By Michele Bourdieu
HOUGHTON -- The Amnesty International film Education Under Fire, a documentary about the persecution of people of the Baha'i faith in Iran, will be the subject of a Forum hosted by the Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (KUUF) at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, in the Head Start Building in Houghton.
At the Portage Lake District Library last May, Saeid Nooshabadi, right, speaks about the persecution of Baha'is in Iran and answers questions on the film Education Under Fire, which he and his wife, Laleh Vahdat (standing in background and also pictured below), presented to a community audience. Vahdat will show the film at a Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Forum this Sunday, Sept. 9. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
The film tells about the Iranian government’s denial for the past thirty years of the right to higher education for all the members of its largest non-Muslim religious minority -- the Baha’is.
Laleh Vahdat, whose own family has been persecuted for their Baha'i faith, will show the film and lead the discussion. Vahdat and her husband, Michigan Tech Professor Saeid Nooshabadi, showed the film at the Portage Lake District Library last May.
"It was really a very effective depiction of the struggles and the courage of people determined to practice their faith in spite of being denied their human rights," said Joanne Thomas, a KUUF member who watched the film last May and suggested to KUUF that they invite Vahdat to show the film.
The film and presentation are free and open to the public.
About 300,000 Baha'is still live in Iran; however, since they are non-Muslim, they are not allowed to attend Iranian universities. The film Education Under Fire shows how courageous Baha'i students and teachers founded their own underground university. They continue to educate their own people despite the fact that their schools have been attacked and many of the teachers have been put in jail.
In the film, a doctor who was not a Baha'i, but who had Baha'i friends, said, "They couldn't drink out of the same fountain as Muslim students."
Other people interviewed in the film tell stories of persecution, not only under the present government but also under the pre-Revolution government of the Shah. Some tell stories of the underground university and how assignments were transmitted from student to teacher, sometimes taking months to reach their destination.
The film also shows that Muslim friends often took risks to help Baha'is even though, as Nooshabadi noted, "[Muslims] consider the Baha'i religion to be heresy."
Founded in the 19th century, the Baha'i religion teaches the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family, the oneness of religion and the equality of men and women.
Sundra Moyyad of Atlantic Mine said of the film, "I thought it brought out the human rights issue in a very gentle way."
Moyyad has been a Baha'i for many years. She said she learned about the religion while living and working in Detroit as a public health educator.
Arno Moyyad, Sundra's son, also commented on the film.
"It was really informative, and it showed how much help they need from people from outside Iran," he said.
The KUUF Forum will be held in the Head Start Building, 700 Park Avenue, Houghton (immediately north of Econo Foods). The entrance to the Meeting Room is from Water Works Drive. For more information call KUUF at 906-482-5586.