"Marga Martens Speech in Exhibition opening "From Evin with Love

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Marga Martens

Bahá’í Community Netherlands

9 March 2017 – Humanity House    

Dear distinguished guests and speakers. It is heartwarming to get to know you over the years, knowing that we are co-workers in the betterment of this world.

Bahá’u’lláh, The Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, born in Tehran,  says:

“The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct.”

One might wonder what are pure and goodly deeds and what is commendable and seemly conduct? Sacrificing your freedom for spiritual concepts seems to me a pure and goodly deed.

Recently my 9 years old grandchild was praying: “He is God! O God, my God! Bestow upon me a pure heart, like unto a pearl.”

My daughter and I looked each other in the eye and we felt the purity of his soul.

And I would like to talk about more pearls.

On March 8th, we celebrate social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and we feel the urgency of accelerating gender equality.

“Know ye not, Bahá’u’lláh says, why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other… that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.”

This equality of men and women, is first seen in northwestern Persia, in Táhirih, Qurratu’l-Ayn, a poet, theologian, an early Bahá’í who was given the title “the Pure One”.

Táhirih is probably best remembered for unveiling herself in a conference in 1848 in Badasht, in plain sight of about 80 men. “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women,” she told a Persian Minister in whose house she was imprisoned. We all need this equality, as it is a highly underestimated prerequisite for attaining peace.

Many pearls followed Táhirih’s footsteps, women who spearheaded social transformation. Some of these loved ones are still in prison, others left prison and many had to leave their home country, like some of you. These are all the pearls of our time. Any of us, can contribute to a better life for all.

A systematic denial of equality or education, as for Bahá’í youth who have no access to higher education, unfair trials, persecution of any kind, can no longer conceal the underlying worldly aims.

When the first 4 members of the Yaran, the former Bahá’í leadership served their 10 years term in prison, 26.000 items of misleading propaganda about the Bahá’ís and their Faith were disseminated, only since 2014. So institutionalized has lying become in official circles that statements made by the authorities in Iran increasingly lack any credibility.

Imprisonment of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, who can think differently from tradition, who want to work for the betterment for their society, the betterment of all is perceived most honorable. For the ones who put them in prison it works in the opposite way.

When Mansoureh showed me the beautiful items of 7 artists for the mobile museum I was quite moved. How is it possible, I thought that beauty comes out of such an ugly place? You could immediately see with how much love and patience these items were made.

Preparing this speech, I noticed that I defended 5 women* who had sent their art for this mobile museum. They all became well-known and their faces so familiar. And two of them are my co-religionists, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi.

I was so thrilled to hear today that one of the poems of Mahvash has been so beautifully translated into Dutch, thanks to prof. Halleh Ghorashi of VU University Amsterdam.

Finally: Mr. Rezaei, a colleague of Mahvash and Fariba, said, when he recently left prison, that “his best and lasting memories are about the “co-existence” of different beliefs and thoughts he had access to while he was in prison. He had no doubt that if Iranian people were free and if their minds were not poisoned against each other, they could live together. “Our experience, Mr. Rezaei said, can be realized across the whole of Iran.”

I congratulate you Mansoureh and friends. These pearls, these fruits from prison, this meaningful Iranian Women’s Movement Museum and these thoughts of unity shone forth from Evin, with love.

Marga Martens – Bahá’í Community Netherlands

 

*Atena Daemi. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nargess Mohammad