Human Rights Support in Iran Concert, Part one from Keyvan Geula on Vimeo.
The magic of music especially watching a quartet is about the harmony. As I was watching the magic of harmony, I was wondering about the amount of time, effort and discipline it has taken for the four musician to be able to produce a harmonious magical production that lifts ones soul up to the heavens.
Why do we think that harmony amongst people in the family, in the nations and in the world can happen without instruction, practice, discipline, commitment and knowledge?
The issue of violations of human rights will not be resolved unless we teach our children the principles of oneness and the way of living in harmony with diverse people. Harmony does appreciate diversity but cannot tolerate hatred, cruelty, and violence.
The magic of the concert was magnetic. Every single soul in that room was listening in harmony to the harmony and the faces wee beaming with joy and delight. The diversity of people created a flower garden of humanity. Everyone gathered in harmony and support of human rights for all.
Please, take the time to listen or to read my words… My name is Rosa and I have lived in Australia as a Baha’i refugee for 11 years. This is not a beautiful story but it is part of history, history that not many know or perhaps many don’t want to know, but it needs to be acknowledged. I am urgently trying to bring to your attention the increasingly desperate plight of Baha’is and other innocent people in Iran; the innocent people, our friends, who are behind bars in the prisons of Iran, some of them with chains around their ankles walking to the court like criminals. I don’t think that many of us can relate to their sad situation and yet it could be you or it could be me. I am a Baha’i so it could be me…indeed, one day they did take me from my home and threw me into prison. We need to help and support each other otherwise one day maybe this will happen to you, regardless of what you believe or where you live. I believe if we don’t act upon injustice, and wait until it is too late, ultimately all our lives will be affected.
The experiences endured by my family and me over the years may serve to reflect the experiences of the whole Baha’i community in Iran. As many people may know the Baha’i Faith is an independent religion, separate from Islam. It was born in an Islamic context just as Christianity arose in a Jewish context, but they are separate religions. The purpose of the Baha’i Faith is to unite all the races and peoples in the world. The Baha’i Faith is about world peace and harmony, the oneness of humanity, the equality of women and men, respect and education for all and the elimination of prejudice … and its followers can’t have any involvement with partisan political issues…
Before the revolution my father worked in the courts. After the revolution he was forced to retire. Later the government stopped his retirement benefits and demanded repayment of salaries already paid. My mother’s shop was seized along with her inheritance, my sisters and I were not allowed to continue our studies at university and we were forced to leave our home.
They turned the general population against Baha’i people; I still remember, as a young girl, how my classmates beat me in the street. They took our freedom and the best time of our lives which we longed to enjoy like all other young people in the world. Most importantly, they took from us the right to have a normal life with our families, they took away the future and, ultimately, they took our country from us.
Seared into my mind is one day in 1986. I was in a public taxi when one of the passengers began criticising different religions. Everyone agreed with him and I only said: “I am a Baha’i and we must love all people and respect everyone.”
The driver suddenly stopped the taxi and, sending everyone but me out, made a quick phone call and within five minutes our taxi was blockaded by several patrol cars, and a number of women, their faces covered, jumped from the cars and ran towards me. Before I could say anything, they blindfolded me and dragged me into one of the patrol cars which moved off. When the car stopped I heard the heart-rending sound of an iron roller door being raised and the car moved on as though it was travelling down a long tunnel. It stopped and the woman on my right took hold of my hand with a piece of cloth (refusing to have contact with me because of my Faith) and began to pull me out of the car. Suddenly the woman on my left pushed me violently and I was hurled from the car. Pain spread through my body. I brought my knees to my head and covered them with my arms and hands. I asked: “Why are you doing this to me?” They said: “Shut up. You are an infidel. You are unclean.”
Then they dragged me along the ground to some stairs. My body bumped up and down on the stairs until we arrived in a room. I heard the sound of a door closing and I hoped they had left me alone and nobody was there. I opened my eyes and began to move my arms when suddenly they struck me with their hands and kicked me. I begged them to stop. Again they said: “Shut up, infidel. We must root out all Baha’is from the earth. You are an infidel, your blood is impure and doing anything to an infidel is Halal.”
Suddenly, the world went black and I lost consciousness… When I opened my eyes I was in a small, wet, dark, isolation cell with an iron door and no window. Alone, I felt pain in every part of my body and I smelled of blood. I was very hungry and thirsty. There was no bed or blanket. My voice was suffocated in my throat; I was unable to utter a sound, not even to cry. I heard the voices of other women and girls who screamed out and asked for help,… there was not any hope… The authorities were happy and proud to humiliate us in front of the others…and I felt totally powerless and abandoned. Our tortures never satisfied them. I wished I was invisible. It took me some time to learn how I could live in my dark room and spend my time and help myself and others to survive. And this brutal incarceration was to continue for a very long time. I am sure it is difficult for you to understand what it is like to live in such a situation.
It was the worst experience of my life.
In 1997, I left my country in a vain attempted to escape those horrific memories of life in prison which still haunt me every day and night of my life. The Iranian authorities not only persecuted me in Iran but also drove me out of my country and closed the door – I was never allowed to return and I became homeless in strange countries. It took a long time to find myself, to overcome my anger and to look around me to see what I could do. Life was not easy in this foreign country without knowing the language and without money. Even so, after all that has been done to me, my family and others, I cannot hate the persecutors. But I abhor the madness of their actions.
