Precisely twenty-five years ago, this fourth day of January, my grandmother is secretly executed. Thus, nearly two years before I am born, in the seemingly distant and remote Tehran, Iran, her blood spills upon the ground drop by drop; it tinges the soil before seeping into the earth, on a day I now imagine with frightening coldness.
Here I am, more than 6,000 miles away from the place these tragic circumstances transpired, a twenty-two year-old grandson, half-Dutch and half-Iranian by heritage, a student of linguistics by profession, an avid fan of world soccer, and a Bahá’í by faith, trying to make sense of the world and my place in it.
What would remain for any other grandson in a circumstance comparable to mine is a name – Shídrukh Amír-Kíyá Baqá – and a photograph of a radiant smiling face that starkly resembles my mother’s, along with the bitterness of many unfulfilled memories. Yet I am not bitter. Despite never having known my grandmother, her spirit and mine are inextricably intertwined. Her blood courses through my veins, warming the tears I shed in those truest of moments in my life when her story reminds me of the ultimate sacrifice she made, and the ultimate example I must follow.
Her only crime was the faith she upheld, her belief in Bahá’u’lláh – the 19th-century Prophet-founder of the Bahá’í faith. She dedicated her life to promoting His universal teachings of love and brotherhood, and remained steadfast in the face of adversity. Despite evident dangers and threats from oppressive government officials, she hosted peaceful Bahá’í gatherings in her home. It was during one of these meetings that armed revolutionary guards stormed the home and arrested the Bahá’ís present. The Revolutionary Court and Committee held out her freedom as reward, if only she would recant her faith.
Nevertheless, her tender life was so unceremoniously snatched from her mortal frame because she refused to recant the faith that was so precious to her, a faith the principles of which were woven into her limbs, principles which Bahá’u’lláh enunciated in lucid and unequivocal terms, time and time again:
“…That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled—what harm is there in this?”
I believe my grandmother was a true martyr and followed her destiny with exemplary zeal. I believe she did not barter the eternal world for this transitory one. I believe that I, in turn, must daily sacrifice my life for the promotion of an everlasting peace among all the world’s peoples. I believe that not a drop of her blood was shed in vain, and that her spirit will continue to bear fruit in this world. I believe in the unconditional love and compassion she embodied, not only for her family – her grandson – but for everyone. I believe in her ultimate sacrifice.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.