Sunnis in Iran

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At the time of the Egyptian crisis, Ahmad Mustafa, an economic and political analyst from Egypt, finds an opportunity to travel to Iran to meet and talk Sunni people; an 11000 kilometer journey; a memorable visit, from the country’s most important decision-making centers to its most outlying border areas, from the green strands of the Caspian Sea forests to the Khorasan and Baluchistan desert areas and the high mountains of Kurdistan. On this journey he hopes he will know the real Iran, a country frequently misrepresented by Western and Arab media. How Sunni Muslims live in a Shiite country? That’s the question that’s brought Ahmad Mustafa to Iran.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Egypt, from pharaohs' country to a game-changer in the region, in recent years, my country has attracted the attention of mass media throughout the world. My name is Ahmad Mustafa. My profession as an economic and political analyst has caused me to be in touch with my county's events very closely and of course the relationship between Egypt's events and its global factors. At the time of the Egyptian crisis I had an opportunity to travel to Iran, and meet Sunni people like myself there and talk to them. My trip to Iran is the very first step. Traveling to the home of the Sunnis in Iran is an 11000 kilometer journey: a memorable visit, from the country’s most important decision-making centers to its most outlying border areas, from the green strands of the Caspian Sea forests to the Khorasan and Baluchistan desert areas and the high mountains of Kurdistan. A journey that I hope can help me get to know the real Iran, a country frequently misrepresented by Western and Arab media. On the 21st of Ramadan,I arrive in the capital city Tehran. Iranians are holding an exposition called the "Quran exhibition" at the Great Mosalla prayer ground in Tehran. This is one of the first places I’ll go to.

You can find anything related to the holy Quran here, from artistic and Quranic pieces of art to the calligraphy of the verses. On a map, one of the stalls displays the number of Iranians who have memorized the verses of the holy book.

The great colorful Tehran has many attractions to make you stay, but I have come here for a different purpose. I’m here to see the Sunni Muslims living in a Shia country … and to learn about the problems they may be facing. Is it important that a Sunni Muslim lives in a Shiite country or not? That’s the question that’s brought me here. I don’t have time to waste; Ramadan is going to end very soon and I’d like to see at least one Eid al-Fitr celebration by an Iranian Sunni tribe. Our first destination is the prosperous province of Golestan in the north. There, I want to meet the Hanafi Turkmens…To get there, we’ll have to cross the high Alborz mountains.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Haji Galdi Kor,Former Governor of Agh Ghala, Golestan Province: “I have been the manger of the Medical Science University, for 12 years and for about 4 years the Governor of Bandar Torkaman. Mr.Dalijeh, one of the Turkemens of this region, is the prefect. Mr. Vakili Who is Turkmen too, Is the Mayor of this city. Haj Khalil Maheri is the head of the city council, in the city of Gorgan, the capital of Golestan province. We have many talented people here, for example a friend of mine is a physician and he is a specialist in corneal transplants, a rare specialty in the whole country. We have specialists in internal diseases and all of them are members of the academic board.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration: The largest city in Turkmen-Sahra, home to Sunni Turkmens, is Gonbad-Kavoos. It was named after a monument in it called "GonbadGhaboos". Dancing with daggers is a famous ritual of the people here ... Their ancestors did it before going to war to appeal for God's help. We are guests at a Turkmen’s place for Iftar. It reminds me of Iftar in my own city.An intimate table spread with special customs of Turkmens. After Iftar, we go to the mosque with a group of Turkmen friends to say the last “Taraweeh” prayer of Ramadan together. This morning we are driving along the Caspian Sea to see another Turkmen city.Bandar Turkmen or the Turkmen Port is a small city south of the Caspian Sea. The only island in this body of water, "AshooraDeh" is near this port.This city is even smaller than Gonbad. The local market in Bandar Turkmen is buzzing with activity because of Eid Al-Fitr. Everywhere you look, there are traditional colorful clothes including the famous Turkmen scarves known all over Iran. While looking for his place, we found a Sunni Turkmen Sheikh: author of an interpretation of the holy Quranin the Turkmen language. We go to see the Sheikh … He is blunt and affable.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Abedi Kor ,Friday Prayers Leader, Bandar Turkaman: “What is your name?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Ahmad Mustafa: “Ahmad Mustafa”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Abedi Kor ,Friday Prayers Leader, Bandar Turkaman: “God bless you”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Ahmad Mustafa: “God bless you”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Abedi Kor ,Friday Prayers Leader, Bandar Turkaman: “Where are you from?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Abedi Kor ,Friday Prayers Leader, Bandar Turkaman: “People of Turkmenistan once told me that they were Muslims and all of them knew they were Muslims, but they did not know the Ahkam of Quran, and they ask me to let them know about the Ahkam by radio. So I interpreted the holy Quran into Turkmen language, and broadcast it day by day through radio and it finished after 31 years. But now they say that I ‘m the one who has helped them be good Muslims. It has been published 6 times. It has been distributed broadly. From Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, to Iran, I’ve been doing this since 1970 to 2001, and the book has been published 6 times since then.”

