Thanks to Khomeini
March 17, 2005
I viewed with great interest the pictures
of the destruction of Bahai graves in Yazd.
I was neither shocked nor surprised, maybe because similar incidences
have happened to the resting places
of some of my own relatives who died in Iran both before and after
The main Bahai cemetery in Tehran, for example,
which had thousands of graves, and was more a meticulously kept
garden than a cemetery, lined with trees and flowers (and was appropriately
named "Golestan-e Javid" or Eternal Garden), shortly
after the victory of the Islamic Revolution was taken over by the
which gleefully destroyed its graves and ordered a government building
constructed on the land.
Another case that I know of is that of my great
grandfather. Years before the revolution, my great grandfather
passed away in a town
in central Iran and according to his wishes was buried in his orchard,
which he loved so much. Nearly two years after his death, however,
his tomb was raided by thieves.
Some in my family think the robbers
were after what they had presumed was a valuable ring on his finger.
Though it is true that Bahais put a special ring on the corps of
the ring itself may very well be plastic
and has no
material value. It has a holy script written on it. The grave raiders
may very well have been anti-Bahai hate-mongers, something Iran
has seen plenty since the beginnings of the Bahai religion in
the 19th century.
After this incident, my grandfather decided
to rebury his father in a more secure place. This time he was buried
inside a chamber which was part of the orchard and which had a
locked door. Iindeed, the tomb now looked more like a mausoleum,
and thus a proper setting for a man of the stature of my great
grandfather, who had the respect of hundreds of friends and townspeople
of all faiths. I remember as a child having visited my great grandfather's
mausoleum in the orchard with my dad and each time I had said a
little prayer in his honor.
Soon after 1979, when the mullahs, mob rule and
revolutionary fervor took hold of Iran, nearly all of my family
left Iran as the regime
consolidated power and began persecuting, imprisoning and executing
people for a variety of alleged offenses including the religion
one belonged to.
As a result of the Islamic Revolution, I now have
as many as 300 cousins and relatives, all descendants of my great
grandfather in about 10 countries worldwide, anywhere from Canada,
Britain, Venezuela, Romania, China and New Zealand. Though we were
mere middle class folk in Iran, many of my cousins have achieved
fair amounts of financial and educational success -- and I suppose
in an ironic way they have Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers
With the election of President Khatami, a moderate
among the ruling mullahs, many Iranians including religious minorities
enough to visit Iran. Despite some initial hesitations and even
chastisement by a cousin, in 2003 after 24 years of having lived
abroad, I too decided to go back.
Naturally, among the places that
I felt obliged to visit was the burial site of my great grandfather.
I thought it only proper to do so and had planned on saying a short
prayer and paying my respects to him whose legacy and lineage continues
to live in Iran and a myriad other lands.
Though I had heard rumors
that the local government was aching to take over my great grandfather's
orchard (though legally belonging to his surviving children), I
never believed that they would do such a thing, especially not
under Khatami's rule. Nor did I believe that they would dare disturb
my great grandfather's resting place. Surely at least the
dead are respected under the Islamic Republic, I naively
When I got to the town and neighborhood where my
great grandfather was supposed to have been buried, I could neither
find his orchard
nor his mausoleum. I could only see some flat barren land and no
trees. I also saw some construction equipment and newly built structures
nearby. I inquired from an old man who was in the area if he knew
who my great grandfather was and where I could find his orchard
and grave. The old man responded: "You mean 'Baagh-e Bahaeeya'
(The Bahai Garden)? ... They [the government] have destroyed it!"
old man, who was not Bahai, showed me where the orchard used to
found the site of what may have been my great grandfather's mausoleum:
There was nothing left. It was all destroyed with virtually no
trace of any walls or a room. All I was able to retrieve was an
old brick, a 'khesht', as a memorabilia. The ground seemed disturbed
and I would not be surprised if the local authorities had dug up
what remained of my grandfather's coffin (Bahais normally bury
their dead in coffins) and dumped the bones.
Needless to say, when I came back to Tehran I felt
extremely sad and rather angry as a result of that experience.
Soon after, however,
especially on my flight out to Frankfurt, I had an incredible
sense of peace, one which other Iranians, Bahai or not, may relate
You see, in Central Asia, where my work has often
taken me, I have come across old cemeteries which have grass grown
Often one sees herders with their cows and sheep in the streets
and near such cemeteries, but never in the cemetery compound.
Many of the graves belong to non-Muslims (Russians and other
Slavic peoples which the USSR had sent there to work)
are now nowhere to be found, many living in Russia.
to me was that the shepherds, many of whom are extremely
poor and are always looking for fresh forage for their animals,
to not to allow their herds graze on the grass grown in the
old cemeteries. One of my friends from Tajikistan told me that
so would be considered bad omen, that treating someone's
grave with disrespect such as allowing an animal to walk over it
would surely bring bad luck.
Now, I am not a superstitious person,
but when it comes to messing around with the
dead, I have found
to be one. Indeed, the mullahs of Iran and their followers
may toy with the living and surely have the blood of tens of
thousands of innocent Iranians of all faiths and ideological backgrounds
on their hands; and it is hoped that they would someday answer
to a court of law or to the almighty for such crimes, if
in this world for some of them, at least in the next.
indeed put certain mullahs over the top and into the dustbin
of history is when they play with the corps and spirit
of the dead. An admonition in Islam goes: 'Namaaz dar khaane-ye
ghasbee haraam ast', (prayer in a confiscated house is forbidden).
Still, Ayatollah Zahremaar takes over my family's
ancestral house and make condominiums instead. And for
and spite, the Islamic government and its rapidly dwindling
fanatic following destroy my great grandfather's grave,
others they consider infidels in Tehran, Yazd and other
places in Iran.
I have come to believe, however, that The
or Woman upstairs will deal with this and other abhorrent,
acts of the mullahs in due time and with a justice that
will shake the turbans and slippers off the miscreants who
are ruling over
our Iranian motherland. In a strange way, therefore,
my great grandfather are both at peace.