The following is written by Suellen Howley, who shared this inspirational story about human rights of the Baha’i children in Iran at the Unit Convention. At the annual Unit Conventions which occur worldwide, members of the Baha’i communities elect delegates to attend the National Baha’i Convention in April. At the National Convention, the delegates will elect the nine members who will be serving on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of each country.
The Story of the Carrot
As you know, the seven Baha’is arrested in Tihran over a year ago are still in Evin prison. This story is about one of them, a woman named Fariba Kamal-abadi. I learned this story from Keyvan Geula, who told it as part of her storytelling and the brain course at Green Acre Baha’i School this past summer.
Fariba had a fantastic memory for everything. She remembered phone numbers, birthdays, and anniversaries, and who was in need of what in the community.
Fariba was also a loving mother of a 20-year-old married daughter, Alhan, and a younger daughter, Tarane. One day at 6:30 in the morning Fariba was yanked from her home, arrested and imprisoned, her only crime being that she was a Baha’i. Notwithstanding the injustice and hardships of this situation Fariba continued to think of and do for others, and to remember special dates. One was the upcoming birthday of her daughter, Tarane, who was turning 11.
Fariba wanted to do something for her daughter, but being in prison she didn’t know what she could do, so she prayed to God for possibilities. Then one night a bowl of wilted salad was pushed under her cell door. As usual, Fariba shared the fresh pieces with her friends in the cell, and started to eat the wilted part herself. As she ate this meager supper she noticed that the bottom of a carrot – the part usually discarded – was in the bowl. Immediately she thought, “Aha! Possibilities!” Fariba put the carrot bottom in little pieces of cloth and gently nursed it by keeping it moist, perhaps with her tears, perhaps with other liquids she was given. Over time, this carrot bottom grew long, feathery, green tops.
When the prisoners were allowed to visit with their family members, they had to sit behind a glass wall and converse with their visitors over phones. On the day that Fariba was going to give Tarane her present, all seven of the Baha’is from Tihran were brought out together. Tarane noticed that her mother was the only one who had something in front of her, Tarane asked her sister what it was. When Alhan told Tarane that it was her birthday gift, Tarane burst into tears and ran out of the visitors’ room. Alhan lovingly brought her back and Tarane was able to receive her present from her mother.
For Tarane this carrot became the physical representation of her mother. A touching picture of Tarane, seemingly smiling and crying at the same time, holding this precious gift close to her like holding her mom, can be seen on a website that was created to raise awareness about the Baha’i persecutions in Iran, and to promote the recognition and practice of universal human rights. A story written by Alhan about her mother can also be viewed there. The website is www.kidsidebyside.org.
Using this same site, messages of love and encouragement are being sent to Baha’i children in Iran. Since cards cannot safely be sent, these love notes are a way to connect children around the world, as well as being a way for them to build empathy and become benevolent listeners as they consider what to say to another child in that predicament.
While we enjoy the freedom and bounty of attending our Unit Convention, let us remember, today and every day, our dear brothers and sisters in Iran, and follow their shining example, praying for possibilities even when it seems impossible that there can be one. Let us remember the story of the carrot.