[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[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:] Rah-e Digar
[Date:] 2 Mordad 1392 [24 July 2013]
Letter From Artin’s Father to Mohammad Nourizad From Rajaei-Shahr Prison
I Thank You for Kissing the Pure Soul of a Human Being
Recently, Mohammad Nourizad published the account of his visit with Artin—the four-year-old child of Kamran Rahimian, and Faran Hesami, professors at the Baha’i online university, both of whom are in prison for the crime of being Baha’is—and kissing his feet, in defence of the rights of religious minorities and Baha’is. However, this event raised many criticisms.
Although in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic and its Articles 20 and 23, the civil rights of the citizens, as well as the freedom of belief and expression, have been emphasized, for many years, the ruling regime in Iran has persecuted Baha’is for having another religion and prevented the Baha’i community from performing [its] religious duties and any activity, and so far has arrested and imprisoned many Baha’is with heavy sentences.
Mohammad Nourizad has described his visit with Artin: “In that small house, although his parents were missing, more than anyone else, our leader, the prominent authorities, spiritual and non-spiritual officials were missed. I apologized to Artin, instead of everyone who was not there. I told him, ‘Dear Artin, do not worry if both your parents are in prison simultaneously for no reason! …Thanks to Ali Morteza [title of Imam Ali, means “selected and exalted], He Himself will take care of you and will defend your rights against the law [legal system] that has become humorous in this land, and [He] will shower His blessings upon you.’
‘If, during these days, your parents are in prison for no reason, our prominent and renowned authorities are here and they will show you that “In the divine lexicon, people are not eliminated because of their beliefs”’.
“I said to Artin: ‘My son, I apologize to you on behalf of those who have persecuted you and all your fellow believers during these Islamic years.’ I told him, ‘When the Pope, the leader of the Catholics of the world, bowed down, washed and kissed the feet of a sinful Muslim girl, why should I not kiss your small and heavenly feet, on behalf of the elaborate apparatus of the world Muslim leader and the Shiite authorities?’”
After this meeting, Artin’s father, Kamran Rahimian, wrote a letter from Rajaei-Shahr Prison to Mohammad Nourizad, describing his actions as an attempt to materialize values such as respect, love, justice, solidarity, responsibility, equality, awareness and empathy. He added, “Peace means the acceptance of pluralism and harmony between diversities, for achieving one purpose, and that is the welfare and happiness of all. Justice means the opportunity for everyone to turn all their potential into action. Freedom means the capacity and ability of human beings to grow, transform and be ready to change in the direction of human values, regardless of their distinguishing features, such as ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, religion and education… and by mankind [I] mean, all human beings are created in the image of the Divine, and to the extent of His whole creation.”
The Text of the Letter
We can read together the complete text of the letter of Kamran Rahimian to Mohammad Nourizad that was sent to Rah-e Digar [below].
Mr. Nourizad! I write to you from the Rajaei-Shahr Prison. I have been in prison for about two years. I have not even had a day of leave. I have had only two visits with my wife; for more than two years, I have had the opportunity to visit my child once every two weeks.
Mr. Nourizad! I am the one who was once ridiculed in the year 1360 [1981/1982] at the age of twelve in the educational affairs classroom, because of the accusation that Baha’is marry their immediate relatives. In the same year, I was barred from going to visit the grave of my grandmother, who had died the year before, because her burial place was confiscated and later turned into the Khavaran Cultural Centre.
I am the one whose father was arrested when I was fourteen, in 1362 [1983/1984]; after eleven months in prison, he was executed without saying goodbye to us and was buried in Khavaran without our knowledge. Before that, we were evicted from our confiscated residential house and property with just a suitcase containing the clothes of my mother, brother, and myself, plus my textbooks. I am the one who could not attend the National University Entrance Exam of the year 1366 [1987/1988].
Mr. Nourizad! I am Kamran Rahimian, the father of the four-year-old Artin, whom you visited in our home with our small family, which has now been reduced to only three members. Each member belongs to a different family: my mother, whose husband was taken away nearly thirty years ago by execution, and the suffering of all this time weighs heavily on her shoulders; her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Jiena, who has experienced the imprisonment of her parents, and now her father is in the prison and her mother in heaven; and my mother’s other grandchild, Artin, whose parents are still in the prison.
