Just two weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I anticipated would happen to Bahá’í business owners in Iran following the celebration of the two holy days at the beginning of this month.
Days later, Iran Press Watch published a translated article that listed the names of more than 100 small business owners who saw their shops closed. Because they are Bahá’ís. Because they closed their shops on days when their Faith calls them to spend their time in prayer and commemoration.
It's clear from the list that there are connections among the people. For example, the number of eyeglass and optometry stores in some cities is unlikely to be a coincidence. All but two of the locales are in the fairly small confines of Mazandaran, a province known for its beauty, its striking position between the mountains and the sea, and its historical significance. It's a place where legends dawned, long before the Persian Empire reached its zenith.
Of the remaining two cities, one is in the neighboring province and the other is the well-recognized southern port of Bandar Abbas. A few are county or provincial seats. A few have just about the same population as the nearest cities to me, here in the U.S.
It's easy to imagine walking down a familiar shopping street and seeing groups of police and plainclothes agents removing the customers, probably shouting at the shopowners, and chaining and padlocking the doors. Something like that wouldn't go unnoticed by passers-by on the sidewalk.
Take a look at the names on that list. Most are men. A few, I suspect, are women (based on first names shared with people I know). Take a look at their trades, one by one. Picture what happens when a carpenter's shop is closed. Or a mechanic's garage. Think about the chatter you have at the dress shop when you're looking at the new season's display, or the banter during a makeover on your way to a special dinner. Imagine those stores dark and cold, the cheerful voices silenced.
Most of all, picture the smiling faces who greet your children at their favorite toy store. The bright colors and careful displays, assembled just so to enchant a tiny tot with sparkling eyes. The soft plush of a new bear. The delicate whorl and scallop of a pint-sized tea set. Remember the soft laughter and the gentle voices teasing a young one out of their shell.
Check the list. That's number 6 in Qaemshahr.