A Loving Son Writes of his Imprisoned Father, Behrouz Tavakkoli – A Profile in Courage


A Loving Son Writes of his Imprisoned Father, Behrouz Tavakkoli – A Profile in Courage
by faryarm

I am pleased to say a few words about my father. Behrouz Tavakkoli was born in 1951 in a small town, two hours distant from Mashhad, the capital of Khurasan.

He grew up in that area, and at an early age developed an interest in photography. I remember in my childhood having found his “darkroom” in my grandparents’ old house. He also played volleyball and used to run. Eventually he entered university, where he studied psychology and received his degree at 23. He then joined the military service and served in the army as a lieutenant for two years.

While in the service and stationed in Mashhad, my father married my mother, Tahirih Tooski. From this union, they had two sons: I am the eldest at 31 and my younger brother, Nabil is now 24 years old. My father was about 26 when he left completed his military sevice – mandatory for all Iranian men – and resumed his profession by participating in further advanced study so that he could serve as a social worker in rehabilitation centers. Soon afterwards they moved to Sari, a pleasant town in northern Iran and close to the Caspian Sea. His life passion was helping people through social work and providing a means for rehabilitation. His job as a specialist was to provide technical support for organizations that took care of mentally and physically handicapped patients. To this day, he often talks about his work in the 1970s, prior to the Islamic Revolution, when he served as a social worker. It appears that it was the happiest time of his life.

Some time later, we returned to Mashhad and for some 13 years we lived in Gonbad, a smaller city close to the Turkmenistan border. During the last 9 years, my family has lived in Tehran where he has been able to serve the community and people. In fact, to my knowledge, all the Yaran lived or moved to Tehran, or somewhere close by, so they could be more effective in their service to the community.

After the Revolution, as with all other Baha’is in Iran, he was fired from his job on account of his religion.

My father was an active Baha’i all his life. When he turned 15, he began participating in the Baha’i youth association institute, which served the youth of the community from the age of 15. He served for a long time in this institute.

In either the late 60s or early 70s, he was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly while he was a university student in Mashhad. He served in that capacity until he moved to Sari, where he was once again appointed to serve in the youth institute. However, within a couple of years he was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of that town.

With the emergence of the Revolution and persecutions engulfing the Baha’is of Iran, he was soon appointed an Auxiliary Board member, and served in that office until 1982-3 when our family returned to Mashhad. Because of the pressure of harassment and the constant attacks of the enemies, we lived in seclusion for the next four years, and no one knew of our whereabouts except my uncle and aunt. We often lived in hiding, and got good at becoming “invisible”.

Once the intensity of persecution had lessened to some degree, our family moved to Gonbad – a small town of relatively humble circumstances. My father started a series of Baha’i studies classes for youth and adults. During these years, he developed a millwork carpentry shop, so he could earn a living. He continued with that work in Gonbad.

It was in the late 1980s that he was asked to serve on Yaran group, a service that he continued for the next 19 or 20 years until his arrest last May. The first 10 years of this service was in Gonbad and the rest in Tehran.

Before this arrest, he had been detained every so often, but typically just for a couple of days. However, three years ago, while he was taking a bus to visit Baha’i communities in Khurasan as a part of his service for the Ruhi training institute, he was arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. This arrest was sudden, and we did not have news of him or know his whereabouts for some 10 days. At the same time, Fariba Kamalabadi (another member of the Yaran group) was arrested with him. Eventually, they released Fariba after about two months, and my father after four months of incarceration. They had spent most of their time in solitary confinement with no charges against them. After that imprisonment, my father developed serious kidney and orthotic problems.

When he returned to Tehran, in addition to his services as a member of the Yaran, he resumed his teaching of Baha’i classes for various age groups, which were different from the earlier Baha’i studies classes. In recent years he would teach “teaching methods for training of children” and “family consultation skills”. In addition, he used to teach courses for BIHE (Baha’i institute for Higher Education) in the Psychology Department.

He is an ordinary person propelled to do extraordinary things. When he was called upon to serve as a member of Yaran, he gave up every thing else so he could devote himself fully to that service. This included permanently giving up his occupation, which he had been engaged in while in Gonbad.

My father is not an unusually brave man, or gifted with exceptional talents, nor does he possess the ability to learn faster than others. But when it comes to serving the Faith, he fears nothing – absolutely nothing. And I also remember him intensely studying the Faith all the time in order to have deeper knowledge of its teachings and to learn better ways to share its healing message with those around him, or gain insights about new techniques and methods of managing the Baha’i community.

Once I remarked that Baha’u’llah had admonished us to moderation in all things. My father responded, “But you have to define moderation for yourself in relation to the Faith’s priorities.”

