(RNS) — Yesterday, the House passed House Resolution 744. It condemns the Iranian government’s persecution of the Bahai community and “continuous violations of international human rights conventions.”
It’s not the first time such a resolution has been passed, but it happened at a unique time in Iran’s history.
For more than two months, the world has watched an unusual protest, largely led by women, unfold in the streets of Iran’s cities in the wake of the death of Mercer Amini in Iran’s moral police custody. While the world cannot be blamed for being overly exposed to and disgusted by Iran’s human rights abuses, countries are showing extraordinary empathy to protest the suffering of the Iranian people.
As with many other Iranian diasporas, for the Baha’i community this suffering is never far away. A world religion with adherents in every country on earth, our faith, founded in Iran in the 19th century, has been subjected to severe persecution that intensified after the 1979 revolution.
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The night before the resolution was passed, I attended a memorial service in Minneapolis for an Iranian-American Baha’i brother of an old friend. Ever since many of us knew this man, he needed a great deal of mental and physical care. went. For many of us in attendance, it was marked only by silence and obscurity.
Some of his family left Iran during the Islamic Revolution, but he tried to stay there and live a decent life. As a Bahai, this meant having to contend with a series of abuses. He was denied access to college. His modest attempt to make a living in an electronics store was closed. He saw his friends and loved ones executed for nothing but their adherence to his faith. And finally, he himself was imprisoned.
After his family was finally able to bring him to America, he never spoke about what happened to him while he was in the care of Iran’s ideological watchdog, the Revolutionary Guards Corps. But when he was released from prison, it was clear his heart was shattered.
Struggling with her ability to find words to capture her tears and fear, she ended up uttering a simple phrase: “He was not the same person.”
The last sane act of this man was likely to have been his refusal to withdraw from his faith, and in the eyes of the prisoners it was his only crime. When it happened, he surrendered his heart, not his soul.
My point is not just to remember my friend’s personal tragedy. As he sat with the mourners, he was amazed at how familiar his story was to many Iranians. The challenges faced by this brother are the same ones faced daily by the country’s Bahais and other unjustly persecuted groups in Iran. His story is not unusual, but it is nonetheless informative. It shows the social costs of mass persecution that are often overlooked.
Before his heart broke, the lady brother was beloved in the neighborhood for his helpfulness, intelligence, and community service. was moving up the stairs. Before agreeing to be taken into custody, he claimed that officers would help him complete his move. I wonder what contribution they might have made to the fate of their homeland.
The persecution of Bahais, and many other groups and peoples in Iran, has mixed repercussions. Of course, victims experience trauma, but they also lose the right to contribute to society. This rarely conceived but essential human right is one of Iran’s Bahais, who, despite government restrictions, will not relinquish. By denying citizens their full human rights, they are simply denying their potential contribution entirely.
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What kind of country would Iran be if the Iranian government did not actively suppress minorities as a matter of national policy? This question is impossible to answer, but it is essential to ask. The Iranian people are asking questions aloud on a rarely seen scale.
It’s hard to see the impact of a resolution like HR744. We know that some of the worst persecution of the Baha’i community has been stopped only by a campaign of international pressure. My friend’s brother knew that what he did mattered in one corner of the world. In a global culture, all voices matter as we urge Iran to embrace our full humanity.
(James Samimi Farr is an American Bahai media researcher. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of the Religion News Service.)