Interview of Muhammad Nourizad with Nader Soltanpour of the BBC on Changes in Opinion Among Iranians About Baha’is

ABN NEWS- The interviewer (Nader Soltanpour): Mr. Muhammad Nourizad 1; political activist

and critic of the Iranian government, is with us on the phone from Tehran.

The interviewer: Mr. Nourizad, it seems that imprisonment had a great impact on changing the

views of some people in relation to the Baha’i community of Iran. Mrs Faezeh Hashemi was in the

same prison hall as Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, and you too ‒ being in prison and living there with

Baha’is had a great influence on your position. Why?

Nourizad: Mr. Soltanpour, the truth is that after 2009 our position changed because we saw with

our own eyes that the Shi’ite government killed its own citizens; the curtain of their atrocities was

drawn. We discovered their true nature. We realised, witnessed and believed with our own eyes,

whether we were in prison or outside, that Baha’is are our most admirable and peaceful fellow

countrymen. We have not seen in them anything but decency, whereas Shi’ite Ayatollahs had

educated us so that we were supposed to believe, and consider them ‒ Baha’is ‒ to be fifth class

humans. This is very cowardly behaviour. In Iran all Baha’i citizens have been deprived of all

economic, cultural and social rights. This is an extreme injustice; so great indeed that I, as a

Shi’ite Muslim, have nothing to offer except my feelings of shame.

The interviewer: Mr Nourizad, you are among the first personalities in Iran to openly show

support for the Baha’i community. What were the reactions of people after your previous actions,

which are continuing?

Nourizad: Yes, perhaps the most distinct action which I performed was to kiss the feet of a Baha’i

child whose mother and father were in prison, and at the same time to offer my apologies,

because I am ashamed of the injustices heaped upon this family. After the picture of this incident

was published, contrary to my expectation, I felt and supposed that I might face numerous

attacks. To my surprise, I received a great deal of positive feedback. There was encouragement

from my co-religionists, high ranking army officers, army personnel, my friends, politicians,

previous prisoners, government officials and especially from many educationists with a unity of

heart, who supported my move and welcomed my action. Many of them expressed that they also

are ashamed of these actions as I am, but that they do not have the courage to express it.

At this juncture I want to recall Mrs Nargis Muhammadi 2, Mr. Isa Saharkhiz 3 and Mr. Ismaeil

Abdi 4, with whom, two years ago, I went to a Baha’i friend’s house in remembrance of those

Baha’i leaders who were in prison.

Just now as I am taking to you, Mr. Soltanpour, I have come to visit Mrs Kamalabadi. Here, there

are approximately twenty to thirty Baha’is who themselves have a loved one in prison, gathered

here in memory of the imprisoned Baha’i community leaders. Now, my eyes just caught Mrs

Kamalabdi, who is supposed to go back to prison tomorrow. During her eight years of

incarceration, she was not allowed even one day out. Then a few days ago she was allowed to be

free, but only for five days, to see her daughter, who has recently given birth to a child. Although

she requested to stay a few days longer, merely because of these visits by people like Nasreen

Sotoodeh 5 and others, they are returning her to prison.

the interviewer : Mr. Nourizad, how much have these types of visits by people like you, Faezeh

Hashemi 6 and others, impacted the Iranian Baha’i community? Is it possible that more pressure

will be brought to bear on them, as they are becoming under the spotlight and visible in the eyes

of the government, or will this possibly reduce the pressure?

Nourizad: Now, I am certain that Baha’is don’t procrastinate. They are not going to retreat.

Consider that Mr Khanjani, at 85 years of age, was not able to leave the prison, even for one day,

after eight years of imprisonment and despite the passing of his spouse: the authorities did not

allow him to come out for even one day to attend her funeral.

A Baha’i student in the application for university admission deliberately writes in the column for

religion that he is a Baha’i, despite his knowledge that he will be prevented from continuing his

studies. These people that I know of are not going backward even one step. But it is a great

shame upon the brow of our Ayatollahs who force these conditions on Iranians in their own

country just because they believe in the Baha’i Faith

Please note that Baha’is are paying their taxes and their youth complete their compulsory military

service, but none of them are employed because of their religion. Their shops are sealed and

closed and their properties are confiscated. They sentence them to long terms in prison and have

already killed some of them. In any case, I, in contrast with all these Ayatollahs, have nothing to

offer except to be ashamed of these actions.

Interviewer: Mr. Nourizad, these days there are a lot of religious rulings from Grand Ayatollahs

which are published in the mass media or even in their own epistles regarding their views with

respect to the Baha’i community. Now, these days, what efforts have been made? Are all these

efforts having any effect on these Grand Ayatollahs? Is it changing their views to think that

Baha’is are citizens of this country?

Nourizad: I think all these Ayatollahs know very well that a human being who is a Baha’i must

have his rights respected. But Ayatollah Khamenei issued a religious ruling and condemned them.

Other Ayatollahs and Sources of Emulation are fearful and are not brave. Mr. Soltanpour: one of

the conditions of being a Sources of Emulation is supposed to be bravery, but all these Ayatollahs

are really frightened and cowardly before this cowardly religious ruling, raise both their hands

passively in total obedience, and don’t have the courage to defend the rights of Baha’is, who in

this society are treated as fifth or sixth class citizens.

Interviewer: Mohammad Nourizad, Political activist and critic of the Iranian government, we thank

you for sharing your experience and views with us.

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