In practically any other country of the world, a teenage chess champion, a national judo standout and a talented pianist would be valued as contributors to their society.
In the example of three young Iranians, however, being members of the Baha’i Faith has meant a ban on competing and performing at the highest levels.
Judoist Khashayar Zarei, chess player Pedram Atoufi, and pianist Pegah Yazdani are all victims of Iran’s systematic policy – spelled out in a government-backed 1991 memorandum – to “block” the progress and development of Baha’is and “deny them any position of influence.”
As Iran brought home a record haul of medals from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 19-year-old Khashayar Zarei could only dream of what might have been.
In his age and weight class, Khashayar is one of the country’s finest judoists. But he has been barred from competition because he is a Baha’i.
“Despite the fact that on three occasions I came first in my weight group on the national team, as a result of my belief in the Baha’i Faith, I have been banned from participating in the Asian World competitions,” Khashayar wrote in a letter published by the Human Rights Activists News Agency.