Narration: Today is a special day for me and all the Sunni and Shia Muslims, one great Eid, Eid al-Fitr.

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Narration: We go back to Gonbad to participate in the Eid al-Fitr prayer ceremony of Turkmens. They are all here to take part in the Eid prayers.Some say it is a tradition to visit the martyrs' families after the prayer.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Clegyman Nourizad, Head of Ahmadieh Seminary,Judge: “We, Sunnis of Iran, live friendly together in this city and this province and we have no problem, thanks to God. This is of God's grace.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Mustafa: “At the end I want you to give a message to some clergymen who consider themselves religious scholars, but unfortunately they are divisive and intensify the disagreements between Sunnis and Shias and even other religions, those who wish retrogression for the Islamic world.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Clegyman Nourizad, Head of Ahmadieh Seminary,Judge: “We ask for unity and integration of all Muslims, we do not like disagreements, our Qibla and our Quran is the same and we have many things in common. We do not want disagreements at all, Zionists and Imperialists are those who want the disagreements between Muslims and if scholars seek for disagreements between Muslims he is not a real scholar and knows nothing about Islam.”

Narration: It is interesting to me that Sunni Turkmens have also fought in the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. We go to one of martyrs’ house, his old father invites us in…He is a religious man who has turned part of his own house into a mosque. It is interesting to see.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Mustafa: “Hello”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Haj Halimi, Farther of martyr Abdol ghafar Halimi: “Hello, welcome”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Mustafa: “How old was he?”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Haj Halimi, Farther of martyr Abdol ghafar Halimi: “He was 19 years when he went to frontline, he used to serve in a mosque and he was trustworthy.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Brother of martyr: “In 1365, Iraq started to use chemical weapons, my father was worried and told him to leave the frontline, but he didn’t accept it and insisted on staying in the frontline and said that is what God wants me to do.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Haj Halimi, Farther of martyr Abdol ghafar Halimi: “You are welcomed my brother”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Mustafa: “Thank you very much”

