A man in his mid-80s sits in a cell in Iran‘s Rajai Shahr prison, nine years into a 20-year sentence. The charges are false; the trial a sham. He may not live to see freedom.
In a small town in the northeastern United States, an American writer begins a search to learn his story. She starts with the childhood memory of a rose bouquet.
Mr. Khanjani’s Roses: My Love Lessons from an Iranian Prisoner sheds light on the government-led persecution of Iran‘s largest non-Muslim religious minority. Jamalu‘d-Din Khanjani is one of an estimated 300,000 Baha‘is in Iran and 6 million worldwide.
Writer JoAnn Gometz is a lifelong Baha‘i with no Iranian ancestry. Through her struggle to learn about Mr. Khanjani and the ongoing persecution despite the absence of a free press in Iran, the reader witnesses both the hardships and the heartbreaking spirit of Iran‘s Baha‘is.
Mr. Khanjani grew up on a farm, founded the first automated brick factory in Iran, then used his wealth to provide education, healthcare, and transportation for rural villagers. During the Iranian Revolution, the government seized his business. Death threats, arrest, and torture followed.
Upon his release, he and his family modernized their 200-year-old farm and employed local residents of any faith.
Now, Mr. Khanjani is in prison again. His wife is dead. His children and grandchildren were arrested, jailed, and released. Basij militia destroyed the farm.
But nothing has broken his faith or his desire to serve others.
Mr. Khanjani’s Roses travels from the Iranian hills to a kitchen table in Maine and beyond, captivating readers of biography and current affairs with the story of one man‘s unbreakable courage, one woman‘s determination, and one community‘s defiant hope.
Update 6/2017: Research and writing of this narrative nonfiction book are in progress, with completion of the first draft expected in December 2017.