My desire to be heard and the opportunity to express myself increased with what you wrote. I appreciate you, with full satisfaction and affection. At the same time, I think that you consciously and deliberately exposed yourself to hearing the pain of my family.
Mr. Nourizad! I heard from your words that you apologized, and I considered it a desire for acceptance and understanding. You kissed Artin’s feet, and I take it as a symbol of respect and love. You considered that many are missed from our home and I perceived it as your desire for accepting responsibility. I heard your hope for protection and justice for Artin’s parents, and you drank water in our house, and I interpreted these as symbols of acceptance and equality, and by your mentioning the prophetic hadith [Prophet’s tradition], I inferred your respect and importance for consciousness.
Mr. Nourizad! I perceived your action as an attempt to materialize values such as respect, love, justice, solidarity, responsibility, equality, awareness and empathy, and I try to express my gratitude to you in my own words. I also express my hope for solidarity as a way to build a peaceful world with justice and freedom for all human beings.
By peace I mean the acceptance of pluralism and harmony between diversities, for achieving one purpose, and that is the welfare and happiness of all. By justice I mean opportunity for everyone to realize their potentials into action. By freedom I mean the capacity and ability of human beings to grow, transform and be ready to change in the direction of human values, regardless of their distinguishing features, such as ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, religion and education… and by mankind [I] mean all human beings are created in the image of the Divine and to the extent of His whole creation.”
At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to express a few wishes and say:
Mr. Nourizad! You called Artin a “Baha’i child”. I wish that all children, regardless of their family and religious beliefs, would be raised and have the opportunity to learn and acquire knowledge, and in order to discover the truth, consciously choose their beliefs, and act so that their actions reflect their belief.
Mr. Nourizad! You knelt in front of Artin and kissed his feet. I perceived this act as the expression of love and respect not only for Artin, but for the pure souls of humankind. At the same time, I wish that no human being would kneel in shame in front of another human being. Since I consider that the respect for any human being is due to their human soul, that is exactly what we all have in common. The dignity and respect of both parties are equally important and valuable.
Mr. Nourizad! You asked Artin to spit on you and slap you. I perceived this request of you as an attempt to reduce Artin’s pain and the height of your honesty and acceptance of responsibility. At the same time, I wish that no human being, as the temple of the human soul, which manifests the divine spirit, would be exposed to this experience.
Mr. Nourizad! I believe that any patient needs healing, and healing is sometimes a lengthy process. I also believe that this cycle will continue, if an individual’s healing results in another one’s pain. So, I wish we would all try to break the cycle of violence, and this will not happen except through my efforts, yours and the efforts of all the people of Iran. It requires the process of self-forgiveness and forgiving others that can be achieved through awareness and acceptance of responsibility. This is an idea that I have tried hard to materialize during my seven years of psychological work.
Mr. Nourizad! You asked questions from Artin, and I guess your intention was to find words to express Artin’s possible feelings and perhaps a hint of responsibility towards others. I wish that Artin and all of us would consider respect as a necessary condition for any relationship and accept that there are differences of opinion, differences of belief and even mental conflicts of interest, and none of them is a licence for disrespect or its necessity. So I wish we could learn to express our opinions honestly and with ultimate respect.
Mr. Nourizad! I believe that, if we could stay connected to the human spirit of another person at any time, regardless of what one says or does, we could take the possibility of violence away from ourselves. This is the first step towards building the world we dream of. I believe you walk in this path, and your sitting in front of Artin and my mother is the manifestation of your walking in this path. So please accept my appreciation.
Mr. Nourizad! In conclusion, I would like to express my respect and gratitude once again and emphasize that if anyone hears from my words anything besides appreciation and the expression of my desire, it is a sign of my inability to express what is going on inside me and it reminds me of the need to learn and practice more. As Gandhi said, “Let us be the change we seek in the world”.
27 Tir 1392 [18 July 2013]