[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:] Asre Nou
[Date:] 5 Mordad 1392 [27 July 2013]
My Three Baha’i Compatriots: Artin, Jiena And Their Grandmother
In the last one or two weeks, as news of the planned and incessant persecution of Baha’i compatriots in Iran, infected with political Islam, continues unabated, two completely different news items about Baha’is have been circulating, which have occupied my mind. One is about Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s participation in the Jerusalem Film Festival with his new film “The Gardener”, and the other is the report of Mohammad Nourizad’s visit to Artin, a Baha’i child, at his grandmother’s house in Tehran.
What made me write this note is not these two news items, but a shocking letter Mr. Kamran Rahimian, Artin’s father, wrote to Mohammad Nourizad, which was made available to the Rah-e Digar website. Since some Persian-language radio and television stations abroad, as well as many friends, had asked me for my opinion on the two news items, I will answer them all in this note.
I have not yet seen “The Gardener”, except for a few short scenes, but I admire Makhmalbaf’s work in making a film about my Baha’i compatriots. We Iranian artists, from writers and poets to filmmakers, painters and screenplay writers, have failed our Baha’i fellow countrymen, and no matter how hard we try to make it up to them, it is not enough.
It is not only the Islamic organizations or the Shiite clergy who are responsible for the persistence of the negative mentality among the non-Baha’i Iranians, but the silence and disregard of the intellectuals of the Iranian society in this particular case have played a decisive role. Artists may never be able to prevent a government like the Islamic Republic of Iran from violating the rights of the Baha’is, but they [artists] can certainly erase from the [people’s] minds the negative perceptions the Iranian people have of the Baha’is.
Following this belief, I consider both Makhmalbaf’s film and Nourizad’s symbolic action as positive steps in this direction. I have seen that sometimes my name is mentioned in the articles related to these two events. To a Baha’i friend, who has read the [articles] and mentioned my name and the film “Iranian Taboo”, I wrote the following response:
“For making this film, I have been rewarded with a tranquil conscience for a long time. On the eve of my seventies, I will say with courage and with the least hesitation, that, so far, I have made no other film which has helped me gain so much satisfaction and contentment.”
I considered it necessary to repeat this private answer in a public place like this note, in order to send a message, especially to the young generation of Iranian artists, at home or abroad, that no reward is more valuable than the peace of the artist’s conscience and no artist can be at peace without love for human beings in all their forms and colors; yet, I would like to answer the question that has been asked of me many times in this regard: “I consider participating in the Jerusalem Film Festival―like participating in any other film festival―to be the right of every filmmaker.” If I want to speak my heart, I am surprised at all of these controversies raised by the opponents and the supporters! I once wrote in response to a quote from someone I do not know that extremism has become a national trait among us Iranians. Everywhere people build their houses on four columns, but we Iranians either build on “forty columns” or on “no columns”!
The degree of exaggerated opinions expressed by the proponents and the opponents in the letters published about the film-maker’s participation or non-participation in a festival is no different from building “forty columns” and “no columns”.
I drifted away from the painful and extremely humanitarian letter sent by Kamran Rahimian from Rajaei-Shahr Prison to Nourizad. He wrote,
“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 had been confiscated and later turned into the Khavaran Cultural Center.
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].”
After this shocking short highlight, Kamran Rahimian paints a more shocking picture of his family. His wife, who, like him, was imprisoned for the “crime” of teaching Baha’i students, is in prison. In his own words, their shrunken family now has no more than three members; his mother, the widow of an executed [Baha’i], now has custody of her two unprotected grandchildren. One is Artin, whose parents are imprisoned, and the other one is [13 years old Jiena who experienced the simultaneous arrest of her parents in 1383 [2004/2005] and now her father is in prison and her mother in heaven.]
I ask myself: Among all these creative Iranian playwrights, can no one be found who can bring the life of an old woman like this grandmother and her grandchildren to paper and onto the stage?
Each paragraph of Kamran Rahimian’s letter needs to be re-read several times, but I conclude this note with respect to him and his deep understanding of the concepts of peace, justice and freedom:
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.”