When it came to service, my father knew no moderation. Every single day of the week, for 18 hours a day, he was engaged in the most intense work of the Cause. I remember him as a tall, slim, pleasant looking young man. I don’t know when he became an old, ill man. May God watch over him in prison.

By Naeim Tavakkoli

Courtesy: Iran Press Watch.


more from faryarm

Thank you..Seeb

by faryarm on

I thank you for your comments.

Regarding your valid point about  The "finality" or the Seal of Prophets.

I found the following that has been posted before useful for layman's understanding of what the Holy Quran presents. 

One should remember that so many of the early believers in the Bab and Baha'u'llah  were Islamic Scholars of the highest order, including    Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Golpaygani

   Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl was born in 1844, in the town of Gulpáygán, in central Iran. His given name was Muhammad, the son of Muhammad-Ridá. A brilliant student, he attended traditional Muslim schools in his hometown, went on to higher theological studies in Isfahan, and eventually in Tehran. He distinguished himself and rose into the highest ranks of the Shí'í Muslim clergy. 

It is the likes of him that have provided such irrefutable proof with comprehensive , logical reference to Sura and verse in the Quran.

When hopefully the time comes in Iran ,when we can have open examination and fairminded approach to this seeming stumbling block, the case will be made very clear and people can decide for themselves.

Bahais have never had the opportunity to openly present such proofs. 

At present the bigger stumbling block, is the Shia Clergy's refusal to have such open, public presentation of the facts, rather than the "issue"of how

the "Seal of Prophets" is interpreted.


The following shows how so much in the Quran points to the coming of another revelation and guidance from God.



Adib Masumian

To Seeb

by Adib Masumian on

Dear Seeb,

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you understand the Baha'i community's dedication to not only adherents of their own religion but also to mankind at large.

Regarding the Seal of the Prophets: I do not wish to turn this topic into a venue for theological debate, but perhaps when we have a chance to fairly present ourselves as you so rightly phrased it, we will be able to share our own perspectives on the term:




But since the majority of devout Iranian Muslims (and more importantly the IRI) would not consider a largely metaphorical interpretation of "Seal" feasible in the slightest, the road to "agreeing to disagree" at the very least has and most likely will be, as you astutely pointed out, an arduous one.


to Faryar and Alborz

by seeb (not verified) on

The Bahais who have decided to stay, despite the grave dangers, and instability, are at a higher platform, for sure. It takes a strong character to endure that much, and still stay. Historically, this will be good for the Bahais, and shows their strenght and resolve.

I believe if Bahais have a chance to present themselves fairly to people in Iran, they will probably over time come to understand them, and eventually grow to accept them as different. However, since the Bahais are contradicting the fundamental Islamic concept of "khatam-ol-anbya", it may take them a very long, arduous road to achieve that.


Darius Jaan, There is Hope.

by faryarm on

Darius Jaan, There is Hope.

Perhaps, this hope is a further reason why Bahai have faith and confidence in the ultimate glory of Iran. But why so much faith and confidence and personal confidence ? 

What makes them so sure in the face of relentless persecution, where just about everything is denied to them?

What do they posses that others dont? what empowers them?

After all, as a parent, i put myself in the position of a Bahai parent in Iran.

I have lost my job, because i am not allowed to have a Government t job, They have cancelled my business license;  my five year old is harassed by his teacher; my twenty year old A student has passed the University entrance exam in the top two percent , but is denied entry. My Cousin's house was firebombed, and the police and fire brigade did not show up.

The state sponsored radio, tv and newspapers  , like Kayhan have stepped up their attacks , inciting people against Bahais, with words like Spy, enemy, Najis, etc...

But the clouds have been developing silver lining. The People are beginning to wake up and no longer believe the lies; at least those on the payroll dont. Iranian public opinion has been changing towards The Bahais , and nothing frightens the Mullahs about essentially a defenseless minority, except the day when they lose their hold and any authority they have left.

The current and ongoing Anti Bahai campaign, is perhaps the most powerful proof of the Mullahs fear of this eventuality.  

I believe this hope  and faith in our rebirth as a spiritual civilization, can spread and give us all true faith in the future of Iran and the world;  when we can recognize that temporary Band-Aids to our country's ills have not succeeded. Iran will not be Iran again  until, the "afat" killing the Tree that is Iran and the spiritual principles and human values that can be applied as THE CURE to the root of this ailing ancient tree. 


Darius Kadivar

Shameful Treatment of Baha'is in Iran ...

by Darius Kadivar on

I am truly ashamed of the treatment of our fellow Baha'i compatriots in Iran as even less than second rate citizens. I have good and close Baha'i Friends myself and religion has never been an issue of concern to me or to them in this regard. But to see that a population is deprived of their legitimate right to belong to a religious community or have a different perspective be it religious wise or politically or culturally is something that bothers me and pains me greatly. To think that the land of Cyrus the Great founded on the Universal values that have shaped Humanity in its best is being reduced to such intolerant behavior. When will Our Nation Wake Up ? I am pessimistic more and more about any positive outcome to 30 years of moral and cultural decadance in my homeland Iran once a Cradle of Civilization ...


