Eye Opener

Reza Allamehzadeh’s documentary about Bahai persecution


Eye Opener
by Ari Siletz

On the way to viewing Reza Allamehzadeh’s documentary about Bahai persecution, the car radio program was about a 340 ton rock being dragged 60 miles to the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art. A surreal waste of effort, perhaps to make that very point! As it turns out, this extravagant expenditure of energy isn’t nearly as absurd as the efforts of the Islamic Republic to create terror and frustration for Iran’s Bahais. The difference is that while the artistic statement is a capricious waste, the Regime’s political statement is a malicious overexertion. There is no reason for it other than to cause suffering. The absurdity of this effort borders on the laughable. Why else would a film audience of over 400 burst into laughter as a wrinkled old Iranian villager innocently explains to the camera that she doesn’t know the way to Israel? The Bahai grandma was evicted from her own home by a gang of regime zealots, and when she asked where she should go now, they told her to go to Israel!

In this touchingly impactful scene with confused elderly villagers, Allamehzadeh dispels the myth of Iranian Bahais as sophisticated members of an elite cult with deep ties to power. Throughout his documentary, Iranian Taboo, the filmmaker continues to smash, one by one, traditional misconceptions about Bahais. Is the Bahai faith a Zionist tool? After all the World Bahai Center is in Israel. In a visit to the center we find out that it was established in the Haifa/Acre region during the Ottoman Empire. The country of Israel did not even exist back then. Allamehzadeh interrogates a Bahai leader at the center to the point of rudeness to expose any special accommodations that Israel may have made for the Bahais, but comes up empty handed. Where does the money come from? What is the special Bahai card that Israeli customs officials ask for when Bahai pilgrims enter Israel? These questions have innocent, reasonable and believable answers.

An eye opener for me was when Allamehzadeh broached the myth of Iranian Bahais being left in peace during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah. In fact the Bahai situation was as perilous as ever because the Shiite clergy were relentless in pushing the Shah to persecute the Bahais. During episodes of political weakness, the Shah had no choice but to cave in to the wishes of the Shiite clergy. For example, a controversial photo of the queen published in Europe could give the clergy enough material to blackmail the Shah into withdrawing protection from his Bahai subjects. The documentary shows footage of Tehran’s Bahai center being demolished brick by brick by the Shah’s generals during one such episode in 1955. Things appeared better for the Bahais later in the Shah’s reign, but this was simply due to political fortune in the Shah-Clergy competition, not because the Bahai political pawn had been promoted in the game.

Allamehzadeh had originally pitched the idea for the film to the BBC, but failed to reach an agreement with the organization. He blogged about the effort and caught the attention of Bahai playwright/actor Mansoor Taeed who contacted Allamehzadeh to see if he could help realize the film. Having read Taeed’s successful play, We Are Not Spies, Allamehzadeh recognized a likeminded artist and agreed to team up with him. Taeed suggested that he could raise funds from the Bahai community. Allamehzadeh agreed provided there were no strings attached. The rest of the $300,000 budget came from Take 7 Production’s Bijan Shahmoradi who had collaborated with Allamehzadeh in the past, notably in The Guests of Hotel Astoria. There was also a great deal of volunteer work by human rights supporters.

Besides helping raise funds, Taeed played the critical role of arranging Bahai contacts inside Iran whose stories could be told. An elderly couple in the Iranian village of Eeval, a mother and daughter fleeing to Turkey, the mother of one of the Bahai leaders now in jail. We get to know their stories with a mixture of sadness, fury and, oddly, shame at our ignorance leading to silence about the persecution of Iranian Bahais. There was, however, one story in the film that made me proud to be an Iranian. To counter the Islamic Republic’s ban on higher education for Bahais, the group had organized an underground university so advanced that some universities across the world recognized its academic credits and accepted the graduates. Why
does this make me proud as an Iranian? Because the brave and talented organizers, teachers, and students were Iranians who overcame astounding odds to build an institution that advances the future freedoms of the younger generation. It does not subtract one iota from my pride in this accomplishment that these Iranians happened to be Bahai. Does it make a difference to you? See the film, and think about it.


