Absurd Mind Control

It's hard to make light of the plight of my people, the Bahais


Absurd Mind Control
by Omid Djalili

Back in the mid-90s in my show I'm A Short Fat Kebab Shop Owner's Son, I touched on cultural clashes that shaped my personality as an Iranian immigrant in Britain. Authenticity is paramount for a comedian, and as I prepare to tour a new standup show I'm getting braver: this time, I will be exploring what it is like to be an Iranian born into a Bahai family.

The plight of the Bahai community in Iran has served as a backdrop to my life growing up in London, particularly since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Bahais follow teachings that include the oneness of humanity and the unity of religion. This worldwide community – Bahais of almost all backgrounds live in 188 countries – is striving to contribute to the betterment of the world through an educational process that seeks to raise capacities within populations to take charge of their spiritual, social and intellectual development, thus bringing positive change to their communities.

Iran, however, has not looked kindly on the Bahais. There are currently about 300,000 Bahais in Iran (the country's largest religious minority) and the community has suffered brutal repression since its inception in 1844. After the revolution of 1979 this became a state-sanctioned campaign of persecution, and there have been hundreds of executions and arrests.

In the mid-80s, at university in Northern Ireland, I experienced the ripples of what was happening in Iran in the unlikely setting of a five-a-side football team called "The Persian Empire", a team of Iranians guys bonding over our heritage and a love of football. I was their star player (in the days when I was four stone lighter). After casually revealing my Bahai identity to my team I was dropped. I was shocked that the tentacles of oppression and prejudice had reached as far as Northern Ireland.

Nowadays, the climate feels different. In February 2009 a group of Iranian intellectuals, writers, activists and artists signed an open letter to the Bahais stating their regret concerning the Iranian government's treatment of its Bahai minority. They made an open apology for their silence during Iran's long-running persecutions: "a century and a half of oppression and silence is enough". This letter was welcomed by the Bahais, who have always made it clear they are humanitarians, not political activists, working towards social transformation for all at a grassroots level, not concerned with overthrowing governments.

Which is why the arrest in May 2008 of seven Bahai leaders seems all the more ridiculous. These individuals were imprisoned with minimal access to lawyers for a year. Their lawyer, Nobel peace prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi, said there was no evidence for their alleged crimes against the state, and yet they each received 20-year prison sentences. After international condemnation their sentences were reduced to 10 years. But the Iranian authorities restored the full sentences in March of this year as soon as the world's attention shifted to the Arab spring.

So as I'm writing my show, and pondering on whether there's any comedy to be gained from all this, the only thread I've come up with is: "Iran clearly has control issues." A memorandum from 1991 signed by the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, states that the Bahai community should be dealt with in such a way "that their progress and development are blocked", and stipulates that Bahais be denied livelihoods and university education.

As my own daughter celebrates the end of her A-levels with her friends and looks forward to university, perhaps there is a similar backdrop now to her life. I'm reading about the shutting down of the Bahai Institute for Higher Education, an online programme set up in 1987 to support the Bahai youth as they are barred from universities. A few weeks ago the authorities raided 39 homes of Bahais who operated the institute and 12 people were arrested.

If I was to even attempt to find humour in any of this, it would be to highlight the absurdity of a mentality that seeks to control private thought and beliefs. The seven leaders, as well as the many other Bahais currently in prison, could all be released if they simply recanted their faith. The fact they choose not to means they are holding on to who they are, showing authenticity to the highest degree. They're a bit different from me who, in 1979, temporarily changed my name from Omid Djalili, Iranian Bahai to Chico Andolini, Italian Catholic to save face in the playground.

First publish in www.guardian.co.uk.

Omid Djalili is a stand-up comedian, actor, television producer and writer


Iqbal Latif

Cutting edge thinking for a connected world!!

by Iqbal Latif on

''Unfortunately the anti-bahai craze has a history that precedes the status quo.''

There is no reason for Bahá'í persecution rather Iran should take pride in the ideas of universal egalitarianism formulated by the founders of the Bahá'í Faith.

Anyone in the 19th century coming up with the idea of 'One world government, a connected world and a universal language that should be commonly instituted plus equality of rights between gender should only be a constructive feature of a nation.' Only the greatest have been visionary of universal oneness of mankind, Iranian mullahs have shaped a blinkered and bigoted society that encourages division and selective prejudice against peripheral minorities; the heavenly trade off promised makes our planet tormented and hellish, this needs all our collective denunciation.

