Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name

Manijeh Not Only a Change of Name 350x570In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.

Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.

Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.

What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.

With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.

In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”.

It was my honour to do the initial editing of the manuscript. As I was going through the text I became progressively more and more amazed as the story unfolded before me, humbled to occasionally be in Manijeh’s presence.

There is enough human drama in her story to occupy a whole book just in the account of how, born into a traditional Islamic family, she came to be married at just nine years old. Then in what would seem to be impossible circumstances she became a Baha’i, a faith that strongly advocates the education and progress of women. But that is just the start of the story. It moves on to describe her experiences when serving with her husband, Javad, as custodian of the holy place and the incredible events that followed.

She gives a historically important description of the House, which adjoined the deep blue waters of the Persian Gulf. The smallest room in the whole house was special: “The office from which the Bab worked was known by the Baha’is as Hojreh-i-Mubarak (the Blessed Room) and was in the middle of the ground floor of the warehouse…Each window pane was made of nine pieces of coloured glass…”

That window looked out into the main cargo entrance with its tall hand-crafted wooden gates adorned with etchings of lions and leopards. Jasmine and bougainvillea beautified the warehouse yard.

Particularly poignant are the stories Manijeh tells of the African and American pilgrims:“We would welcome pilgrims from…countries we had never heard of, all humble and devoted believers in a nascent world faith.”

Then, in 1967, “on one of the saddest days we would ever experience”, the authorities destroyed this holy place sacred to millions around the world.

The book then moves into the nitty gritty of persecution which ramped up after the 1979 revolution. It moves beyond the broad descriptions of systematic oppression to details of what happened to Manijeh’s husband and other members of her family.

For those wanting to understand the situation now in Iran, this book is a good start because despite the propaganda and claims of change, the persecution of Baha’is remains in full force.

As Dr. Khan wrote, the book describes a degree of hardship to which very few people are subjected in their lives.

“However,” Dr. Khan continued, “this is not a book of lamentation; far from it. It is a record of the power of the human spirit to withstand even the most perfidious of oppressors and to emerge triumphant from persecution.”

You can purchase a copy of Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, by Manijeh Saatchi, with the assistance of Fereshteh Hooshmand, from your local Baha’i bookstore, or from the publisher George Ronald.

About the Author

Michael Day is a journalist who has worked for daily newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. From 2003-2006 he was the editor of the Baha’i World News Service at the Baha’i World Centre. Now based in Brisbane, he is the national media officer of the Australian Baha’i Community. His contributions to Baha’i Blog are in his personal capacity. His interests are Baha’i history, literature, the arts, rugby union, surfing, and scuba diving.

Share This Post With the World

Discussion 5 Comments

  1. I am so delighted to see her. I met her while I was on Pilgramge and she was there with her family. Such a wonderful smile and spirit about her. So delightful. Such a gift to see that others think that too. I send her my love.

  2. This is a truly wonderful book and an engaging real-life story. I’d also note for those interested that this book is available via Baha’i Distribution Service (bahaibookstore.com), as well, at this link: http://bit.ly/OnSMDR

  3. A relatively minor question of detail and history if I may, not really connected to the real issue of Courage and Enthusiasm in Manijeh’s very moving story.

    Having just returned from Tehran where I attended the first national Congress of Esperanto in Iran I certainly can attest to the courage of the believers there, though in my case a vicarious virtue in that the authorities, quite amazingly really, smoothed every step of my path.

    (Please don’t hesitate to contact Baha’i Blog if you’d like to receive one of my reports on that historic event (“Tehran Bound”) and how surreal it all was for me to be in the lap of luxury relatively speaking while brave Iranian Friends all around me suffered in silence so to speak)

    Coincidentally, the issue of suffering came up in my very private and confidential discussions there in the Cradle of the Faith and whether the Revolution should be noted as starting in 1979 or in 1978 as in Michael Day’s moving account is a matter I’d like to note correctly vis-a-vis my report (“Hypocrisy”) dispatched last night to the Universal House of Justice for an exclusively institutional audience

    Baha’i love

    Paul, Adelaide, Australia

  4. Hi Michael, my name is Bruce Hooshmand, Abbas’s brother. I live in Sydney. I have interest in filmmaking. Fere, my sister in law ask me to write a screenplay for her book, Manijeh. I have written the first draft, but it needs corrections. I’m wondering if you may be interested or if you know people who may be interested in helping me to edit the screenplay and make it professionally accepted.
    My contact details are:
    cometpicture@gmail.com
    0407278234
    Regards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>