Iranian documentary filmmaker Reza Allamehzadeh has exposed the plight of Bahá’ís in Iran with a new documentary called “Iranian Taboo.” Adherents of the faith have been persecuted by the Iranian Islamic Republic because they are considered un-Islamic. Banned from Iran himself (but not a Bahá’í) Allamehzadeh enlisted the help of friends in the country who recorded footage clandestinely and produced this film.
Bahaism is a modern-day religion founded in Iran in the 19th century which counts around six million adherents (from the Wiki on Bahá’í Faith).
Aside from its humaneness as faith, Bahá’ísm also typifies what iranianness means: egalitarianism, magnanimity, controlling one’s destiny, improving the self as well as the world you’re surrounded by. As heard in a conversation after a recent screening of “Taboo,” if Iran had been a Bahá’í-run country, it wouldn’t be in the state it is in today.
In order to finance their trip outside the country following years of insidious warnings and pressure from their government, a family is holding a garage sale. A woman cries at the thought of having to exile herself from her own country, but she says the persecution is unending and they have to emigrate. Bahá’ís in Iran are persecuted and told, “convert to Islam or get out.” Iran’s government helps fuel misconceptions about the faith by accusing Bahá’ís of being spies working for the U.S., and, by definition, of being zionists.
Allamehzadeh also interviewed a number of personalities (iranologists, former politicians, etc.) as well as Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who was the first president of the newly-founded Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Nobel Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi also appears on camera to give an account of one of Iran’s sham trials against Bahá’ís. Each one brings anecdotes to the mix and try to weigh in on the whys and hows of the Iranian government’s witch hunt.
One of the most memorable aspects of this film, as told by Allamehzadeh, is how the government dismantled a Bahá’í college, the Bahá’í Institute For Higher Education. Learning is at the core of Bahá’í culture, and education is perceived as essential to self-realization. Members of the Bahá’í world diaspora are often the pillars of their communities.
In an interview with Allamehzadeh a former student of the institute describes how he was in the top percentile of his class. Once shut down the program went underground. Bahá’ís studied at each other’s homes, connecting with their teachers via the internet. I heard during a Q&A after the screening that DePaul University and other institutions recognize this underground university and consider applicants for admission.
Ironically the Azadi Tower, which is as representative of Tehran as the Opera House is of Sidney, was the sight of many demonstrations during the post-elections upheavals in 2009. Its architect, Hossein Amanat, is a Bahá’í.
There is no information at this time regarding a theatrical release date for “Iranian Taboo.” However, a D.V.D. should be released available at the end of this summer. For further information and updates visit the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/iraniantaboo.
Ali Naderzad is founder and editor of screencomment.com where this review was first published.
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