The ideal of an egalitarian society where the prejudice of colour, race and belief will be shunned and a new call of oneness of mankind becomes the cardinal goal of mankind looks premature even now. In medieval Iran of the 19th century how could a man, descending partly from aristocracy and partly from Babism, have coined the new world order of collective progress is beyond the scope of many great modern thinkers.

The vision of future held by members of the Bahai community, however little it may be understood as yet by the majority of the planet's inhabitants, refutes the idea of encroaching darkness; the Bahai vision is, in contrast, one of great promise. The Bahai vision amongst the contemporary revolutionary thoughts is viewed...as marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet.

The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture...should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits and the cutting edge in the organization of human society, this is the vertical limit and Iranians can be proud of the fact that such a global visionary as Bahaullah was born in Tehran.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear Shepeeh

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Before we get there we need to fix ourselves. Read my previous post now. If people stop using Bahai as a swear word that is a good start. What do you think about my simple idea.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


were not persecuted this way during the days of Shah. All of you who trash Shah just remember that! 

But so many people use Bahai as if it was a bad thing. They say "oh Hoveyda was a Bahai". I say so what if he was (he was not). Why do Iranian people even in the West so misuse Bahai. They are no different than anyone. We need to put aside this bigotry against them. I worked with Bahai and they were not preachy to me. They just did their job and went home. The most preachy I saw were non Iranian Muslism. In one case an Egyptian engineer screamed at me for eating during Ramadan. What the *** is his business anyway. Leave other people alone! 

We should start with what is possible right now: our attitude! Stop treating them as if there is something wrong with them. Start to respect them and be kind.



by Shepesh on

Lets hope soon we separate religion from government. Then perhaps we will be more tolerant.

Iqbal Latif

Bahai Persecutions

by Iqbal Latif on

Dear Omid, Persecution of man is something that has been very close to my heart and soul, the persecution of Bahá'ís is tremendously significant and may be you are not aware that I have extensively covered this subject like many others with great enthusiasm.

Persecution of thought has been a established practice of medieval minds. Caliph Omar before deciding the fate of Great Library of Alexandria, is described in Jorge Luis Borges poem ‘Alexandria, AD 641′ before commanding his soldiers to destroy it, said:

''They say the wealth of volumes it contains
Outnumbers the stars or the grains
Of sand in the desert. The man
Who tried to read them all would lose
His mind and the use of his reckless eyes.''

Today in this day of knowledge the quantity of information produced every 48 hours now exceeds the sum of all the words uttered by mankind since the beginning of time until the 21st century. A new super consciousness of mankind has evolved where billon of people are connecting to each other.

Internet today has become source of infinite information. Mankind faces new threat from extreme censorships of ideas in the part of the worlds that are not free from dogma; contemporary man today finds himself even a thousand years away from era of Caliph Omar in front of a new rendezvous with epoch of information – the old 'scripts, ideas and books' are replaced by now specks of instant information flowing through a faultless World Wide Web.

We see events in real time at distance that only were attributed to Gods. Distance has died and so has our ability to unravel mysteries of nature. It is sad that some people are still stuck in 'Iranian mullah primitive society' with persecution of those who believe in oneness of mankind.

Equality is a right of every human being; Cyrus the Great granted that right, and literally figures like Rumi and Saadi have structured within the Iranian genre by saying: "The sons of Adam are limbs of one another Having been created of one essence." "When the calamity of time afflicts one limb, The other limbs cannot remain at rest." By that token, are Bahais' not the sons of Adam? Unfortunately the Baha'is of Iran still face, day after day, methodical denial of their rights, not only as Iranian citizens with regard to their civil and political rights, but also in terms of their economic, social and cultural rights as members of a world-wide religious faith.

In this , intricately interwoven world of ours freedom of thought is the burning issue of the day. In my humble opinion it is only from the excesses of the past like those Iranian clergy, Vatican and Caliph that we learn not to duplicate our blunders. I wrote an article that in my opinion is an essential effort to emphasize that the suppression of the Taliban and Khomeini are just a persistence of our fight back with 'suppression' in the name of holy writ.

In 2002, Aug I wrote this article where I coined the term 'Medieval ignorance' describing the attitude of the Iranian clergy towards Baha'is.

