The Story of Human Rights
An inspiring, visually enticing video about the history of human rights.
In yesterday’s game against Uruguay South Africa’s goalie was given a red card – unfairly I might add! ☺ You’re left feeling like you want to defend your position but you can’t! After all in soccer the referee can make a decision like that without consulting anyone. That’s the game.
This past week has been a roller-coaster for me as an Iranian and South African. On the one hand I’ve been enjoying the opening of the World Cup and all the international energy, and on the other I’ve been worrying about people in Iran on the anniversary of the unrest surrounding last year’s elections. Many Iranians are in prison for crimes they haven’t committed and put on trial without the chance to defend their position fairly. It’s kind of like the red card in soccer! Except that you know for sure that the referee is partial.
As you may have seen in our little clip titled 12JuneJoburg, a bunch of us tapped into the positive energy here at the World Cup in order to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Iran. And I think we managed to strike quite a good balance: For us it wasn’t about pulling people down, demonizing Iran or breaking any rules. It was about celebrating the achievements of South Africa and encouraging Iranians all over the world to build a similar future for themselves – knowing that it’s possible.
No matter how the individual soccer games play out, the sense of unity and elation that South Africans feel as a country is overwhelming and healing. Don’t get me wrong. People haven’t shed their prejudices overnight. But they are transcending them in a powerful way. And so even when FIFA packs up and goes home in two months, there will be remnants of this healing process that will help the country move forward.
I think that Iran too will find that its strength lies in embracing the spectrum of what makes it such a rich and wonderful culture. What we need to do is work constructively with a mind to preserving our unity. And that is what 12June.org tries to achieve with its worldwide actions. The worst strategy for any soccer team is to start dishing out blame – internally or externally!
"If religion be the cause of disunity, then irreligion is surely to be preferred." Abdu’l-Baha
“If soccer be the cause of disunity, then get over yourself – it’s just a game!” Leyla Haidarian
12 June Johannesburg
People gather in Johannesburg, South Africa during the opening of the World Cup to campaign for human rights in Iran - particularly in support of Mohammad Oliyaifard and Behrouz Tehrani. www.12june.org
South Africa is busy launching a charter of religious rights and freedoms. It’s amazing, really, what this country does in terms of innovations on human rights and concepts of mutualism. Try and sit down a bunch of religious heads anywhere in the world and have them work out what they agree on! South Africa manages it! Incredible.
As someone who focuses on Iranian society and transformation, it makes me chuckle. I know that a lot of Iranians have superiority feelings towards other cultures and for them to see an African country beat them to it when it comes to progressive paradigms and systems must be quite a blow. Let us not forget that despite all political love affairs there still exists a considerable amount of racism for Africans and black people in Iran.
But Iran could do better. It’s the birth-place not only of Cyrus the Great and the first human rights charter, it’s the cradle of a very recent philosophy that originated in 1844 and proposes the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, the eradication of extremes of wealth and poverty, universal education, the unity of religions and the oneness of humanity; a philosophy that provides the blue-print for a mutualistic democracy that safeguards the interests and affairs of all peoples of the world, not just a privileged few. But this philosophy, born in Shiraz and nurtured by a Persian Siyyid was quickly banished out of Iran and into Palestine, which is now Israel. And now Iranians call it a British invention! Which can only flatter the British.
So according to some people's bookkeeping:
Equality of women and men, universal education, progressive revelation, oneness of humanity, mutualistic democracy, human rights = British invention
Suppression of woman, suppression and persecution of minorities and majorities, the inherent division of humanity into good and bad, human rights abuses = Iranian
Hmmm…I guess at the end of the day you have to make up your own mind. But let it not be said that there is no choice. You don’t have to be a Baha’i to be proud of the fact that this movement originated on your soil. Why is it so hard to just celebrate the awesomeness of this rich philosophy and take ownership of it? And of Kurds, and of Sunnis, Jews, Christians and of atheists and of Shi’ih majorities who want to lovingly build a great society and blog about it?
The day Iran produces and owns a charter of religious rights and freedoms like the one in South Africa – that’s the day I’ll be buying my ticket to go home.
Finally I am thankful to Iranians for stirring my soul with their green human rights movement. I grew up apologizing for being Iranian. Now I am proud to say that I am. The other day I was sick, so I went to see a doctor who was wearing a yamurka. He read my name and asked me where I was from. I said “IRAN!” We both looked at each other and then cracked up. He said, “I like Iranians” – and it made me smile. I know that in the future the Middle East will be a place of light, beauty and unity. And I know that the conflict in the Holy Land will not be solved by tolerance. It can only be solved through love. No matter how long it takes, it is the only way forward. But it will happen sooner than we all think, for the world is darkest just before dawn.
Tonight I celebrated Naw Ruz with my African friends. We had Iranian and Italian food, enjoyed my "haft-seen" and sang and danced to Congolese tunes! What a world.
“The Earth is but One Country and Mankind its Citizens.”
HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY NEW DAY!
