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Entrevista a Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

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Tahirih, first of all, is a name which has a meaning. It means "The pure one", and it was a title given to this woman who was born in the middle of the early part of the nineteenth century and lived to the middle of the nineteenth century in Iran, in Persia. She was born into a family of ecclesiastics in Gazvin. Her father, who was the middle brother of this family, we know very little really about the historical family. But I've always thought of him as struggling to find the balance between the two extremes in the family. Because he was both a man of the world, aware of what was going on and also very pure hearted, I think, and had great integrity. He had the vision of realizing that this girl, who was born as his eldest daughter, had remarkable intelligence and deserved to be educated. And he did what no father in nineteenth century Iran would have done, which was he gave her the education of a boy. Which in those days, at that time, would have been the education of Theology. In the Theological Colleges of Karbala. Which is where she went with her husband, who was her cousin, when she was 13, she was married, as was the law in those days. And she went to Karbala with her husband, who was a student at the College, and she listened from behind the curtain. And she begun to do more than listen, she begun to interrupt, she begun to argue, she had her own opinion and so she caused a scandal, of course everybody in the family was shocked, the father was blamed, of course, in the beginning, and then it seemed to them that she was just going too far because she adopted ideas that were considered heretical at that time. She was attracted to the teaching of the Herald Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Whose title was The Bab, which means "The Gate". And His Message at that time was to alert the Iranian people to the need for reform, to the need for change, to the reason for getting themselves ready to accept a much larger interpretation of religion and reality than they had had before. He said the time had come to widen their minds, to prepare them for the acceptance and recognition of that One, whom He called, "the One who God shall make manifest", that One Who had been promised in all the religions of the past, the One Who was finally going to be instrumental in the gathering together of the nations of the world, the bringing about of the peace of the human race, through struggling, through suffering, through tribulation and ultimately through maturity. Now, the fact that she had the audacity, this young woman from Iran, to recognize and accept such heretical beliefs, meant that she was naturally ostracized, she was considered to have gone beyond of the bounds, her husband was appalled, he wanted to control her and she divorced him, which is a shocking thing for any woman to have done in Islamic society in nineteen century. She was deprived of access to her children, they were removed from her influence because she was considered a heretic. She was ultimately chased up and down the country and had to go from house to house, place to place to be in hiding, until finally she was captured and brought to Tehran and put under house arrest, under the instigation of her husband, who insisted that she was not only a heretic, but a criminal and the possibility of her being killed was evident, but it was very interesting to consider that the laws of Iran towards female heretics finally sort of protected her. She was not supposed to be a heretic if she was female, really, because she was not supposed to have a soul. So how could you have an opinion that was so outrageous if you couldn't think? So the only way a female heretic could be treated, specially one who came from a distinguished family, who had had such an influence on her society and her contemporaries, she was teaching women to read, which was already revolutionary. She was a poet and her poems were going everywhere, and she was talking openly about the Babi Faith, about her beliefs. So the only way you could treat a woman like that, who had such distinction and popularity, was to put her away in isolation and gradually starve her to death. She was supposed to die, you were not supposed to kill her, she was supposed to die. As a result of her being put in the home of the mayor of Tehran, under house arrest, she started to influence the women of that household. She made a friend of the wife of the Mayor and so she ended up in that house being a privileged guest and, to the dismay of her enemies, she didn't die. The subject of the equality of men and women is one of those nuts that is hard to crack. When I think of our times, our age, our epoch, if I could be so presumptuous as to zoom myself out of our solar system and go to a galaxy and take a look at the human race at this point in time, I would say that the issue of the equality of men and women is the fault line on which so many other factors, so many other questions in society come to a crisis point. The fact that, in the Baha'i Faith, the one that we would call the Manifestation of God for this age, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, should make that issue one of the fundamental principles in His teachings, tells me that it's going to take us a long time to understand what it means and that it is vital to try to work it out and understand what it means because it's going to impinge on everything else. So, yes, Baha'u'llah gives us this extraordinary challenge to work on the equality of men and women. And from the moment when He said, a 150 years ago, to today, how many different versions and attempts we've made in the East, in the West, to try to understand the meaning of that word, equality, they say that when Tahirih was going to be killed the last words she said was: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women". I mean, who knows whether she actually used those very words. But if she hadn't said that, exactly like that, she would have said something similar, I think. The meaning in those words is what she would have conveyed, one way or another. Because she was clearly a woman who understood the importance of a balance in society. That when that balance was missing, as we say in Baha'i terminology, when there are no two wings to the bird, when in fact in the writings of the Bab, He speaks about the arms and the legs, not only the wings of the bird. You need the two arms, you need two hands, you need two legs to be able to walk, you can take it right it up to the present day and say you need the two hemispheres of the brain to be able to have a balanced and healthy approach to life. So, whenever that balance is upset, whenever there is too much dominance and too much subservience, whenever there is too much cloning, that's also another danger; when the two sides are doing exactly the same thing, there is problems, we have issues, we have crisis, we have misery, we have human suffering, from and individual level all way through family structures right up to society in general.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes
Country: Spain
Language: English
Producer: Amaranta
Director: Amaranta
Views: 7,142
Posted by: combahaiesp on Feb 13, 2011

Autora de "La mujer que leía demasiado", biografía novelada de Tahirih Qurrutu'l-Ayn.

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