Utahns Protest Abuses Against Bahais In Iran

February 20, 2009

Author: Peggy Fletcher Stack

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune


Mona Kashani Heern remembers sitting quietly at her desk in 1984 when her fifth-grade teacher asked, "Who is a Bahai?"

She and two others raised their hands.

Islamic religious teachers promptly escorted the trio from class, threatened them with hell and expelled them from school. Education was no longer an option for those following a faith deemed heretical by Iran's revolutionary government.

The moment was tragic for Heern, now a language-arts teacher at Joel E. Jensen Middle School in West Jordan, who treasured her education as an article of faith.

But it was only the beginning of her painful odyssey of survival in a hostile environment. A week after Mona's ninth birthday, her father, Jamal Kashani, an auto-parts dealer and volunteer leader in the Bahai community, was arrested and mysteriously taken away. With Mona and her younger sister in tow, her mother went from prison to prison, asking for him. After they finally found him in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, guards taunted the little family by keeping them in the cold for hours before allowing them to see their father. When they asked for him in January 1985, the guard laughed and said, "Didn't you know we killed him a month ago?"

"I will never forget that horrible laugh," Keern says now.

On Friday, about 200 of Utah's 600 Bahais, a community that includes many Iranian refugees, met at the Fort Douglas chapel on the campus of the University of Utah. They prayed and protested plans by Iran's revolutionary court to try seven members of a national Bahai coordinating council on charges eerily similar to those brought against Heern's father -- "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic."