JoAnn Gometz

Writing | Editing | Content Strategy

The Birthday Post

By sheer coincidence, my usual post day this week is also my birthday. I considered writing about  the year ahead, or the one past, or even clarifying that last week's bubble post was prompted by the recent reminder of an exceptional guy, not a random moment in time. However, there's something even more important on my mind.

While I'd love to be headed off on a magical adventure today, I'm also really looking forward to laid-back visits with good friends over fro-yo and dinner, in that order. Not as exciting as seeing Scottish comic Danny Bhoy perform in Albany last year. Nor as random as jetting to San Francisco for a meeting just after my birthday a few years ago and spending the rest of the day wandering the Embarcadero with a friend (and colleague), visiting aquarium fishies, devouring their perfectly cooked relatives on Pier 39, and admiring the twinkly lights and chocolate air in Ghirardelli Square before catching the red-eye home. 

No matter what I'm doing for my birthday, this is always a busy month, from Halloween aftermath through to Thanksgiving. In the next two weeks, I have an interview day trip, a chapter deadline,  another research interview, and a happy evening with some Toronto-based MFA classmates. This year, too, the Birth of The Báb and the Birth of Bahá'u'lláh, two of the holy days when Bahá’ís are not supposed to work, will be celebrated at the end of this week.

Although I have often worked on the holy days out of my own sense of responsibility or to avoid causing some kind of logistical upset, I've always had the option to find a way to take them off. Thank you, U.S. Founding Fathers, for the very first part of the Constitution's First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As you can no doubt imagine, Bahá’ís in Iran don't have anything like that protection. In fact, they've been restricted from numerous vocations, which has led many to open their own small businesses. When they close their shops for Bahá’í holy days, government officials frequently visit shortly thereafter, shut them down indefinitely, and sometimes even permanently seize property and inventory. More than 100 businesses owned by Bahá’ís have been closed just since 2014.

While I'm celebrating my birthday today, I'm also waiting for news that more Bahá’ís are losing their livelihoods after they close for the two holy birthdays later this week. It could come Friday or Saturday, at the beginning of next week, a few days after that, or weeks from now. It will come whenever the spotlight grows dim.  

This video from the activist group United4Iran brings it home with a very polite facsimile of a raid. Needless to say, unsuspecting Los Angelenos confronted with such a scenario respond with some strong language. If you feel it's appropriate, please share the video this week and voice your support on Facebook or Twitter using #StopShopClosings and the related hashtags #Iran and/or #Bahai.