Archive for Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bahais try to help others escape persecution in Iran

Farhang Khosh and his brother Mehdi Khosh both fled Iran several years ago to escape persecution because they are followers of the Bahai religion.

Farhang Khosh and his brother Mehdi Khosh both fled Iran several years ago to escape persecution because they are followers of the Bahai religion.

March 8, 2009

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It’s been nearly a year since seven leaders of the Bahai faith in Iran were arrested and accused of spying for Israel.

Now, Bahai followers in the United States — including a group in Lawrence — are asking for help. They want the U.S. and other nations to condemn the detention and send a message to the Iranian government.

“We’re a small group of Bahai here, and we’re asking our congressmen to help us,” said Farhang Khosh, a Lawrence Bahai. “Iranian leaders, at least they will know that others are watching.”

The detained Bahais have been unable to speak with attorneys and no evidence has ever been presented against them, Khosh said.

Bahais have been persecuted in Iran since the religion was born in 19th century Persia. It is the largest minority in Iran, a nation now dominated by the Muslim religion. Bahai leaders in the past have disappeared or been killed. The persecution increased after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Khosh said.

Unless the rest of the world opposes the Bahai detention, Iran’s leaders will be encouraged to continue persecution and do the same to other religious minorities, Bahais say.

The Bahais are writing letters, sending e-mails and making phone calls to their congressional representatives asking them to approve a resolution introduced last month condemning Iran for detaining the Bahai leaders and calling for their release. They ask other Americans to do the same.

“Sitting and doing nothing is not a good option. If you do nothing, then they will do more,” Khosh’s brother, Mehdi Khosh, said of Iran’s Bahai persecutors.

‘Peaceful religion’

There are about 30 Bahais practicing their faith in Lawrence. They worship on Sundays in a small Bahai center at 4824 Quail Crest Place. The faith calls for believing in God and one religion, but it doesn’t deny other religions, including Christianity and Islam. Bahais consider all religions united as one.

“We should unite and work together rather than fighting,” Mehdi Khosh said. “It doesn’t matter what background you have, there should be peace among us.”

Lawrence Bahais come from a variety of backgrounds, including Chinese, Japanese, Iranian and African, the Khoshes said.

“It’s uniting through diversity,” Mehdi Khosh said. “This is a very peaceful religion.”

Escape from Iran

Mehdi and Farhang know firsthand the persecution against the Bahais in Iran. They grew up in Tehran, the nation’s capital, and after graduating from high school in 1983, they wanted to go to a university. The government prevented them. Instead, the government wanted them to fight in a war with Iraq that started in 1980.

“As Bahai we cannot touch a gun. We cannot kill anyone no matter how hostile toward us,” Mehdi said. “We decided our lives were in danger. We didn’t have any future.”

In 1984, the brothers fled Iran. They walked by night for several weeks, avoiding detection by security forces and fighting off hunger and dehydration.

“It was an extremely difficult time,” Farhang said.

They finally arrived in Pakistan and gained refugee status through the United Nations.

Mehdi and Farhang were accepted into the U.S. and took up with a Bahai community in Bennington, Vt. In the summer of 1990, they moved to Lawrence and entered Kansas University. After graduating in 1994 they studied naturopathic health at Bastyr University in Seattle. Both became naturopathic doctors and returned to Lawrence in 1999. They opened Natural Medical Care. Both are married and have children. Both became U.S. citizens.

Miracle encounter

During their trek to Pakistan, the brothers one night mistakenly crossed into Afghanistan. Troops from the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and were still there fighting insurgents.

Mehdi and Farhang encountered a group of people who began shooting at them. They were captured. Their captors were Baluchis, border people who moved along both sides of the Iran-Afghanistan border and who sometimes robbed and killed stragglers and people fleeing Iran. The group’s leader, a large, tall man, grabbed Mehdi by his front collar, lifted him off the ground and brought him to eye level.

“I thought this was it. I was going to die,” Mehdi said. “I said a short prayer and I had my eyes closed.”

