What I learned


What I learned
by Mahvash Shahegh

I wrote a report on the “Friends of Iranian Culture” conference in Persian at the beginning of September which was posted on Iranian.com. Some friends asked me to translate it into English, so non-Persian speakers are able to read it. Here it is in English:

I attended this year’s the “Friends of Iranian Culture” conference sponsored by Iranian Bahais. It is held annually in Schaumberg, a suburb of Chicago, from September 1st through the 4th. The participants in this conference from very beginning made me feel at home and among my compassionate Iranians, the feeling that I had never felt before since my departure of Iran 30 years ago. About 3,400 Iranians from all over the world participated in the conference, from Australia to Canada; New Zealand to various states of the U.S.A. The participants, of course, were primarily Bahais but among them were people of different religious backgrounds like me and many others (about two hundred altogether). Famous and renowned speakers such as Shahrnoush Parsipour, Dr. Shapour Rasekh, Dr. Abdol Karim Lahidji and Mehrangiz Kar were just a few names among others. There were other skilled and intelligent speakers that added value to this gathering. The theme of this year’s conference was “civil justice.”

Despite rumors that Bahais are not patriotic, that the Bahai faith is a religion created by foreigners, love for Iran and all that is Iranian such as culture, music, literature and language were felt in the air and permeated every individual who attended the conference.

Organizers of the conference had thought about every detail. They had programs for kids, youths, and families. There were also talent shows, sessions for reciting poetry, Persian music, and Iranian dancing. The language of the conference was Persian. What really amazed and pleasantly surprised me was the proficiency of young Iranian Bahais in Persian language and culture. There were young Iranian speakers who graduated from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia with a mastery of the Persian language as well as the unique ability to give speeches in Persian as well.

Another important and remarkable point was the order, good behavior, pacifism, and agreeable attitudes of the participants. All meetings started at 9:00 am and continued until 12:00 pm. What I have mentioned here are not only my personal impressions; other non-Bahai speakers alluded to these aspects in their speeches as well.

By attending this conference, besides what I had already known and studied about Bahai faith, the faith that not only at the time of its inception was advanced and progressive but, still carries the same value, I leaned a few more important points. Those are:

1 – Globalization of the human race and equality of all people so they
may live in peace and harmony with each other.

2 – If a religion causes separation, disunion, and fraction, one should
leave that religion immediately.

3 – The prophet of this religion predicted a bright and distinguished
future for Iran and Iranians which I hope and pray becomes a

In short, this was the first time in my life that I felt proud of being an Iranian, not because of the glory of ancient Iran but rather the witnessing of present-day Iranians that I met in this conference, those whom I trust to rebuild glorious Iran in the days to come.

Mahvash Shahegh

Oct. 5, 2011


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Ali Najafi

Thank you

by Ali Najafi on

Mahvash jan, I wanted to thank you for this post and your previous one in Persian.

You eloquently conveyed your experience and highlighted that Baha'is, like their Iranian sisters and brothers, love their country and are so proud of their heritage.

I frequently hear the misconception from my friends that somehow Iranian Baha'is do not have a strong love for their culture. As you pointed out, while our religious beliefs may be different, the profound love that we have for the beautiful and noble elements of our Persian culture flows through our veins.

I look forward to the day, when all Iranians, regardless of their philosophical or religious belief, will be united to rebuild their country, based on the principles of justice, integrity, equality, mutual-respect, and human dignity. Inspired by our rich cultural legacy, our contributions to the advancement of the world will only be that much greater!


Intro by Meybodi

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Dr. Fereydoun Vahman at the September 2011 Chicago Conference

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فریدون وهمن، ایران‌شناس، دین‌شناس و استاد زبان‌شناسی دانشگاه کپنهاگ در کتاب پژوهشی اخیر خود به تاریخچه‌ی بهائی‌آزاری در ایران پرداخته است.



Dr. Abdol-Karim Lahiji at the Chicago Friends of Persian

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