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by stavackoli on

Oh, and by the way. Dennis Mac Eoin, the scholar that he is, apparently hasn't figured out the fundamental difference between religion and democracy.  There is no democracy in religion.  There are no religions on the face of the earth, and probably there will never be one, that preaches democratic vote on what is good for humans and what is not; if there was, what would you need the prophets, manifestations of God, or the messengers for (take your pick).  Mr. Mac Eoin, has forgotten, apparently, that the mess that we are in, all over the world, including the "democratic" countries of the world, is the result of human intervention and at times, "democratic" vote.  Who decided democratic vote was the best thing for the world anyway?  Human beings are not perfect, and just because a bunch of them get together to make a decision, if that decision is not guided by some higher than themselves principle, there is no reason to believe the decision is any good (again, look at the world we live in today if you don't believe me).  Democratic vote will only work if the entire system is guided somehow.  The people of religion believe that guidance comes from God, once you follow that guidance you can't tarry off and say, we'll follow it here, but not here; when it comes to God, it's all or nothing, take it or leave it; and no one has put a gun to your head either.  If you don't want to believe in God, you're entitled, but don't try to believe in God or a particular religion and then pick and choose what you want to believe in, the entire principle of believing in God or a religion is based on following some guidelines, some more restrict than others.  Here, at this time, human mind has grown enough to have Baha'u'llah bring a message that says if His teachings do not agree with proven science, then our understanding of one or the other is wrong.  In other words, there has to be harmony between science and religion.  But even He, was not all flexible in allowing His followers to believe or not believe in certain things, and that I believe is because human mind is not perfect.


with the 1400 year old blind

by Waders on

what elso would one expect to see.   Even Dajal has its own servents and ma-moors, spreading its pendareh neek all over the place.   



by stavackoli on

I will not get into a discussion with Nadeem, but I agree, one should go to the website that he has quoted here and decide for him/herself.  The issue with Nadeem of course is that since he's got his blinders on, he sees the world through them and presents whatever he is presenting through those blinders.  Go and listen to the program or read the transcript, you'll see who was confrontational and who was just stating facts.

nadeem khan

The persecution of Baha'is

by nadeem khan on

Recently BBC Radio 4′s “Beyond Belief” program hosted by award winning host and producer, Ernie Rea held a surprisingly frank discussion on the Baha’i Cult.

This program features Denis MacEoin, a Babi, Baha’i and Muslim scholar who left this Cult in the early 1990′s as a result of the infamous clashes that occurred between academics and various persons within the Baha’i institutions at the time. Although he was half a world away, MacEoin participated in the LA Baha’i Study Class of the mid to late 1970′s. Ernie Rae’s panel also includes Moojan Momen and Lil Osborn are two Haifan Baha’is. As well as Fidelma Meehan, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom.

This is a very interesting discussion the points presented by Denis are worth pondering over. He mentions why so many terrorist Babis were killed? What are the problems with the Baha'i? Why very few westerners are accepting it? And such other things... but Haifans did not answered any of the controversial points of Denis.

The BBC is doing a good job by hosting such kind of discussions. I totally agree that the Baha'i problem be solved with discussions. It would be nice if BBC hosts a live discussion involving Haifans like Moojan, Susan, Erfan Sabeti, One or two UHJ/ITC members, Wahid Azal and one more prominent Azali, Some orthodox Baha'is, one Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim also some  Ex-Baha'is like Denis and Juan Cole must be invited and lets discuss the controversial issues and wind them up.

