The Iranian people Struggle to Build a New Identity.

by keyvan

In a most articulatelecture called “The Baha’i Community, Human Rights, and the Construction of a New Iranian Identity
on February 24, 2010 In Chicago, Dr. Payam Akhavan sheds light on one of the most puzzling contemporary issues raised by the Iranian community.

In this lecture Dr. Ahavan addresses some key questions raised by some Iranians such as: Who is an Iranian and what makes a good Iranian, a good citizen or bad Iranians? Who deserve to be put into prison and subject to violations of their human rights.

bellow you will read some highlights of the talk. You may also read the entire talk by visiting the site.

…In Iran, we are witnessing a struggle far greater than a mere political contest between different presidential candidates. We are witnessing a struggle for the soul of the nation; a struggle to build a new identity for the Iranian people. The encounter between the protestors and their tormentors is an encounter between the dark past and the bright future. It is an encounter between violence and non-violence, between the courage of those that are willing to sacrifice their lives for justice, and the cowardice of those that savagely beat and murder the defenseless. It is an encounter between the best and worst potentials inherent in humankind…

For the people of Iran, democracy and human rights are not intellectual abstractions. Freedom and tolerance are not about idle theological disputes. For them, these are existential needs in the face of a daily onslaught of violence, deception, corruption, and hatred. For them, these demands go to the very meaning of what it means to be Iranian and what it means to be a human being. What they seek simply is an Iranian nation where every citizen enjoys fundamental human rights…

The denial of human rights is not only the problem of its direct victims. It is an assault on our common humanness. Nowhere is this more apparent than laws and policies that make a particular status or belief a crime. In this light, what makes the persecution of Baha’is important is not just the Baha’is themselves. When the Constitution and leaders of the Islamic Republic proclaim that citizens of Iran can be denied the right to education and lawful marriage, dispossessed of their sacred sites, cemeteries, personal property and livelihood, arrested, tortured, and murdered, and subject to slander and hate propaganda, merely because of their religion, this is a crime not just against the Baha’is, but also a crime against the Iranian people, and a crime against humanity.

Our identity is not to be found in blind imitation of outward pretensions of religious piety. Our identity is a reflection of the moral choices that we make in today’s world and our willingness to embrace both our self and the other in a common home. Our identity is a social construction, our nation an imagined community, a shared cultural space in which the lives of our people are intertwined in a mutual search for meaning, prosperity, and progress. Our identity is not fixed in time or place. It is fluid, complex, and constantly evolving. But we have a fundamental choice. And that choice is whether we define our self through hatred or humanity…

In 1987, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran reported that the persecution of Baha’is included “torture, arbitrary imprisonment, denial of education and employment, arbitrary seizure of homes and possessions, confiscation of community assets, and seizure, desecration and destruction of holy places.” As “unprotected infidels”, Baha’is were legal non-persons and denied redress through the courts. For instance, on 21 September 1993, the court in the city of Shahr-e Rey failed to impose a penalty on two killers because the murdered man was, in the language of the verdict, “a member of the misled and misleading sect of Baha’ism.” This amounts to judicial approval of murder based solely on the religious beliefs of the victim. A more fundamental negation of human rights cannot be imagined…

The emancipation of the Baha’is is also about the emancipation of Iran. It is about emancipation from hatred, ignorance, and violence. It is about building a future in which a divided and backward looking Iran is transformed into a nation that unites its diverse peoples under the banner of human dignity and true civilization and reclaims its place as a leader among nations; an Iran in which the measure of patriotism will be compassion and respect for the rights of all Iranian citizens. At long last, that day is within our reach. But a long and tortuous road lays ahead, and each and every one of us must arise in solidarity with the Iranian people, to struggle for a common justice, and to contribute his share at this unique moment in the history of our beloved home.

Source: Gozaar, A Forum on Human Rights and Democracy in Iran

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