We are not Spies

We are not Spies: We are Iranians; we are human beings; we love our country

We are not Spies: We are Iranians; we are human beings; we love our country

[Mansour Taeed is a playwright, actor and director. He came to the United States at the age of sixteen. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. To continue his studies he went to Columbia University. His great passion for theater stopped him from finishing his studies. He started acting in 1981 by playing in “City of Stories” , a play by Bijan Mofid. The first play that he wrote and directed was called “a dance like this”, which was first presented on stage in 1986. In 1985, along with some of his friends in Northern California, he founded the theatre group Darvag. He has written, directed, acted and produced more than 40 plays since then.]

by Reza Fani Yazdi

Tara is not a spy
Mansour ‘s eyes were full of tears, his whole being was full of a clamor: the clamor of generations of people in our homeland who have experienced the worst forms of discrimination within their flesh and bones, from early childhood at schools… to the last moment of death at the gallows

It has been decades, from Amir Kabir to Ahmadinejad, from Nasser addin Shah to Ayatollah Khamenei, and from yesterday to today, in which Baha’is have been persecuted on charges of being unclean, on charges of foreignism and espionage. Now Mansour, the third generation , cries out on stage:

Who knows? Several dozens of Baha’is in the courts of the Islamic republic cried out like Mansour, “ we are not spies, we are Iranians; we are human beings, but we are Baha’is and we love our country”. Their cries fell on deaf ears. They were executed. They were crying out,

“We have worked for years in this country, have made films, written plays; we were pioneers in starting schools in this country; Arj chairs, those that at funerals and weddings, in happy and sad occasions, in Mid-Shaban celebrations [celebrations of the birth of the Islamic Messianic figure Mahdi ], in classrooms and offices you sit on – we made them. The biggest Agro-industry was run by Hojabr Yazdani, a Baha’i, the products of whose company, sugar and sugar cubes were sweet to all of us, Baha’i or Muslim or non-Muslim. We were the managers of the largest producer and distributor of medicine, a company whose Johnson & Johnson soups were used to wash newborn babies and whose medicines were used nation-wide in all drugstores to cure the sick. In hot midsummers, too, when you became thirsty or craved a cold drink with your sandwiches, you drank Pepsi

“In movies it was Ahdieh who sang for you, and in your weddings and celebrations her songs increased your happiness a hundred fold

“We are Iranians; we are not spies. We love our country”

Mansour was right; when he was crying out that we love our country. By the way, which minority do you know that has served their country so well?

Who brought Agro Industry to Iran? Who founded schools for girls in our country for the first time? Who brought RTI Weblomond TVs to our homes for the first time? Who distributed medicine and sanitary products all over Iran? Which minority group do you know that has served his country so much, yet has been accused of espionage and foreignism so much? Being fair is a good thing

Before the revolution the population of our country was a bit more than 30 million. Baha’is constituted only half a million, and they did so much. I wish that half our population were “spies” like them: started factories and schools, distributed medicine, produced goods and created jobs

Tara is not a spy

When Mansour was crying out “Tara is not a spy”, I started crying. I comprehended then what had happened to the Baha’i community of our country, and this is still going on. Tara is fourteen years old. Mona was sixteen when she was arrested. Mona, along with ten other Baha’i women, was arrested on the charge of espionage, and all of them were executed

Mona Mahmoudnejad, age 16

The 16 year-old Mona that day was as innocent as our fourteen year-old Tara today. Just imagine if the 14 year-old Tara was in Iran now: two years later she might have had the same destiny as Mona

If Mansour, out of his responsibility towards his religion, felt that he had to take part in administering the affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran, he might have been a member of the

Friends [Yaran] of Iran, a group that for months has been in prison on charges of espionage, and is waiting for trial. No one knows what will happen to them

Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet, two members of Friends of Iran, are yesterday’s Taras of our society. Neither were spies when they were Tara and Mona’s age, seated behind classroom desks, nor were they spies when they rose up to serve their fellow countrymen by administering the affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran as members of the Friends of Iran

Fariba Kamalabadi is not a spy. Mahvash Sabet is not a spy. They are Iranians. They love their country. They are indeed human beings and they are Baha’is

The charge of espionage is the most ridiculous, and at the same time the saddest accusation against our Baha’i fellow countrymen. It is so ridiculous because the only thing they can possibly do in their defense in courts or under interrogation is deny that they are Baha’is, or post an ad in a government-run newspaper recanting their faith and embracing Islam. With an ad in a newspaper, all of a sudden, all evidence of your espionage evaporates into the air and vanishes. As Islamic judges and interrogators put it, you become “holy and pure like a newly-born Muslim baby”

