|
|
|
The Dansville Online
  • Baha'i family from Iran starts over in America

  • When you follow the Baha'i Faith in Iran, you’re considered a non-citizen, remembers Farshad Madhi, a refugee who moved to Upstate New York with his parents and sister a little over five years ago.

    • email print
  • When you follow the Baha'i Faith in Iran, you’re considered a non-citizen, remembers Farshad Madhi, a refugee who moved to Upstate New York with his parents and sister a little over five years ago.
    “You can’t continue to higher education, you can’t work in the government,” the 25-year-old said. “They’re basically trying to wipe out the Baha’is in Iran.”
    After years of suffering persecution for its religious faith, the family of four has found a new existence in Utica, N.Y., relishing life in a society where their religion is accepted.
    Madhi’s father works at ConMed Corp. His sister goes to Mohawk Valley Community College and works at Rite-Aid. And he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in physics and mechanical engineering at Clarkson University and expects to graduate in December.
    “I’m studying two majors at the same time, my GPA is 3.97 and I’m going for a Ph.D after this,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot in life, I’ve seen many difficulties, and I take nothing for granted.”
    Hospitality, Iranian-style
    While Madhi lives away at college in Potsdam most of the year, his mother, father and sister live together in a small apartment near downtown Utica.
    The apartment has simple furnishings. A framed picture of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, hangs in the living room near the television.
    When guests and extended family members arrive for visits, the coffee table is filled with fruits, snacks and tea. Traditional Persian meals, featuring kebabs, rice andtah-dig, a Persian rice dish, are prepared for guests.
    “They’ll offer you anything, actually, everything they have,” said Alfred Brown, president of the Utica Baha’i Assembly. Brown lives around the corner from the Madhi family.
    “I think it’s because they’re Baha’i that they open their hearts and their homes,” he said.
    A 19th century faith
    It is also because of their faith that they had to leave Iran.
    According to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the Baha’i faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions.
    It was founded in 1844 in what is now Iran by a man named Baha’u’llah and is practiced today around the globe. The underlying theme for the religion is the unification of all of humanity into one global society.
    Page 2 of 3 - “It’s very outreaching, the whole concept of Baha’u’llah,” Brown said.
    The persecution of the Baha’is is particular to that religion because it was established after Islam, said Edward Walker, professor of government at Hamilton College. Walker has a background in Middle Eastern politics.
    “The Islamic religion, as it is interpreted by the Iranians, is that the last religion has the final word,” he said. “The Baha’is came afterwards with a further message from God.”
    There are about 13,000 Iranian Baha’i refugees in the United States who left Iran because of religious persecution, said Kit Bigelow, director of the office of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.
    Blocked from opportunity
    Madhi’s family lived in Esfahan, Iran, the country’s third-largest city.
    Madhi’s mother, Farangis Behinaein, 51, was attending nursing school and was kicked out due to her faith. His father, Rouhollah Madhi, 52, was denied the opportunity to study medicine and become a doctor. Instead, he opened his own auto mechanic shop.
    “Since we couldn’t go school, we were advised to get our own businesses,” Farshad Madhi translated for his father.
    Farshad Madhi’s interest in music was stifled because of the persecution. He plays an Iranian flute-like instrument called a ney.
    “I couldn’t go to a music university, because I’m not allowed to do that,” he said. “So basically, we didn’t have much future.”
    But coming from a life of hardship pushes the family to work even harder here, they said.
    Rouhollah Madhi works full time at ConMed, while Farangis Behinaein cares for the household.
    Farshad Madhi’s sister, Forouzan Madhi, 21, helps her parents around the house, attends classes at MVCC and works part time at the pharmacy.
    “It’s a lot easier to live here,” she said of Utica. “People are friendlier here.”
    Since moving to America, Farshad Madhi said he has embraced life here, and has even earned a scholarship.
    “I couldn’t have accomplished those things in Iran,” he said.
    Page 3 of 3 - Observer-Dispatch
     
    About the Baha'i Faith
    The Baha’i community in Iran consists of 300,000 people and is the largest religious minority in Iran.
    Kit Bigelow, director of the office of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, said the religious persecution of those who practice the faith has
    occurred since the faith began in the 19th century.
    When the Islamic revolution took place in Iran in 1979 and the Islamic republic was established, the intensity of the persecution grew, she said.
    A most recent example would be the arrest of seven Baha’i leaders who are awaiting trial for charges such as spying for Israel and insulting Islam, she said.
    They are being held in Evin prison in Tehran and their trial has been delayed with no new date specified, according to information posted on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of
    the United State’s Web site.
    “It is bad over there for the Baha’is, but this is not a new development,” she said.
    Congress has passed a resolution that condemned the Iranian government for its “state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and continued violation of the International Conventions on Human Rights.”

        calendar