[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]


[Adapted from website:] Iran Wire

[Date:] 26 October 2015


I am Taraneh; I have an imprisoned mother

Parastou Fatemi

Born in 1341 [1962], she has been behind bars for seven-and-a-half years, without a single day off, from Ordibehesht 1387 [May 2008] until today. She is a Baha’i and one of the national administrators of the Baha’i Assembly in Iran.

Fariba Kamalabadi was active in the Group of Friends of Iran, along with six other members and co-religionists, all of whom were active in connection with the marriages, deaths, etc. of the Baha’is living in Iran. Now the entire seven members are in prison and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

This was not Fariba Kamalabadi’s first experience of being arrested in Iran; she had been arrested twice before in 1384 [2005]. The first time, she was imprisoned for a short duration of 34 days and the next time for 56 days, and finally, after her arrest in 1387 [2008], she received her final judgment.

For years, Baha’is have been facing widespread discrimination, including being barred from attending public schools and universities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. For this reason, the Baha’i community formed an independent university to enable its members to study. Fariba Kamalabadi is a graduate of this university. She received her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s degree in [developmental] psychology from this same university, but never had the same opportunity to work as other sectors of society.

Years ago, she married Ruhollah Taefi. The result of this marriage was three children. Today, only their youngest daughter, Taraneh, lives in Iran. Taraneh said, “When my mother was arrested, I was only 13 years old and have been living without seeing her and in her absence for years, and this is not a pain that anyone can easily understand. We have been alone for years.”

Taraneh has also faced problems in recent years, such as being banned from studying at public universities. “Of course, I participated in the national university entrance examination; they even officially announced my rank. But when I had to choose the field [of my study], I faced the problem of ‘Incomplete File’, which was due to our personal and family religious beliefs.”

Like her mother, Taraneh is not discouraged from continuing her education and is currently studying civil engineering at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education. She considers this further education a challenge. “I have not seen my mother at home with me for a long time. But starting my studies at online university reminded me that my mother had taken the same path to get closer to her ideals. I tell myself that this is where she studied, got her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s degree. I live with her every day.”

Taraneh talks about the nostalgia and hardships due to her mother’s absence. “It’s not easy to talk about it, but it is easy to hear about it. This loneliness has plagued me since I was 13, and I have even forgotten many of the everyday memories we had together over time. The horror of this loneliness and remembering the difficulties, is always with me.”

She gets a chance to meet her mother between one to four times a month, depending on the prison administration’s permission, which is usually a regular weekly cabin visit and only once monthly a face-to-face meeting. In these few monthly meetings, there is yet so little opportunity in such a short meeting that it is not possible to describe everyday events. “There are always problems and lack of time for face-to-face and cabin meetings, but we have to get used to this situation; there is no other solution. My mother has not left the prison for seven-and-a-half years now, even for one day. Sometimes when I put myself in her place, I see that her strength is far greater than that of an ordinary woman.”

Taraneh carries a constant pain within herself after all these years. “For every girl the mother is always one of the best counsellors in life. I have never, in these most important years of my life, had the opportunity to consult with my mother about all the issues that girls prefer to discuss with their mother.”

Taraneh’s brother got married outside of Iran, just a week before his mother was last arrested. He was deprived of the presence of his mother and father in attending his wedding, due to their travel ban. For years, he had struggled with even a simple telephone conversation with his mother in prison, to the point where they were sometimes denied access for several months.

Taraneh says, “Sometimes I have to give my brother’s simple messages to my mother during the cabin meetings, to the point where I can only say our brother is fine.”

Taraneh’s older sister became pregnant during these days. Fariba Kamalabadi was not allowed to call her daughter in those days, not even on the day of delivery. The day after her grandchild was born, she was told that she would not even be allowed to have contact with her daughter. She was again denied the visit, when her daughter came to Iran with her child shortly after giving birth, for her mother to see her newborn in prison.

Taraneh said, “Usually, they allow prisoners who have relatives abroad to make a call once a month. Of course, my mother says that in recent months, behaviours have apparently changed for the better.”

Fariba Kamalabadi still has 12-and-a-half years left on her sentence, which means Taraneh will be 33 years old when her mother is released from behind bars.