You can listen the discussion here




by stavackoli on

Not to belabor a point, but if you read what I posted you will see why "just saying something innocent" is not always saying something innocent.  We, Baha'is are very well aware of the plight of our brethern in Iran, the Jews, Christians, Atheists, and Moslems alike; the point is what is the point of saying I know people who go back and forth and they don't seem to have a problem?  Are they not supposed to be able to go back and forth? How intrusive/restrictive/cruel/violent/blood-thristy should a regime be before we call it those things?  At what point do we see the situation for the Baha'is as what it is; not today but for the entire 160 years of its history.  How do people sit idly by and not say anything when their neighbor is taken away just because he believes differently? That, my friend, is the question; and now that poeple have woken up to this issue, it is not OK to "just say something innocent" anymore, because it is not innocent anymore.  

I, of course, hope for a day when all of us can live in a free Iran and not have to put up with a dictator, religious or otherwise; and by all of us I mean the Moslems, Jews, Christians, Buddhists... and everybody else. 


Ari jan Thanks.....

by Yana on

 for replying to my question.  When I went back in 2000, a christian got hit by a car and died and I asked my sister Lili, are they going to take care of his family? Lili said no, here (Iran) if you are christian your life is not worth anything but if you are a muslim they will pay certain amount of money to the family! But in 2009 we all wittnesed that is not true neither in the case of muslims because I am sure %99 of the protestors were muslims and NOT bahai, christians or jews!!!  So, you are right maybe I am missinformed, maybe the couple of people that go back and have a good time in Iran don't tell me the rest of the things but I don't think my first reply was rude or anything angainst bahais.  I don't think they are the only one struggling in Iran, right now EVERYONE (muslims, christians, jews, sufies, ali whater sect that is) is suffering! Ari jan thanks again and have a great day.

shad zee


Ari Siletz

Thanks for your attention folks

by Ari Siletz on

Glad to see commenters sharing info about screeings and DVD releases. This documentary has been a labor of compassion. Except for technical professionals that had to be hired for the production, the artists and financial contributors did not expect to see monetary returns. I hope the market proves them wrong.

Yana: Life for Christians and Jews is not easy in Iran. However the regime preceives the Bahai faith as a direct challenge to the Shiite order whereas Islam has historic mechanisms of compromise with Christianity and Judaism. Even so, Iranian Jews walk a tightrope and their leaders have to go out of their way to distance themselves from Israel for safety's sake. Some Iranian-American rabbis are aware of this difficulty and temper their criticisms of the situation in Iran. Others in the community advocate a less diplomatic, riskier, approach. At any rate the issue is debated in the Iranian-American Jewish community.

As for Christians, the faith strongly encourages missionary work, and the threat to Iranian Christians comes from the Shiite clergy's fear of other Iranians converting. For example, Pastor Yousef Naderkhani is on Iran's death row on the initial charge of converting to Christianity. (Note: the IRI is attempting to reassess the charge to "rape and extortion!" perhaps hoping to avoid an international outrage). Christian missionary work on Muslims is against the law in Iran.




by stavackoli on

Don't mind him, if you don't pay any attention to him, he'll go away.



by stavackoli on

OK, where to begin? On the same scale as Yana's insensitive remark:

go up to a family member of the 9/11 tragedy and tell them "I don't know about your family member, but everyone I know who worked there survived"

 go to a Jew and say" I don't know about your family, but all the German Jews I knew, survived WWII"

 go to the Iraqi people and say "I don't know about your family, but all the Iraqis I know are doing well right now"

go to the Afghan people and say "I don't know about your family, but most Afghan people I know are happy about the situation in Afghanistan"

go to Syrian people and tell them "I don't know about your family, but I have Syrian friends, they're doing just fine over here"

 All the Baha'is you know go to Iran and come back once a year? I promise you that is not the case for most of the Baha'is.  I left 27 years ago (soon to be 28) and have not gone back yet, one of my closest friends went back for a two week visit a couple of years back, they kept him for 6 weeks and after paying multiple bribes here and there, he finally got out in one piece.  I don't feel safe about going back to a country where my countrymen are in jail because they wanted to teach some school children, or to have a university, or to bury their dead, or...

