Scottish - Iranian identity in the
Bahá'í Community - Farid Hemmati
My family originally came from Iran, Persia, in 1971 we moved to North Berwick. In 1982 we moved to Edinburgh. There was always a problem with Bahá'ís in Iran, because we’re not Muslims. [There has been persecution and harassment of Bahá'ís in Iran, and repression of the faith, since it gained a following] so my Dad thought we could have a better life [in] Europe. Things changed for us in 1978 - 79 when the revolution happened in Iran. My dad’s pension was stopped, we had a house in Iran which was confiscated - when the war with Iraq came, we couldn’t go back.
What was hard at the beginning was I didn’t speak English, and had left a family and old friends - you get quite homesick. As I learned English things become easier but you knew you were from a different background to others. I think it would be hard for me to go back to Iran, because it’s like a Scottish guy going to a Middle Eastern country. Some things I understand, [but] some things are actually bred into you by habit, how you talk, how you do things. Iran is an Islamic society, and I’m not a Muslim, so I don’t have [the same customs] like [not] shaking a woman’s hand, we don’t have that in the Baha’i faith, you loose [those behaviours] because you’re not practicing it. I can speak the language in a simple way, and I can read very simple stuff, because I was there to about 11, so I have some memories. But it’s very hard, it’s like I can read simple English but I can’t read Shakespeare, it’s the same when you read poetry [in Farsi], you don’t actually [pick up on] the nuances of stories [from] Hafez and Rumi [for example]. It’s easier for me to read them in English now rather than Persian or Farsi. [It’s common to have two cultures in the Bahá'í faith, they believe in all religions, and don’t see difference between ethnicities or cultures: they see themselves as ‘world citizens’.] As a Bahá'í, because we believe in all the religions, and one God, so it makes no difference to us what you are or who you are.