The story of Shamim is one of imprisonment, resistance, and service to the humanitarian values of the “Bahá’í” community and faith, oppressed by the Iranian government.
Shamim lives in Yazd, a wonderful ancient city listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. He asked me to include the photo of his grandfather, who was executed, in the portrait. “He could have just hidden the fact that he was Bahá’í to save his life, but he didn’t. He was murdered in 1981, two years after the revolution. The government doesn’t want to recognize that we exist, although we are the biggest minority religion in Iran.
“When I went to school, I was allowed not to join the prayers or not to fast with Muslim students, while I could fast in the Bahá’í traditional period for it, but I just couldn’t say the reason why, as the existence of the Bahá’í is kept like a secret.” I ask him why he is not thinking about the possibility of leaving the country. “Too many things keep me rooted: my grandma, family, friends. Also, I want to do whatever I can for my people here and show with my behavior that we are good. We believe in serving humanity, our neighbors; we want the whole world to be united. We put the others before us.”
Shamime was imprisoned for three years and two months, until 2016, after he made a video for a foreign TV station showing the wreckage of the Bahá’í cemetery, a place assigned to them after the revolution. All the trees planted and laboriously watered for 30 years had been cut and graves destroyed and littered. “I went to the government, and they told me our religion is illegal, so that place must be shut. The police came without a mandate and imprisoned me. My mother was imprisoned too, in 2015, for consulting and helping other Bahá’ís. If you help Bahá’ís, they say you are teaching against the government.” The Bahá’í are forbidden from studying at university, so Shamime got his Industrial Electrician degree from the BIHE (Bahai Institute for Higher Education), which operates mainly online, with some in-person tutorials. He works in an after-sales service for cleaning machines. He has personally buried three Bahá’í people dead from the Covid-19 in the last month.