To continue the story in Iran; in 2005 they arrested my sister, Rozita Vasseghi, and 8 other Baha’is in Mashhad, Iran, and detained them in solitary confinement in a Ministry of Intelligence detention centre. The authorities demanded bail of around 500,000,000 Rials (nearly $ 50,000) while they awaited their court hearing. My mother put her house up for bail and Rozita was later temporarily released from prison. During this period the authorities went many times to their house and confiscated many things belonging to my sister. My mother, who is in her seventies, had to witness this persecution.
In January 2010 in Mashhad, they summoned Rozita and eight other Baha’is and read to them their court decision, refusing to allow them to have copies. They all received 5 year jail sentences and were forbidden to leave the country for 10 years. They were given 21 days to appeal to the court against charges of “teaching against the regime, taking action against national security, teaching the Baha’i Faith, and insulting religious sanctities”. All appealed their sentences.
On March 15th 2010 when Rozita’s case was still under appeal, the authorities went to my mother’s house again, confiscated more of Rozita’s belongings and took her into custody. Even though my mother had just had an operation she went to many places fruitlessly searching for her daughter. Almost two months after her arrest, on May 9th 2010, my mother found Rozita’s name listed in the normal prison system, whereas in reality she was detained, in solitary confinement, in a Ministry of Intelligence detention centre in Mashhad. The authorities informed my mother that the appeal by my sister and four of her friends to reduce their initial sentences was unsuccessful. At no time during all these proceedings were their lawyers allowed to visit them in prison or attend court with them when they were called for questioning.
Rozita was held in solitary detention for more than six months and my mother was able to see her on only four brief occasions. During that time Rozita’s health seriously deteriorated.
Towards the end of September Rozita was finally moved from solitary confinement to the normal prison, where she has been with other women Baha’i prisoners. These Baha’i women are, however, being treated very differently from other prisoners. Visits with family are restricted, phone contact with family is more limited and they are held in their cell longer, with fewer opportunities to leave their cell during the day. No contact whatsoever is allowed with other prisoners and they are treated like criminals. When I learned that Rozita and another Baha’i woman were taken to court again recently to face new unknown accusations, shackled by chains around their ankles, I wept with pain.
There is mounting evidence that the authorities have begun gradually, yet systematically, to imprison Baha’is who had been arrested in previous years, for terms ranging from one to ten years. A case in point is the summoning over the past few months of eight of nine Baha’is, including Rozita, who had been arrested in Mashhad in 2005 and who had been released on bail, to begin serving out their sentences, most ranging from terms of two to five years. In another case the seven individuals who formed the national leadership of the Baha’i community, after spending two years in prison were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. On appeal their sentences were reduced, but still remain for 10 years. Other young teachers have been put behind bars after volunteering to teach moral and character education to underprivileged children, a program of which they had informed authorities before beginning . Similar cases involving innocent people are being reported every day.
That such action is not being taken all at once, but rather spread out over a period of months and targeting Baha’is in cities in different parts of the country, may be a deliberate effort by the authorities to avoid drawing international attention to the widespread persecution.
I must say, I feel very sad and angry; my blood cannot easily run through my veins and I want to bang my head against the wall. I read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, belief and the practice of one’s chosen religion, but the Iranian authorities are a law unto themselves. No words can adequately describe what the new regime did to innocent people including oppressed Baha’is from the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 until today, sweeping across the land from small villages to the capital city destroying many lives. It is amazing to me how these authorities claim to support the above principles while cruelly denying these rights to their own citizens.
The truth about this intolerable abuse must be made known throughout the world. If we don’t act in the face of injustice but wait until too late, ultimately all our lives will be affected.
We must ask the authorities why they have denied equal freedom of religion, worship and practice among civil society and in Iranian law. Why the government policy brings fear, hard times and grief to the lives of many Baha’is. We must ask about the shameful mistreatment of young innocent Baha’i children by teachers in schools, just because they were born into Baha’i families. And why they deny Baha’i people access to higher education. Why they raid the homes of innocent Baha’is, searching their houses, taking personal property and taking members of the family away to prison where some of them have been tortured and killed. Why they destroy sacred places and people’s homes with bulldozers. Why they seize Baha’i cemeteries, dig up bodies and burn them. Why they monitor Baha’i people’s bank accounts, their phone calls and letters and confiscate their property and close the businesses of the self-employed and even burn down their premises.
This is not fiction and it is difficult to believe that the biggest religious minority, the 300,000 members of the Baha’i community in Iran, are totally isolated and deprived of the opportunity to contribute their talents and knowledge to their society.
Now it is time to call on all leaders of the world, people of all faiths, all people. It is time to have courage to stand up for the lives of all innocent people. Now I need you to walk with me, to talk and to write with me to those who inflict great suffering on innocent humans whose only crime is their faith – and to ask for their freedom.
As a person who has been imprisoned by Iranian authorities and has first-hand experience of the capabilities of these people and of the prison conditions, I am pleading for all people of good will to put pressure on Iranian authorities, by raising a cry of outrage, and exposing to the world what is happening in Iran behind closed doors, so that this situation will change. And my sister and others will have the strength to survive and come home to us!