The Reason why most stay...

by faryarm on

The choice to stay or remain in Iran is purely a personal one. 

Many in my own family, despite having family abroad and the means decided to stay and suffered the consequences.

Three of my father's cousins, all with the means to leave, stayed, because of their responsibilities towards the community; all three were consequently executed, their whereabouts unknown. Closer to me, My Aunt and Uncle , simply did not like to leave, because they felt Iran is their home.

My Aunt and her husband were later arrested and imprisoned for seemingly helping a Mulsim neighbour who was leaving Iran in their garage sale.

My aunt subsequently  spent 2 years in prison, where her internal infection went untreated.......she never got to see her grandson in Boston.

I remember two instances, where I overheard my father talking to his partner who at the time was in Paris. He and another prominent Bahai , Professor Manocheher Hakim were both going back to Iran. This was at a time when executions were at their height. 

Professor Hakim's medical practice catered largely to the poor of south tehran ,and he felt a responsibility towards his community.Shortly after arriving back in tehran from France,  Professor Hakim was murdered by assailants posing as patients.

I leave you with an account by Professor Hakim's Grandson; writing for 

the Muslin Netwrok for Bahai Rights, He states:


"Aziz Samandari was amongst the 6 Baha’is who were arrested in mid-January in Tehran following raids by security officials. His cousin, Caroline Samandari, published the following article on IndianExpress.com:

Two weeks have passed since I heard the alarming news: Aziz Samandari, my cousin in Tehran, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid by Iranian intelligence officials. To date, no formal charges have been framed, and he has been denied both access to a lawyer and visits by relatives.As I read the email sent by his wife, I burst into tears. I cannot help thinking about my grandfather, Professor Manuchehr Hakim, a renowned medical doctor, shot dead in January 1981 in his practice in Tehran. I was two, at the time living in Switzerland, and still too young to grasp the scale of the tragedy unfolding.

I also think of my uncle, Bahman Samandari, the father of Aziz, executed by Iranian authorities in March 1992, a day after being summoned for questioning. I was thirteen, and was told the terrible news by my father in Paris.

Why are my family members targeted? What crime have they all committed?

The answer is simple: they are members of the Bahai community, Iran’s largest religious minority, yet the most persecuted. The followers of this religion have been targets of systematic persecution in Iran since the inception of the Bahai Faith in the middle of the 19th century.

In 1979, with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the persecutions took a new direction, becoming official Government policy. Since then, more than 200 Bahais have been executed, hundreds imprisoned, and tens of thousands deprived of jobs, pensions and access to higher education. Holy places and cemeteries were confiscated, vandalised, or destroyed.

Bahais, who have great love for their country, are deeply committed to its development, and don’t get involved in partisan politics, are persecuted solely because of religious hatred and their faith’s progressive position on women’s rights, education and independent investigation of truth.

There are 300,000 Bahais in Iran. Yet they have been deliberately omitted from the list of the three religious minorities recognised in the Constitution, and are classified as “unprotected infidels”.

Time has passed, circumstances have changed. I am no longer a teenager. I now live in India. However, the brutal reality is still the same: my cousin is at great risk in the hands of the authorities of the Islamic Republic solely because of his belief in a religion — a religion whose main purpose is to promote world peace and harmony, and emphasises the underlying unity of the world’s spiritual traditions!

As I try to internalise the news of the arrest of Aziz, I am surprised at my own feelings. I am worried and sad, but at the same time cannot find in my heart any trace of hatred or of willingness to seek revenge against those who have so systematically persecuted my family and all the other members of the Bahai community in Iran. I also refuse to blame Islam, even for a second, for what is being done supposedly in its name.

Why do I feel this way?

Maybe because I have been taught since my early childhood that “all the religions are one” and that “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”.

Maybe because of the courage of Aziz’s closest relatives who, instead of crying in despair, comfort us over the phone.

Maybe, even more, because of Aziz himself.

Aziz, who didn’t leave Iran because he felt he had a responsibility towards those other members of the Bahai community who, unlike him, did not have relatives who could help them start a safe life abroad. Who felt a sense of responsibility towards his country, which he loved, and its people, whom he wanted to serve.

Aziz, who was supposed to spend the year-end holidays with us in New Delhi but whose passport was confiscated at the airport in Tehran and is now in jail in the sadly notorious Evin prison, where his father was hung 16 years ago.

Aziz, who shares the fate of four other Bahais, arrested in Tehran the same day, and, among others, seven administrators of the Iranian Bahai community, held in prison since May 2008.

