Bahai News -- Courier News - Iranians shed light on Iraqis' situation

Iranians shed light on Iraqis' situation

Published in the Courier News on March 14, 2003
Staff Writer

FLEMINGTON -- Rana Poustchi, a member of the Bahai religion, said she fled her native Iran in 1979 to escape religious persecution by Islamic fundamentalists.

And although the people of Iraq might not be facing religious intolerance, the weight of Saddam Hussein's rule might be equally oppressive, Poustchi said Wednesday at a meeting of the Flemington Woman's Club.

Poustchi, a resident of Franklin, Somerset County, declined to offer an opinion about what should be done to disarm Iraq.

"It's a mixed feeling," she said. "I feel sorry for the people because it's still the same thing (oppression). It's not the people's choice. They suffer like we did.

"You want your freedom and your life," she added. "Innocent people have died. But really they can't do too much."

Poustchi, a native of Azerbaijan, was accompanied to the club by one of her two daughters, 12-year-old Shirin. The two made a presentation on Iranian culture, including the Persian New Year, which begins March 21, to more than 50 club members.

Poustchi moved to Michigan to study radiography in 1979 and her parents joined her within a year.

All were unable to return home because Iranian officials wouldn't let them use their passports because of their Bahai faith. In addition, the family's home and import business was seized, she said.

Islamic fundamentalists also killed one of her uncles because he wasn't a Muslim and then asked the Poustchis to pay for the bullets used to kill him, she said.

Poustchi, who became a U.S. citizen, remains optimistic the country will one day return to less oppressive conditions.

"Persian culture is 2,500 years old. A rich culture. Just because of 25 years going backwards, it doesn't change the culture," she said.

"I'm sure it's going to change. Nothing is forever. Maybe in a couple years, hopefully. As Bahais, we believe the future is very bright."

Shirin, a sixth-grade student at Conerly Road School, presented a Persian dance she learned watching Persian TV channels.

Shirin also read a Peace Keepers essay she once read at the United Nations with other students to schools around the world by satellite.

"If you want the future to be peaceful, you can't keep on teaching kids about war and that kids are going to be the future of the world," Shirin said.

Poustchi, who works at Pine Grove Manor School in Somerset as a teacher's assistant, said before the revolution, Iran's laws related to marriage and divorce were legislated in favor of women.

Women also sat as judges, worked in high positions in business and could volunteer for military service, which she did for two years.

Since 1979, women in Iran must cover everything but their faces and hands in public, and the legal age for marriage has dropped from 18 to 9, Poustchi said.

Poustchi and her daughter were invited by the club because one of its goals is to put faces on names and places, said Mary Hardy, a member of the group's International Affairs Department.

"The world's a very interesting place and you should try to get to know people. All the people," Hardy said. "The world is one country and all mankind its citizens."

Chris Donahue can be reached at (908) 782-2300 or

©Copyright 2003, Courier News (NJ, USA)

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