Medieval ignorance
The silence of Iranian polity towards Bahai persecution

August 5, 2002

I also wrote in 2006 about intellectual cleansing and highlighted that no one gives a damn about the Baha'is in Iran, after a decade these terms are now become part of lexicon of Baha'i persecutions.

Black census
Counting minorities is an omen of bad prospects and evil designs ahead



The joke is believing in a God...

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

After all the suffering religous people go through they can't get god out of their minds.  Its been hammered in too deeply. 

A life based on ignorance and control is really nothing to be proud of.

Everyone should be free to think whatever for personal reasons, persecution is sick.  

 A good joke would explore the madess and injustice of faith, which presents itself as truth... that's a funny subject.

Use an interesting subject like geology, mineralogy and put it sideby side with living a life where so much knowledge exists, but it's inaccessible to the minds of hundreds of thousands because of their own self imposed blocks.

You could discuss the subject of conflict between religions using common metaphors...

If you can see the iherent lies and lazyness of religion express them.

like a mullah riding a donkey out of town... either the donkey or mullah has to die, since the mullah won't get off his free ride.  And why should one walk when their are so many donkey, willing to be ridden?  In practice similar to what all democracies create, due to lack of accurate information.


maziar 58

thanks Omid

by maziar 58 on

As our dear shazdeh said it Best.

A True tragic comedy of our lives in the 21st century

Either being Bahai or muslim or even Iranian for.

Hope we can all live in peace and harmony in MARS someday.         Maziar


Dear Omid

by Haleh on


Thank you very much for your article, it made me sad reading it. Thinking
back I realized that while living in Iran, as a child, I actually never
had heard about the Bahai faith. I first learned about Bahaisme at my Norwegian Primary school, in the age of 11, in my
"Religious Theory" class. My first Bahai encounter was one of my
class mates, a Norwegian boy, who was a Bahai.

I think a great deal of this prejudice towards the Bahai in Iran,
is from lack of knowledge and information about the faith. Which is a shame.

Instead of learning about the multitude of faiths in our vast
multicultural country, and mingling and talking to each other, and create
bridges and not gaps, we end up making every thing that does not fit our
"Shija" framework of mind into heresy, evil and devil worship. Hence
we end up having generations and generations of people with minds that have no
room for anything but the shija doctrine embedded in every brain cell!

I feel a shamed. We need to overcome this and see that our
framework of mind is not the only framework of mind out there, and also accept
that it might not be the best of framework out there either.

…ops.I did it I have committed HERESY! Oh well, I always wanted to
see hell….cant stand religious people!

But seriously, please keep up the good work that you are doing,
you are making us proud.



The mistreatment of Bahais has a long history in Iran

by jasonrobardas on

    Surprisingly it was also in full force during the Shah's era. Even though the Shah's regime did not officialy condemn the Bahais , there were , however , religious reactionary groups that were funded by the Bazar to comabt the  Bahais and their belief system.

    In conservative cities like Isfahan , there were (Komiteye mobareze ba bahaeeyat ) who were active in slandering the Bahaiis and forming discussion groups. The  members were fat , overly fed fanatical moslems who were heavily funded and supported by some of the Bazaris. One prominent think tank of this movement was a man named "Seyed .H. Parvaresh " who later bacame the minister of education after the  islamic revolution. 

    Unfortunately the anti-bahai craze has a history that precedes the status quo.


The Basic Principles of Human Rights!

by iranbrave on

May our culture & our people one day embrace the basic principles of Human Rights!

Dear Omid, an excellent article! Thank you for informing us of such injustice and prejudices in our homeland and aboard. Good Luck with your new work. I will look forward to seeing your show.

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Comedy out of Tragedy

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on


As a Shia Muslim, I am sorry about the treatment of Bahai in Iran. You are right, the predejuce and bias has always been there ... thinking that the Bahai are such and such spies of the British or agents of Israel or puppets of the Shah.

Unfortunately, the distrust is so deeply rooted in our psyche that it may be impossible to change. Add that to the fact that the Bahai faith has tried to challenge the very value and stature of the Shia Mullahs; and you find a most peaceful religion at odds with the most warlike sect. But perhaps some day; the meek shall inherit the earth!

This is to your great comedy, born out of such a tragedy.



Thank You

by Piyalechi on

Omid, Thank you for being you.

You are great...