As the countdown to Naw Ruz continues, I'm counting my blessings. Number 4 on my list (which is in no particular order) is my son's happy disposition. I am thankful that he is filled with so much light and so many smiles. He gives me strength. Having a kid was a difficult decision for me. I have always felt that I don’t want to be vulnerable and love something so much over which I have no control. And in this day and age it seems that you have control over nothing except your own choices and thoughts. He has given me faith, where I thought I had to give him faith. I am learning that he is my trust, not my possession. It can be super hard, but it’s also rewarding. In his face I see my Creator and in everyone I meet I see my son. So this Hidden Word by Baha'u'llah has found new meaning for me:
O Son of Man! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
In the spirit of Naw Ruz, I'm counting my blessings this year. Another thing I'm thankful for is being alive in this day and age. A dear friend of mine says that we live in the best times. It’s just that news travels so fast and has become so immediate that it seems that things have never been worse! I think he’s right. I think that our hearts have never been more filled with love and light and that is precisely why we cringe and hurt when we hear of the darkness that still exists. It’s almost as if that darkness seems more dark, because we have come to appreciate the light so much. We are so interconnected that the life stories of others impact us deeply. On my phone I am connected to the world via telephony, text messages, instant messages, the internet, Twitter and Facebook. In an instant I may hear of a young girl getting crushed underneath a building or of a young man being tortured to death in an Iranian prison. I hear of him before I hear my own child waking up in the room next door! That is the level of connectivity we have in this day and age. And that is the level of connectivity we must arise to achieve spiritually. And it doesn’t take power or money to do this important task. We each have a great contribution to make in bringing together this human family. I truly believe that if we each explore the light within us and learn to develop the senses that guide us to the best life that we can live, we can find that happy place where nothing intimidates us, where there is no failure and where nobody is more or less beautiful than we are.
In the spirit of the Persian and Baha'i New Year, I'm counting my blessings this year. The second thing I'm thankful for, is that I have been able to reconnect with a lot of long lost family members this year. One of them is the award-winning actress Shabnam Tolouie. We go back to one great-grandmother. In this age of Facebook I have been lucky to be able to reach out to a lot of family members who have been separated through the Iranian diaspora and this connection gives me a sense of unity and a foundation for my son, who is the youngest generation of us all. I have traced us back about 7 or 8 generations and have drawn a family tree for my son on his wall with colorful chalk. It’s there to remind him how we are all connected. If the wall were large enough, it would surely encompass every individual in this world. In fact, our helper is on his wall too. She’s Zimbabwean and not directly "blood related", but she impacts him more than many of our blood relatives do and this just goes to show you that we are first and foremost spiritual beings and our true connections and identity are not of the flesh.
March 21 marks the Persian New Year, Naw Ruz. You can Google or Wikipedia it and read up about the history of this festival. But what’s more significant is that the Baha’i Faith (www.bahai.org), which is like quantum physics of religions, has really rendered this Persian festival global. Members of the Baha'i Faith live in more than 100,000 localities and come from nearly every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession, and social or economic background and they all celebrate Naw Ruz. It marks the end of the Baha’i fast - the spiritual and physical detox period - and the beginning of the new calendar year.
This year I’ve set up a traditional “haft seen” table. This has nothing to do with the Baha’i faith, but it’s a Persian tradition and lots of fun. On the table you’ll find things like lentil sprouts, dried oleaster, garlic, apples, sumac, vinegar, hyacinths, coins, candles, a mirror, some decorated (easter-like) eggs, a goldfish, some rosewater, a Holy Book relevant to the household religion and some Iranian colors – this year I’ve focused on “green”. They all have meanings, but for me it’s a way of remembering how the message of universal love came from Iran and has spread to the rest of the world.
There are many things I’m thankful for this year. I've chosen six to to focus on in the countdown till Naw Ruz. One of these is the fact that the United Nations has recognized Naw Ruz as an international holiday. The UN is far from being the institution it could be. It favors some countries over others and has a long way to go in realizing the value of the human family, but I think we must be grateful that we live in an age that has given birth to this institution and its underlying idea. Up until 160 years ago, we lived in world that was relatively isolated. Populations did not think in terms of being citizens of one world. Nationalism was our grandest sense of identy/unity. But suddenly, with the birth of the industrial revolution our world rapidly came together and we created global institutions to try and manage the challenges of a world that was becoming interdependent in terms of its social, economic and environmental realities. The United Nations is one child of that era. The Baha’i faith was born in that same era and offers the spiritual guidance and teachings for a world that is effectively one. The nexus at which Naw Ruz becomes global is an exciting one, because for me it signifies that spiritual fertility for the idea that we are the fruits of one tree and the waves of one sea.
A friend of mine sent me a lovely email today with some funny images on it. They were all titled “evolution” and were variations of that famous image of the Neanderthal that evolves from his ape-like state into an upright human being. One of the pictures depicted the process through a series of footprints. First it was a beast’s footprint, then a human footprint, then a man’s shoe-print and finally, a woman’s stiletto-print. It made me smile. Of course women are not more evolved than men (though sometimes…) but the day we make a serious effort to create equality, we will know we’ve come far as a human race!
Progress is a basic human right. Progress and evolution are completely inherent to all aspects of creation. Processes in nature, the mind, the spirit, society – all these things are constantly evolving. We go from learning our first words to writing theses, books, films, and business-plans. We go from inventing the wheel to skyping on our iphones. Our capacity is massive and most of us strive to fulfill at least a portion of this capacity on a personal level. And we can see and track our progress. I need only read some of my earlier blogs to do that.
But if evolution is such an inherent part of our experience then why do we selectively chose to ignore it? Why, for example, are so many people afraid of anything that is new and different to what they know? Why must different be bad? Why do we close our ears to other people’s beliefs? Why do we close our hearts to other people’s concerns and views? And most of all: Why do we limit our vision of what’s possible and say “that’s just the way it is”…What a naïve stance to take. We can’t do things the way we’ve always done them and expect different results. In order to move forward, we’re going to have to let go of some of our baggage and tradition and embrace what will benefit the human family.
So why not just try STILETTO heels and see where they take us?!