The tall man forced open Mehdi’s eyes and looked into them. He spoke a name and asked Mehdi whether he was related to that person. The name was that of the brothers’ grandfather, a man they described as a “healer” in a town near Tehran. The tall man set Mehdi down. He said something about a seriously ill family member who once had been treated by the brothers’ grandfather.

“Not only did he not rob us or kill us, he guided us out, telling us where to go,” Mehdi said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

Comments

novidpaya 6 years, 4 months ago

Our friends of the Bahai faith forget that the rest of the people in Iran are also being prosecuted, but they also forget that we lived in this country before the revolution. I went to school with Jews,Zarostrians and Bahais. There was no form of prosecution in public school were kids from all walks of life sat next to each other. The Bahai kids were given off during the religious study just like the Jews or Christions and Zarostrians. They freely and with pride wrote Bahai under faith. there was no form prejudice against Bahais during Pahlavi rule, and it seems our friends are trying to make something that did not exist.

You were not treated as less than equal by people around you or government before the revoltion be fair.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 4 months ago

We can't even get out own (Robert Levinson) out of Iran.

Just4kicks 6 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that one (Max1) would argue against the Bahá’í community speaking against the post-Islamic revolution state sponsored treatment of Iranian Bahá’ís by implying that pre-revolution treatment was fair (‘there was no form prejudice against Bahá’ís during Pahlavi rule, and it seems our friends are trying to make something that did not exist’) It would be like someone complaining why are the Bosnian Muslims complaining about their oppression during president Milosevic’s time? Everything was fine when I lived there prior to Milosevic’s reign …in fact Bosnian-Muslims and Serbs lived side by side in peace! You may want to re-read the article its about what has been going on SINCE the revolution and the humanitarian violations directed at the Bahá’í s for simply choosing to believe in something different than what the state thinks they should.

nonagon47 6 years, 4 months ago

Dear novidpaya - I don't know you - and you choose anonymity - which is your right. But please, at least read the article more fully before you make such a comment: "Unless the rest of the world opposes the Bahai detention, Iran’s leaders will be encouraged to continue persecution and do the same to other religious minorities, Bahais say."

That people anywhere are still being denied their rights - under their own 'constitution' - is appalling in this world. The least we can do is lend a voice. If you get the chance, there is an open blog with video - check http://www.iranpresswatch.org/2009/03/murder-impunity/

  • again, to quote - “Sitting and doing nothing is not a good option. If you do nothing, then they will do more,” Khosh’s brother, Mehdi Khosh, said of Iran’s Bahai persecutors."

I'd like to speak personally, but this needs to be short. In that link are stories of other persecutions, and evidence of the efforts by the govt of Iran to cover them up. Check out, also, AMNESTY International - plenty more there.

The Baha'i community is the largest single religious minority in Iran, but there are other faiths being persecuted there. The effort we are making is extended to them, as well.

Please investigate this truth for yourself.

nonagon47 6 years, 4 months ago

I basically agree with Just4kicks, with the following caveat; when living amongst people in 'other' lands, it's sometimes instructive to see whether minorities are indeed treated fairly, or if that's just a facade. The thing about the govt in Iran is, it's trying to pawn itself off as an 'Islamic democracy'. In reality, the clergy are the rule behind the throne. Always have been. These days, the 'civil' govt is the facade.

While it's true that under the Pahlavi regime, the persecutions were more soft-pedaled, they weren't that much softer. Holy places [to us] were trashed. Rights were denied, just as they are now. The clergy just couldn't be 'up front' about it. Now, the mullahs are practically writing it into the constitution, under the guise of apostasy. There is a term for it - irtad - in Arabic. Apostasy is a hated term to the kind of clergy we're seeing. In reality, where we all live, it should be remembered that, whenever a Messenger has appeared, those who follow him have always apostatized their parent religion. People forget ...

In the '80s the Baha'i national governing body was imprisoned, and worse - twice! It's more out front, at a time when Iran is trying to pawn itself off as a democracy. That's the major difference. And this persecution - this particular one - has a much longer history, as the article indicates. Please, any of you, check out www.bahai.us. Please inform yourselves ...

nonagon47 6 years, 4 months ago

Just a quick one - a correction to my previous link, should be: http://iran.bahai.us/ - Thanks.

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