.

  9. Tahereh

    February 3, 2009 1:16 pm

    I’m praying for all of us wherever we are, to take courage and example from our brothers and sisters in Iran and keep tirelessly and fearlessly to teach the Cause, spread the Glad Tidings and Serve humanity like they do every day!

  10. Behrooz

    February 4, 2009 11:02 pm

    Behrouz was a happy young man and yet a very serious person in his services to the Faith. Those days In Mashahad there were many active Bhah’i youths and Behrouz was one of them, but he was distinguished by his presence in all most every committee and study circle, in short he was a perfectionist. Now after laps of many years I hear of his dedication and courage of his patience under the test and the words of Baha’u’llah in Tablet of Ahmad come to live…” Be so steadfast in my love that thy heart shall not waver even if the sowrds of the enemies rain blow upon thee and all the heaven and the earth arise aginst thee.”


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