The Story of Human Rights
An inspiring, visually enticing video about the history of human rights.
Each week for the next eight weeks we will be releasing another episode until our first season of nine is complete.
Dr. Elham is the story of a medical student from Iran who ends up in South Africa to fulfill her dreams of becoming a doctor. From the moment she arrives she realizes that things are never as they seem and an adventure starts that takes her to a place she never dreamed of.
While it’s the story of an Iranian Baha’i it’s also the story of any Iranian or any person in the world for that matter. Elham is like you and me. She has hopes and dreams she wants to reach out for and challenges and fears she must overcome. She’s definitely imperfect and we hope very likeable. Along the way she meets a host of Iranian and African characters who help her along on her journey - sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
What has been the most rewarding for us as a production team is the level of deprivation we’ve had in creating and shooting the series. This deprivation has led to a great amount of creativity and thinking on our feet.
With no budget at our disposal, this series was shot with no real gear, paid cast or crew. Except for the two filmmakers nobody’s a professional and all our actors generously volunteered their time and went out of their way to meet our filming schedules.
Sometimes we’d plan a scene and one person couldn’t attend it last minute, which would throw us back by weeks until we could find another mutual time to shoot the scene and access the location.
But all in all it has been an incredibly rewarding and educational experience. We hope you feel our joy and passion through the series as you follow our weekly episodes and share the links with as many people as you can.
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!
I’m thankful to be discovering the fast in a whole new way. I have not been able to fast this year. It’s been bittersweet, because I miss the sense of strength and freedom that fasting gives me. But I suppose having to eat has made me realize that we are sometimes still “attached” to food, even by not eating. The trick is to be in the same “fasting” state of mind whether you are eating or not. It’s a journey for me and the best part of the day is sunrise. I’ve never been one for sunsets – they pierce my heart and bring me sadness. Sunrise fills me with joy and reminds me of the light that is filling this world in this age of transition.
Here's some food for thought on the fast:
"Some people lay stress on fasting. They affirm that in augmenting the weakness of the body they develop a spiritual sensibility and thus they think to approach God.
"Weakening one's self physically does not necessarily contribute to spiritual progress. Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God. That an enfeebled man cannot fight is not accounted a virtue. Were physical weakness a virtue the dead would be perfect, for they can do nothing.
"If a man be just, kind, humble and merciful and his qualities are acquired through the will-power -- this is Godlike. A child cannot kill a man; but a Bonaparte can abstain from war, from shedding blood, from devastating countries. A dumb person will not speak ill of any one, a paralyzed hand cannot strike; but a strong arm can refrain from striking. Justice, love and kindness must be the instruments of strength, not of weakness.
"Exaggerated fasting destroys the divine forces. God has created man in a way that cannot be surpassed; we must not try to change his creation. Strive to attain nearness to reality through the acquisition of strength of character, through morality, through good works and helping the poor, through being consumed with the fire of the love of God and in discovering each day new spiritual mysteries. This is the path of intimate approach."
Abdu'l-Baha, "Divine Philosophy," p. 98
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.