In the legal system of our country, if Baha’i do not recant their faith, they are put on trial on charges of espionage, and in many cases they were and still are sentenced to death and executed. Sixteen-year-old Mona, 21-year-old Akhtar, 22-year-old Roya, 25-year-old Shahin, 28-year-old Mahshid, 29-year-old Zarrin, 32-year-old Tahereh, 56-year-old Nosrat, 24-year-old Simin, and 57-year-old Ezzat were ten Baha’i women who were hung on the same day, at the same time, in 1983 in Shiraz

They were not a network of women in Iran spying for Israel, nor were they spies for any other country. They just refused to sign an ad in a Shiraz newspaper saying that they had recanted their faith. They decided to be just human and stay Baha’i

The Sixteen-year-old Mona was not a spy. She was an Iranian, a native of Shiraz, a high school student, a Baha’i. She loved her country

If she were alive today, she would have been happy if Ali Daee [a famous soccer player] scored a goal in soccer. She would have liked it if in the Iran-Mexico soccer tournament, Iran won

She would have liked Cholo-Kabab [1]

She would have liked Hafez and Saadi [two Persian poets from Shiraz] a lot

Like all kids from Shiraz she would have gone to school, studied, become an adult – maybe a teacher, a physician, or a clerk, or maybe a member of the National Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran, or a member of the Friends of Iran

Like all girls from Shiraz, she would have been clad in a beautiful skirt and dress. Maybe sometimes she would have been spoiled by her parents a little bit. Like all kids of the city she might have sometimes sat on her dad’s lap, and if they took her picture she would have liked it and smiled

Mona and her father

Fridays when other kids did not go school and it was a holiday, Mona would have been in Baha’i morals classes, to learn better manners and morals. Her dad had told her that “Being Baha’i means to possess of all the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity” [a quote from Abdul-Baha] and she wanted to possess of all the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. She was taught not to lie, so when the Islamic judge asked her,

“Are you a Baha’i?”

She said, “Yeah. I am a Baha’i!”

She was executed because she did not lie. In her morals classes, she was not taught to lie. She was not taught any dissimulation

Mona was not a spy

Spies know how to lie. They sign the bottom of any form, post ads in any newspaper, they recant, announce their abhorrence towards any belief hundreds of times, they hide under so many disguises. An old saying says spies have one thousand faces. Mona was not a spy. She did not have a thousand faces. She did not tell lies. Mona was indeed a human being, but a Baha’i human being. She was not killed because she was a spy. She was killed because she was a Baha’i

Mansour in his impressive play, “We are not spies”, tells us the story of the suffering and pain of the largest religious minority of our country. He does it with such heart-felt emotions, and with the aid of friends and family photos – his own memoirs, the day-to-day life of a Baha’i child. He tells stories from his school and neighborhood, from falling in love to morals classes, from Misaaghieh hospital to recreational camps, etc., in a way that even one thousand books of history cannot narrate

Not only fanatical mullahs accused Baha’i of espionage. Our intellectuals: writers and so-called historians too also made the name “Baha’i” synonymous to “spy and outsider”. In the time when Russia threatened Iran, they were spies of totalitarian Russia and opponents of the constitutionalist movement [in Iran]. Later on, they were called spies of Britain; after the establishment of the government of Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments, all of a sudden all “outsiders, non-insiders” were accused of espionage for Israel. Baha’i, whose administrative and spiritual center happen to be in the land which became the newly-established Israel, were of course spies!

The “We are not spies” play is the best example of human defense, based on the most beautiful emotions of a Baha’i child. After three generations of oppression and persecution, he tells the poignant story of his pain and suffering, that of his parents and grandparents, and that of his children. He conveys it in an artistic and beautiful way to the souls and minds of the viewer, and rids himself of all historical accusations

This play is for all – a play for human rights. As Mansour puts it: “Are you a Muslim Armenian, Assyrian, or Jew? Zoroastrian or Buddhist? Former leftist? Feminist and revolutionary? Even a Baha’i? None of these? You hate religion?” This play is for you

Reza Fani Yazdi
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

(**) A Comedy written, directed and performed by Mansour Taeed in 2009/2010 in many cities in the US and Canada http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyesVwhLwHA&feature=related

(***) In memory of ten Baha’i women who were executed in Shiraz
به یاد ده زن بهائی که در شیراز اعدام شدند – سهیلا وحدتی بنا (soheilabana.com)

[1] Cholo-Kabab is a popular persian food that consists of steam rice and grilled ground beef on skewers.

Translation by Iran Press Watch