Continuing Persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran Ottawa
Bahá'ís reflect on the resilience of family members in face of ongoing
At age 66, Behrouz Tavakkoli is
entering his 10th year in prison in Iran. His crime: helping to
administer the affairs of the Bahá'í Community of Iran. Suffering from
severe kidney and joint problems, he and the other six leaders of the
Bahá'í Community face another year in prison. They are among
93 Bahá'ís who are currently in prison solely because they are Bahá'ís.
In Iran, the rest of the Bahá'í community faces constant difficulties.
Since the 1979 revolution they have been systematically persecuted in
every facet of their lives. They are denied government jobs, private
sector employers are pressured to fire them, their shops are
closed, their cemeteries are destroyed and their properties are seized.
Bahá'í youth are denied access to university or college, and Bahá'ís
are constantly bombarded by anti-Bahá'í propaganda in the media.
Behrouz’s son, Naim Tavakkoli,
lives here in Ottawa. He describes how his father was a social worker
who worked in rehabilitation centres with clients who had physically
and mentally disabilities. It was a job he loved, but following the
1979 revolution he was let go and then worked as a carpenter to support
his wife and two sons. His main goal then became service to the Bahá'í
community. He was later chosen to be one of seven leaders responsible
for the administration of the affairs of the Bahá'í community in Iran.
He was arrested briefly in 2005 and after four months in solitary
confinement, he developed serious kidney and joint problems.
Upon his release from prison, he continued to serve the community. Naim
explained that “when it comes to serving the Faith,” his father “fears
nothing, absolutely nothing.” He was arrested again in 2008, and the
last time that Naim saw his father he was in prison and could hardly
walk, dragging his leg behind him. His son characterized his father as
“an ordinary person, called upon to do extraordinary things.”
Ottawa Bahá'í Parvaneh Vafaie
was a nine year old girl in Iran when her
father Rahman-Vafaie-Saadi was arrested in the middle of the night. He
was in prison for two years that first time. She remember one time when
she visited her father in prison, he made a victory sign and she saw
the guards kick him and hit him hard on the back and on his
leg. After being released, he continued to work actively for
the community, providing marriage counselling, holding Bahá'í study
groups, hosting youth gatherings in his home and talking about the
Faith to anyone who showed any interest. He was arrested two more
times, held for brief periods and then, in 2012, he was imprisoned for
Parveneh explained that today her mother and father are not sure when
they might be arrested again. People are always watching them,
monitoring who is coming or going in their house. However, she
explained that people like her father, because they are working for Bahá’u’lláh,
are happy no matter how much suffering they undergo. And for their
families it is the same; in the face of persecution they feel happy and
proud to be Bahá'ís.