Category Archives Human Rights

Normalizing Menstruation Promotes Equality. Period.

When I was eleven, my period leaked for the first time in my sixth-grade class. It was my second period ever, and while age and experience has now confirmed what my mother said to me the day it happened (“Every single woman in the world has leaked”) I was mortified to the point of being momentarily traumatized; boys bullied me for weeks about it, and I exerted all my efforts into avoiding the memory of it. From then on, when I had my period, nothing was more important to me than making sure I didn’t leak. All my thoughts, anxieties, and concerns through the day on those dreaded moments of a month revolved around how many pads or tampons I had in my bag, and how many opportunities I would have to go to the bathroom.

It wasn’t long before I realized this was a concern all my girlfriends shared, and we spent our days in middle and high school clandestinely passing each other pads and tampons in brown bags, so no one would see, and through the sleeves of each other’s shirts like we were exchanging contraband instead of products crucial to our health and well-being. We didn’t talk about our periods above whispers and used euphemisms like “our friend from down South” if we had to talk publicly or loudly. Characters in TV shows didn’t have or refer to their periods; no one in movies seemed affected. Pop stars and models were beautiful all the time and never caved over in cramps, migraines, or nausea, so we put smiles on our faces, saved the complaining for each other when we were home in our pajamas and watching TV, accepting the silence and secrecy as givens and normalcy for menstruating women.

I’d always been passionate about my faith and spirituality, I often talked about the Baha’i Faith’s advocacy for women’s rights, but I never saw how my humiliation or secrecy regarding my period had anything to do with the principle of gender equality. Sometime in my teenage years, I was reading my own copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) that my Baha’i school teacher had given me. I came across the passage:  Continue reading

A Personal Reflection on ‘The Prosperity of Humankind’

In 1995 the Baha’i International Community’s Office of Public Information, in Haifa, prepared a statement entitled The Prosperity of Humankind that was distributed for the first time at the United Nations World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen. The statement, based on insights derived from the Baha’i Writings and an analysis of contemporary society, shares some important concepts and principles for building a strategy for global development. I truly loved reading it and thought of sharing my personal views on the statement in the hope it motivates others to study it if you have not done so yet (in can be read in full online or downloaded from the Baha’i Reference Library).  Continue reading

Flame of Tests: The Story of Farhang Mavaddat

Mehraeen Mavaddat-Mottahedin’s heartbreaking account of her husband’s suffering of unspeakable persecution, imprisonment and death is now being shared in English from its original in Persian, after 34 years. Flame of Tests: The Story of Farhang Mavaddat is a love story. With courage and tenderness, Mehraeen’s memoir tells the story of her husband, a fifth-generation Baha’i and a chemical engineer respected for his intelligence and upright character, who was arrested, tortured, unjustly tried, and executed simply for his love of Baha’u’llah.

It was my honour to speak with Mehraeen about her book and to learn more about her book.  Continue reading

It’s OK to Be a Feminist

Many people have strong opinions about the word “feminist” and the whole concept of feminism. These opinions might be based on good or bad experiences that people have had, on things they have heard or read, or on fundamental understandings of the realities of women and men. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and to the reasons behind those opinions.

For this article, we (the authors) are going to focus on only two things: a dictionary definition of “feminism” and some of the statements found in the Baha’i Writings that we feel address aspects of that definition. We hope that you will read with this in mind, gleaning anything you find useful from the post as a jumping off point for continued conversation.  Continue reading

Not Another Year – #‎ReleaseBahai7Now‬ – Glimpses of the Global Campaign

Baha’is around the world have joined the global “Not Another Year” campaign calling for the release of the seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Iran for nothing more than being a Baha’i.

We decided to share just a few examples of some of the many actions taken by Baha’is globally in an effort to bring awareness to their wrongful imprisonment.  Continue reading

“Not Another Year!” – Help Release the 7 Baha’i Leaders Now

It is impossible for me to imagine what it would feel like to be wrongfully imprisoned for nine years. Nine years is such a long time. In that time period, all of my nephews and nieces have been born, friends and family members have passed away, and loved ones have achieved major milestones like completing their educations, winning artistic prizes, and changing careers. Nine years is a long time to miss out on a life that is rightfully yours. Nine years is a long time not to be able to hold a newly-born loved one in your arms, to offer a shoulder of strength during a time of grief, or to watch a child blow out their birthday cake candles.

It is with heavy hearts that on May 14, we mark the 9th anniversary of the wrongful arrest and imprisonment of the seven Baha’i leaders of Iran (known as the Yaran, which means “the Friends”). These seven Baha’is made up the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community (in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership which was banned in 1983), and they were arrested and have been imprisoned since 2008 for nothing more than being Baha’is. Currently, about 90 Baha’is are also imprisoned for their beliefs.

We all can lend a voice in helping to end this injustice and to bring attention to the plight of the Baha’is in Iran and those who suffer human rights violations. In observance of the ninth anniversary of the Baha’i leaders’ incarceration, the Baha’i International Community is launching a global campaign in which we can all participate.  Continue reading

Feeling Boundless Love for Others

Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, color or shade of political opinion.

– Abdu’l-Baha

The security of people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent living in the United States seems to be on thin ice: bearing brown skin and a “foreign” name are dangerous liabilities. Evidence comes in recent hate crimes like February’s Kansas killing. Engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were attacked by a man who told them to “get out of my country.” Kuchibhotla died. The attacker later disclosed that he thought his victims, who were natives of India, were Iranian. In March, Hasel Afshar returned to his Oregon town from vacation to discover his home ransacked and hateful messages coating the walls of his house. The messages indicated that the attackers believed Afshar to be Muslim. He is actually a Baha’i refugee from Iran. Persecuted for his faith in his homeland—attacked for his foreignness in his refuge.  Continue reading

Education for Girls: A Personal Reflection

(Photo: courtesy Baha'i World Centre)

On July 12th, Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 19th birthday. This Nobel Peace Prize winner (the world’s youngest) caught the world’s attention in 2012 when she was shot in the face by the Taliban for attending school and for championing the right of girls to be educated. On her 16th birthday, Malala gave a speech at the United Nations — the first after the attack on her life — renewing her commitment to fight for the right of children to go to school. The UN dubbed that July 12th as “Malala Day” and some have celebrated it since.

Education is a universal right. Abdu’l-Baha states:

The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…

The education of girls is a principle distinctly upheld in the Baha’i Writings. It is a subject that I think of often, and it is a subject more complicated than a simple Baha’i Blog article can address. Here are a few of my thoughts about the education of girls and how this goal is linked to the equality of men and women and the importance of children’s classes.  Continue reading

“Enough! Release the Baha’i Seven” – Support the New Global Campaign

It’s now been eight years that the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders (also known collectively as ‘the Yaran’) have been held in an Iranian prison and enough is enough!

In observance of the eighth anniversary of their arrest and incarceration, the Baha’i International Community is launching a global campaign calling for their immediate release and we urge you all to join!

Taking the theme “Enough! Release the Baha’i Seven,” the campaign will emphasize the fact that, under Iran’s own national penal code, the seven are now overdue for conditional release. Continue reading