Last night Deb and I hosted a special gathering in our home that drew about 30 participants. Our speaker was Mrs. Khaloud Jawad who now resides in Birmingham, Alabama. We heard her story of arrest and imprisonment and torture in Iraq under the iron hand of Saddam Hussein. She told first of here acceptance of Baha’u’llah at age 11 (in 1971) and how her father lost his social status because he defended his daughters (there were 9) from mass execution at the hands of fanatic clergy. She told how her older sister was sentenced to 15-years in prison for her activities in teaching the Faith. She said that when the authorities came to arrest all the daughters, they had only the names of the four older ones. She at age eleven was prepared, she said, to be arrested too and told her oldest sister “I am coming with you”. Her sister wisely said “No, Khaloud they don’t know about you so hide!” Khaloud did as she was told, not knowing if she would ever see her sisters again. Three of the girls were fined but the oldest was sentenced to 15-years.
Then in 1982 at the age of 22, some men came to her work place and said “Your sister was imprisoned for doing bad things. Do you know what those things were?” She answered “You are wrong. She was arrested because she was Baha’i”. Then she launched into a dissertation about Baha’u’llah and his teachings (“from A to Zed” she said). They arrested her and took her, blind-folded, to a compound where she was shackled with her hands behind her back, suspended in the air by straps under her arms, and beaten until she passed out. The they took her down and demanded to know who told her about Baha’u’llah. She said “No one did. I read the Koran and he sang to me!”. They raised her feet between two poles (bastinado style) and beat her feet with a rubber hose stuffed with a wooden stick. She described other beatings that transpired as well but said she would feel only the first blow and then feel only the presence of Baha’u’llah.
After four months, her “initial sentence”, she was brought before a tribunal who demanded again to know who taught her the Faith. She repeated her claim that Baha’u’llah himself sang to her from the pages of the Holy Koran. The prosecutor read aloud a statement she had made at her work place months before her arrest. They reported that she had said “we know of the persecution, torture and murder of Baha’is in Iran and now of the arrest and torture of Baha’is in Iraq. God has, as punishment to these two nations, pitted them against one other in war that they might eat each other.” She said she was so proud that they had gotten her words correctly even though she knew it would mean her death. She prayed to Baha’u’llah to grant her “one quarter” of His suffering. The court sentenced her to 10 years. She was delighted because Baha’u’llah had been imprisoned for forty.
For the next several years she openly taught the faith to other women prisoners, many of whom where Shi’a sympathetic to Khomeini. Then in 1986, in one of Saddam’s unexplained acts of “benevolence” she and all the women prisoners were released. She had been captive just over four years. She said she felt it was her “privilege” to have been beaten for Baha’u’llah. She says that if we say we believe, then each one of us will be tested in our own unique way. She encouraged us to pray for the seven Yaran and never forget them.
At the beginning of the evening I “debuted” my new song “Seven” which is inspired by and dedicated to the seven Baha’is now held for over two years in Evin Prison in Iran. I am recording it now and hope to make it available here for free download soon. I am grateful to our dear friend Jim Rhodes for making Khaloud’s visit possible.