Against all odds, I remain optimistic. I still believe that the voices of people around the world and the objections raised by the international community against Iran’s systematic persecution of Bahais can change the course of history. I also strongly believe that voices from India can have a very powerful influence. I call on these voices to express themselves openly and forcefully." 

I guess the only "brainwashing" of  highly accomplished and intelligent people was their selfless devotion to God, Country ,service and principle . Would you agree?




To stay or not to stay, is the not the question.

by alborz on

Dear Seeb,

Intertwined with the very legitimate question that you ask, is an implication that a mandate of sorts exists and which you characterize as "brain-washed".

The Baha'is of Iran, despite the persecution remain a vibrant community whose members express their commitment to faith through deeds. They serve the people of Iran through their deeds not only because Iran is the birthplace and cradle of their Faith but that serving humanity is the purpose of their Faith.

The relentless persecution by the authorities is met with relentless acts of charity and good deeds by the Baha'is of Iran.  This again is an example of commitment by individuals to a Cause.  The Baha'is of Iran are also free in how they express their faith.  Commitment to faith does not detract from a person's "intelligence" nor does abandoning a Cause make a person "intelligent". 

During the past regime's rule, the Baha'i community of Iran made significant contributions to the advancement of society in Iran.  During the past 30 years they have exemplified qualities that have distinguished them amongst the disillusioned masses, through sacrificial acts of kindness, charity, and honesty in the face of brutality and injustice.  Please be cautious as you may misunderstand by mischaracterizing these rare and noble qualites.  The world hungers for these qualities which ultimately will heal the wounds of the ailing body of humanity.

The emphasis on unity is on unity of purpose and not unity in choice or means.  Individual freedoms are not compromised but channeled towards a unity of purpose and goal.

Perhaps your assumption that "educated" and "professionals" will act differently in this context can now be reexamined.



There is not doubt that the

by seeb (not verified) on

There is not doubt that the Bahais in Iran are being persecuted and treated very unfairly. I was just curious that why some of them leave, enjoy having rights in the countries they decide to live in, and leading successful lives, while others are staying in Iran? Is this a group decision asking some to stay, others to leave? Or a personal one?

As a group of people who emphasize unity, how do they reconcile with the fact that they essentially are leaving behind a large number of their own to suffer in Iran? I know some of them were professionals and highly educated in the Pahlavi era, and have been more than capable of leaving, so what makes them stay behind? The thought of being brain-washed crosses one's mind, when seemingly intelligent people act in ways that are detrimental for them.


Hamvatan! هم وطن "..meehanam abad konam.."


Mona 19


by Mona 19 on

در انتظار نم نم باران

ای سـرو ناز گوشه صحرا چه میـکنی        بی کس غریب یــکّه و تـنها چه میکنی
باغت کجاست؟ آب روان کو شکوفــه کو        اینک کنار صــــخره ســمّا چه میکنی
بعد از نوای بلبل و غوغـــای فاختـــــــه        با نـعره های بــوم بـــد آوا چه میکنی
بالیده ای مدام به گلزار و ســـــبزه زار        زانو زده بخاک تو ایـــــــنجا چه میکنی
در انتظار نم نم باران نشــــسته ای ؟        باران اگر نــــــــــبارد آیا چه میکنی
یاران هـمه روانـــه دیــــر فــــــنا شـدند        ای بیوفا تو مــیل بــقا را چه میکنی
امروز ار ز جور فلک ایمــــــــنی ولیـک        ای دوســت با تطاول فـردا چه میکنی
گفتـم از این مقوله کتابی به ســـرو نـاز        آهی کشید و گفت که با ما چه میکنی
ما آن بلا کـــش به جــفا صبـــر کرده ایم        ای بی هنر تو عیب شکیبا چه میکنی
از عشق باغــــبان سـر پا ایستاده ایـم        دل مرده را بگوی که غــوغا چه میکنی
ترسـان اگــر زموج حــوادث حــــذر کــنی        ای نا خـــدا مــــیانــــه دریا چه میکنی
عاشق نه ای صـــلای محبت چه مــیزنی        مجنون نه ای به منزل لـیلا چه میکنی
چون پـشـه ار ز حـمله بـادی بــــــدر روی        آهنــگ آشــیانه عـــــــنقا چه میکنی
در خاک عـشق ریشــه پنهان دوانده ایم        ای تـند باد ، زحمت بـیــجا چه میکنی
مائـیم و پـــایــــــداری و آئــین دوســتی        ای مدعی، تـو نیـز بگو تا چه میکنی

سروده جناب هوشمند فتح اعظم.

به امید سلامتی‌ و آزادی یاران عزیز ایران و دوستان در بند...یا الله المستغاث


Maryam Hojjat

May God protect

by Maryam Hojjat on

this great  human being from hands of these criminals running Iran.