Bahais in Iran

Interviewing A Persian Bahai in Exile in London

deena guzder

When I mention to friends and colleagues that I'm going to the Islamic Republic of Iran, they look shell shocked and incredulous. Their first question is predictable: are you scared? I give them my stock answer: it's safe, the people are friendly and the U.S. media is hysterical. I say to myself, I'm much more scared by the prospect of spending the rest of my summer sitting in a newsroom editing reams of video than I am about exploring a deeply misunderstood country and gaining insight into its diverse faiths.

I began my summer in New York, Chicago and California, exploring how Persian identities are changed by America, navigating the seemingly indelible divide between an adopted home and a native land, two countries that are often see as opposite extremes of a religiosity continuum. I learned how Persian immigrants' views on religion become more or less malleable and witnessed how these changes are manifest in their everyday lives. Iran offers the opposite; rather than witnessing renegotiated identities, I would have an opportunity to understand how members of minority religions preserve their faiths under an Islamic theocracy.

{josquote}The other students would applaud when I stood up for Bahais because I seemed to be some sort of anarchist.{/josquote}

I begin my foreign reporting in England rather than Iran because, although Iran's constitution officially recognizes Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, the Bahai faith is not regarded as a religion and is "referred to as a heretical sect." Since I cannot speak to Bahais in Iran without jeopardizing their safety, I'm spending 48 hours in Lancaster, England reporting on the experience of Erfan Sabeti, a Persian Bahai studying for a doctorate in religious studies at Lancaster University.

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Iranian Authorities Demolish Baha'i Cemetery

Here are some recent photos of a demolished Baha’i Cemetery near Yazd, Iran. A little personal…My family is from Yazd.

The destruction of yet another Baha’i holy place in Iran has prompted an outcry by Baha’is around the world, who see that the Iranian Government is persisting in a campaign of persecution so extreme in the fanaticism driving it that it even jeopardizes invaluable assets of the country’s cultural heritage. The Baha’i community of Iran, with about 300,000 members, is that country’s largest religious minority.

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