What is your point? Make your case, what is your point? If you are not malicious, then you're uninformed.  It is not "innocent" to just say something that has nothing to do with anything on this forum; and your comment about Baha'is that go to Iran and come back has NOTHING to do with the documentary, the Islamic regime can not (they would of course prefer to, but can't), kill every Baha'i who is in Iran or sets foot in Iran.  That doesn't mean they are not persecuted, it doesn't mean their cemetaries are not ruined, their school children are not harrassed, their stores are not closed, their family members are not in jail, they are not followed, they are not insulted left and right.  It means they love Iran, they have family members in Iran, and they are brave; that's all that means.  Was that the point you were making? 

maziar 58


by maziar 58 on

It is a shame to witness and not being able to do any thing.

come to think of it in reality was

 DOOKKAN deen bazi islame arabi didn't want to have an Iranian product to deal with.

will buy the movie when it becomes available just to support their cause.


Anahid Hojjati

Taboo is played tonight in Berkeley

by Anahid Hojjati on

It is a good idea to have DVD for this movie. By the way, one of the memories that I have of the days after revolution is that I went to a speech by Mr. Alamehzadeh. He had been recently released from prison and many people were looking forward to hear him.


To Anahid Hojati, Bitmag, Ari

by Yana on

I only have one user ID and I use it once in a while when I am bored or find an interesitng article to comment on.  I did thank Ari for his article but I just said what I know in my real life with people that I know that happen to be Bahai. I don't think I have said anything bad about Bahai thing! have a GREAT night or day. oh, one more thing, I am very much a woman, trust me :)  question for all, do you know what goes on with christians and jews in Iran?

shad zee

Multiple Personality Disorder

Thanks for this great review, Ari

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Although I have not seen this documentary yet, I have heard a lot of good things about it, and I'll make sure I'll watch it as soon as I possibly could.  Thanks.


nadeem's credentials??!!

by Waders on

We know Mr. Allamehzadeh's credentials and Ari's fair-mindedness.

But who is this shadowy BAHAI SETIZ NADEEM KHAN who projects his twisted mind and ill wishes in every blog?




This is a great review Ari jaan…

by Bavafa on

And I will look forward to seeing this film.


In regards to Bahia’s mistreatments in Iran, I know very little other than what I have read in the news/media.  

  My own personal experience with the people of that faith has been nothing but very positive as a very good friend of mine was from that faith and he is liked by all.  Also growing up, there was family in our neighborhood who were Bahia.  They were the politest kids in the neighborhood but the family was subject to much ridicule and gossip, unfortunately.


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 




by delldaar on

I saw the documentary, Brutality and depth of criminality of this reggme is astonishing..BDW , Harvard University just agreed to accept the credentials 0f the graduates of the Bahai institute for higher education,or so called underground univ.

nadeem khan

This film is a response to the fake videos like this one

by nadeem khan on


Some more films should be made to tackle other Propaganda like this one:




The UHJ should spend more Huququllah in making more educational documentaries like 'Taboo'

Good work Baha'is!

Anahid Hojjati


by Anahid Hojjati on

I was offended by Yana's comment. He/she is so clueless that in his comment, he is trying to underestimate Bahais' problems in Iran. But then I think I know who Yana is. He has many user Ids and these days, his user Ids compete with each other to see who wins the award for most clueless/offensive award.


Go see the film

by bitamg on

@Yana - you should then see the film to understand the truth behind why they are allowed to leave the country, but are not able to get a job.  The film is screening in the Bay area 3/13-3/15 and in Seattle 3/15.  For trailer and more info visit www.iraniantaboo.com.

More screenings and DVD release are in the works.

Thanks Ari!

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Ari for your great article

by Anahid Hojjati on

I am also proud of Alamehzadeh and Mansoor Taeed for this movie.


Ari, Thanks for writing this article....

by Yana on

I always follow your articls/blogs because you are one of the few people on this site that writes incredibly well with logic and reason.  As far as the Bahai situation in Iran, every Bahai person that I know travels to Iran each year to visit relatives and has no problem so maybe they keep low profile, I only hear about these problems on IC.  But thanks again for sharing and I will share this article with my friends.

 shad zee