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Sad & shameful
Understand what it is to be a non-Muslim Iranian


Mina Hakim-Bastanian
April 13, 2006

It is very clear that Iranians unless they are a religious minority and have experienced discrimination first hand, they do not understand the degree of pain that people of minority religions have endured. Regardless of education, creativity or background, many of our countrymen and women have no sense of how difficult it is to be a minority in Iran.

Writing a critique of a book is one thing [See Zohreh Ghahremani's "Cold & dark"], but when Ms. Ghahremani tries to make a point about discrimination by questioning the use of the word najes applied to minority religions in Iran, she misses the boat. it is clear that she does not understand her own culture or the meaning of najes when it is applied to religious minorities and personal beliefs. We are not talking about dirty bottoms here.

I do not believe that Ms. Ghahremani is aware of the degree of her own bias, misunderstanding and ignorance about the word najes and the suffering of the people of different faith who endure untold atrocities living in Iran, and quietly try to survive under such harsh conditions. Nothing is new and not much has changed. These treatments have been going on for ages. What is sad is to hear it from someone that claims to be an educated and informed person.

You must experience it to understands what it means to be compared with a piece of crap when she explains the notion of najes in her article. It is one thing to say that excrement is unclean or najes. But when Ms. Ghahremani justifies and compares beliefs of a person with excrement, she looses the argument.

It is not a question of who killed who or when or having a chip on ones shoulder. It is the reality of every day life as we live it. Maybe Ms. Ghahremani would understand what it is to be from a religious minority and growing up in Iran if she had some of these experiences as a child or adult.

-- To grow up around other children in the neighborhood but never get invited to their homes or have them in your house because you are najes.

-- To be told not to come to school tomorrow if it rains because if you get wet, you are najes.

-- To have your offering of foods to share with classmates rejected because you are najes.

-- To be serenaded with your distinctive family name rhymed with the disgusting bodily functions because you were najes.

-- To be send out of the classroom for one hour and to be asked to stand outside by the door while the religious studies class was in session. The name of God and Prophet Mohammad could not be uttered in your presence even though you are of the people of the book but still you were najes.

-- To be the only house in your neighborhood not to receive a bowl of oblatory Sholazard because your religion made you najes.

-- To be told in class that you are lucky to be in school, so you better shut up and don't ask questions because you are a yahoodi and will end up a "dalal" anyway because you were najes.

-- To be hit on the face by your teacher for being the only one in class to answer a question about Islam correctly.

-- To go to your first birthday party outside of your family when you were 18 because you were najes.

-- To be called names such as Armani - sag Armani and stones thrown at you when you walked out of your house with your family because you were najes.

-- To have your poor dog beaten bloody, because it belonged to your najes family.

-- To come home from school when you were 14 and for 3 years, spend six hours each nigh sewing and ironing cloth, helping your mother who neglected her children to support the family while your father's salary was withhold because he was najes.

-- To go through college for four years and have the seats on either side of you empty for four years because you were najes.

-- To have a cup of tea that you drank from taken from your hand and dumped in the garbage bin right in front of you by your friends mother because you were najes.

-- To walk in to a friends house and be given a marked towel to use because you were najes.

-- To fall in love with a Moslem mann "love of your life"and be a witness to his father's stroke upon hearing of the news because you were najes. To live with guilt and shame for 45 years and wonder if or what could have been! To never have a chance to visit your grandmother's grave because it was desecrated.

-- To be denied admission to university because you were najes.

-- To loose your inheritance because your parents marriage was not recognized and children born out of that marriage could not be added to their identity cards because they were najes.

-- To be told by the Iranian Interest section that you are a BASTERED because your parents lived in sin for 65 years and because you are najes To be told that I wish my son could marry a lovely girl like you, but too bad, you are najes.

-- To have lost your job and source of you livelihood when the "Cleansing" started because you were najes.

-- To have lost your home, family, friends and life because you are najes is one thing, but when you are forced to leave your beloved beautiful country because you are najes is something else.

The warm touch of your grandmother's hand and heavenly scent of her presence; the strong pat on your shoulder from an older brother who you never saw again; the man that you loved with your whole being and lives in your heart forever; the friends you made and the friendships that you have lost are not easily forgotten. I hope that Ms. Ghahremani would take a few minutes and reads her article again. The book is not at issue here. It is how little she understands the issues she is writing about.

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Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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