Canada’s Baha’i community see Iran protests as hope for political and social change & More Trending News


Payam Towfigh on the Baha’i Centre in Winnipeg on Nov. 19.Shannon VanRaes/Globe and Mail

When Mina Sanaee’s three kids had been rising up in Toronto, they’d generally ask her the place her marriage ceremony photos had been. At first, answering was easy: she and her husband had married in Iran, left the nation in a rush and didn’t get to convey a lot with them. Once her kids grew older, although, she divulged the total, painful reality.

Their possessions weren’t left behind. They had been confiscated by the Iranian authorities. Ms. Sanaee had been arrested and imprisoned as a result of she was a follower of the Baha’i religion. She and her husband used a smuggler to get them into neighbouring Pakistan as a result of their lives had been at risk in Iran, and they got here to Canada in 1983.

In the Eighties, 1000’s of Baha’is such as Ms. Sanaee fled Iran and started new lives in Canada – many introduced over via the federal authorities’s Iranian Baha’i refugee program. These refugees have watched the protests in Iran of the final two months – the largest because the revolution in 1979 – with a mixture of familiarity and horror. But on condition that this motion, sparked by the dying of Mahsa Amini, has gained broader attraction and worldwide consideration than any earlier uprisings, many additionally see hope for lasting political and social change.

Still, the protests current a novel problem for Baha’is, whose religion emphatically teaches non-violence and non-partisanship. While many really feel impressed by the motion, they’re additionally cautious of supporting what may evolve right into a bloody revolution.

So far, in response to the UN, greater than 300 protestors have been killed and 14,000 arrested in Iran since Sept. 16. Amid these grim figures, Ms. Sanaee stated it’s been shifting to see individuals in Iran – led by younger ladies – struggle for the identical issues Baha’is have been working towards around the globe: freedom, unity and equality of genders.

Thomas Juneau: Could the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran spark a regime change?

As far as world religions go, the Baha’i religion is a really younger one, based in 1844 in Iran, however has turn into the most important non-Muslim faith within the nation. In the early days of the revolution, the persecution of minorities – together with Baha’is – was violent and dramatic. Many Baha’i leaders had been executed or disappeared. In the last decade after the Iranian revolution, greater than 200 Baha’is had been killed.

The yr that adopted the revolution, as Baha’is in villages outdoors Tehran misplaced their jobs and properties, Ms. Sanaee and her husband tried to assist them resettle. That put a goal on their backs.

In 1982, Ms. Sanaee was arrested and imprisoned in a detention centre. For two weeks she heard imprisoned males crying out in agony as they had been tortured. At one level, a guard walked her to an empty swimming pool stained with the blood of prisoners and warned her, “This will be your future if you don’t co-operate.”

She left the nation quickly after her launch, sure she’d by no means return.

“That’s a terrible feeling that your country, your homeland doesn’t want you,” she recalled final week from her house in Toronto, the place she settled in 1983.

In the years after the revolution, Iran’s authoritarian regime has persecuted Baha’is thru passport seizures, destruction of Baha’i cemeteries and – most prominently – the denial of entry to larger training.

Several demonstrations have occurred in Canadian cities during the last two months in solidarity with protestors in Iran, however Ms. Sanaee has sat them out.

“As Baha’is, we don’t call for the overthrowing of the regime,” she stated. “A couple of days participating in those movements is not enough. We are doing it as a life project.”

While it’s turn into clear that those that have taken to the streets in Iran are advancing the ideas Baha’is have labored towards for generations, and many really feel for the struggling of its residents, there’s an unease within the Baha’i community over how violent the rebellion could get, says Geoffrey Cameron, who works for Canada’s Baha’i Office of Public Affairs.

The National Spiritual Assembly in Canada (the religion’s governing physique) has suggested Baha’is in opposition to collaborating in any initiatives which can be explicitly anti-government.

The Baha’i Centre in Winnipeg on November nineteenth, 2022.Shannon VanRaes/Globe and Mail

The precept of non-violence has been entrance of thoughts for Payam Towfigh as he tunes in each day to information of what’s taking place on the bottom in Iran – and has been the case since he left the nation as a young person.

He was raised in a Baha’i household and at age 15, he – like all different kids raised within the faith – was given the selection to declare his religion and formally register as a Baha’i. Doing so in Tehran in 1982 was dangerous, although. Friends and relations of Mr. Towfigh had been arrested and killed – he even witnessed some shot in entrance of him.

At 17, he, his brother and sister-in-law escaped to Pakistan and settled as refugees in Winnipeg. Mr. Towfigh has all the time felt “a mysterious connection” to Iran, its historical past, its tradition. Something about this motion has given him a newfound optimism that someday he may be capable of take his Canadian-born kids to Iran.

“We’re gonna stand up, and in a way very different than how they deal with us, which is with violence, and hatred,” he stated, and present the regime “there is a better way for bringing about change in our communities and even our society.”

On her path to turning into a famend neurosurgeon in Toronto, Mojgan Hodaie made her approach via medical faculty and residency in Canada, all the time excited about the younger Baha’i ladies in Iran who could have had the identical profession goals as her however had been barred from attending college.

Her household was intact once they escaped Iran, however her dad and mom’ associates misplaced their lives, and she knew of many who had been arrested, whose properties had been confiscated.

After they arrived in Canada, the trauma she and her household endured was compartmentalized, Ms. Hodaie says. But studying in regards to the present protests in Iran – and the lethal response to them – has been like selecting the scab off a wound.

“Part of watching the news now is revival of that trauma,” she stated. So a lot of what she’s seeing feels acquainted, however she’s hopeful that this, not like different uprisings which have been suffocated by the regime, shall be a turning level.

“In our minds, we asked for change for so long and then suddenly, something happens, and the forum becomes the right forum to have your voice heard,” she stated.

Canada’s Baha’i community see Iran protests as hope for political and social change

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Canada’s Baha’i community see Iran protests as hope for political and social change

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