Baha'i student grateful to escape from persecution

The Online Daily of the University of Washington
The University of Washington Student Newspaper
April 29, 1996

Baha'i student grateful to escape from persecution in Islamic Iran:

Many imprisoned or killed for beliefs

Jason Herman
Contributing Writer

Taraneh Moll is thankful for having grown up in the United States.

Moll, a junior business major and practicing Baha'i, has enjoyed luxuries people of the Baha'i faith do not enjoy everywhere. Baha'is in Iran, where members of Moll's family lived until the 1980s, have been increasingly persecuted for over 17 years.

"I wouldn't have been able to go to school if I had grown up in Iran," she said. "I would have been a different person."

Taraneh's parents met in Nicaragua in 1971 while pioneering for the Baha'i faith.

Her father was an American from Minnesota and her mother was from Tehran, the capital of Iran. Taraneh was born in 1975. In 1977 she moved with her family to the United States.

In 1978, the revolution in Iran began. Until that time there had been relative peace for people of the Baha'i faith. Some Baha'is had been severely persecuted, but for the most part they were simply harassed by Iranian Muslims.

The revolution brought a wave of persecution for Baha'is. In 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini became head of a new Islamic Republic.

Under the Islamic government, people of all minority religions in Iran were persecuted, but none so harshly as the Baha'is, Iran's largest religious minority group.

Thousands of Baha'is were put to death and imprisoned. Many fled Iran, legally and illegally.

Moll's family was fourth generation Baha'i and, at first, was reluctant to leave. However, the family was soon forced out of their home.

Moll's great-grandmother suffered a fractured hip, and like many other Baha'is, was refused medical treatment at an Iranian hospital. Eventually she died due to a lack of medical attention.

Baha'is were perceived as a threat to the Islamic religion. Many were persecuted for their manner of dress. The Khomeini regime imposed strict standards on women, demanding they cover their heads and wear clothing concealing their legs and arms down to the wrist.

Baha'i women were used to dressing as they wished and were unaccustomed to the strict standards. Moll's aunt, Fattaneh, was rebellious enough to wear a shirt in public that revealed her arms.

She angered a knife-wielding Muslim who attacked her, cutting her arm.

By the end of 1979, Moll's aunts and grandparents were forced out of their homes. Her three aunts were able to flee Iran fairly easily, since two of them had married Muslims.

Her grandparents, however, had a more difficult time. They left separately to avoid suspicion. Her grandfather was cleared to leave first and moved to Vancouver, B.C.

Her grandmother followed later, but was forced to give up everything. All of their possessions were left in Iran, even pictures and clothing.

Although they left legally, the two face imprisonment if they return to Iran.

"I don't think they want to go back right now," Moll said. "I think they miss it, but it won't be the same if they go back right now."

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