Narration: The land of Turkmens, of passion, love and poetry….The land of a kind, hospitable people…The land of the faithful. They have different customs, and most important of all, they are free men…like the free horseman in the plain. After Golestan we move to Khorasan. Our first destination is Mashhad, the largest and most important city of Iran, and home to the tomb of Imam Reza, the 8th Shia Imam and a descendant of the prophet of Islam (PBUH). It is true that I am a Sunni Muslim, but I’m a descendant of the Shiite Imam Zeyn al-Abedin, and I now have come to visit my forefather, Imam Reza (PBUH). I get lost in the crowded shrine, among the thousands of pilgrims who have come here regardless of their faiths, races and colors. It is interesting that even in Iran’s most important Shia city; you can find a number of Sunni mosques. They also hold Friday prayers here.I want to meet one of the Sunni prayer leaders in Mashhad.I’m going to meet him at his luxurious seminary on the outskirts of the city. Mr. Fazeli and his students give us a warm welcome on our way to his office. I seized the opportunity to introduce myself and give him a report of my journey.The leader’s office is more like a library.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Sheikh Ebrahim Fazel Hosseini, Sunni Friday prayers leader of Mashhad, Head of Mashhad Shari’at institute and Head of Islamic University of Ahnaf in Taybad: “This is Khorasan's tea, we drink tea a lot. These are the of our decedent clergymen and this is a brief information about Khorasan, the resting place for Imam Reza, many religious and literary scholars like Tabari, Beihaghi, Sibouyeh, etc. I am a servant of Sheikh Ebrahim Fazel Hosseini, Head of Shari ‘at institute in Mashhad.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ahmad Mustafa: “How many students graduate from this school each year?”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Sheikh Ebrahim Fazel Hosseini, Sunni Friday prayers leader of Mashhad, Head of Mashhad Shari’at institute and Head of Islamic University of Ahnaf in Taybad: “There are 150 students and 25 teachers. They study and live here. The teaching method in this school is taken from Alazhar Sharif and Indian schools, Islamic and Arabic universities based on Hanafis and comparative Jurisprudence. We like Egyptian people very much because Egypt is the country of civilization and science and Moses (PBUH) and Canaan. We like Egypt very much. As you know Egypt and Iran have old civilizations.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Narration: After a conversation with Mr. Fazeli, the Friday prayer leader, we go to the library and seminary, but the students are now on holiday. I notice something interesting …. There’s a Shia mosque in the vicinity of the seminary. This closeness has a lot to tell. We reach the city of Khafat noon Friday. It’s a 300-kilometer drive from Mashhad, south of Khorasan Razavi province. This city too is predominantly Sunni-populated.It has a magnificent grand mosque where Friday prayers are held every week. The mosque is still under construction but is full of people. After prayer we go to meet a Sunni scholar.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Molawi Habib Al-Rahman Motahari, head of Hannafis Seminary: “The Hannafis Seminary in Khaf was built in 1948 by Molawi Khajeh Shams Al-din Motahari, in the academic year from 2012-13 it has had270 male and 250 female students. There is no disagreement between Shiites and Sunnis, thanks God, well if there is some, scholars will solve it and do not let it to get worse.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Sheikh Sharaf el-Din Jami, Sunni Shari ‘at judge, Friday prayers leader of Torbat-e Jam, Trustee of Ahmad Jami's tomb: “I am a son of Sheikh Ahmad Jam. He was my forefather I am from the 23rd generation of him. According to his will the trustee must be the oldest son of his own family in all times. This is how I got this responsibility.”

Narration: As the sun goes down, we arrive in Torbat-e Jam. The burial place of Sheikh Ahmad Jami, a 19th century mystic and poet … His tomb has an astonishing atmosphere … as if the marbles of his tomb are whispering his poetry in praise of God.

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Sheikh Sharaf el-Din Jami, Sunni Shari ‘at judge, Friday prayers leader of Torbat-e Jam, Trustee of Ahmad Jami's tomb: “In Iran we have Hanafi and Shafei Muslims and we do not have problems in religious activities.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Unknown man: “We have a historical complex in the east of Iran called Mazar historical complex. It has 10 monuments and it is the place where the Friday prayers of Sunni Muslims and their Eid ceremonies and other things are held. The entire place is carpeted for people to say prayers on the special occasions and the main mosque is behind this building.”

Narration: Beside the tomb of Sheikh Ahmad Jami, there is a seminary that probably belongs to the Jam Family.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Molavi Akbar Mokarami, Professor at Sheikh Ahmad Jami's seminary: This Seminary was built in Sheikh Ahmad Jami's lifetime. The current building dates back to 150 years ago, and many students have been graduated from here, who are working in areas near this city. Unity has a vast field, to say that unity has come to an end, will not be true. To find a great and developed unity we have a long way to go, but steps have been taken to go forward. We hope that we can experience the real meaning on unity.”

Narration: If you take a walk in the streets between the Sunni Muslims of Khorasan you would see People of Science more than anything else. In all the cities across this province, there are seminaries that help the hospitable people of this land to keep them far away from the extremes. That’s why Khorasanis are so into poetry, eloquence and delicacy. The hot roads of Khorasan take us to Sistan & Baluchistan province, a landwith an eye catching combination of plains, mountains and deserts along with its thick palm groves and banana trees. Its southern parts end with theindigo waters of the Omman Sea. My fellow Iranian travelers tell me about the deprivations that people of this region have tolerated during different historical periods….in Qajar and Pahlavi eras. They tried to bring the picture of people who had always lived under the oppression of local rulers and tyrants before. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, Sistan & Baluchistan was one of the first regions to be taken care of by the people. During the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, Ayatollah Khomenei, the leader of Islamic revolution was exiled to this province and lived among this people for a few years. I’m going to meet Molawi Abdolhamid, the Friday prayers leader at Zahedan's Macci mosque, and a famous Sunni clergyman in Sistan & Baluchistan.

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Molawi Abdolhamid, the leader of Friday prayers of Macci mosque, head of Dar ul-oloum school in Zahedan: “Before the revolution we had few schools here and this land's people had to travel to India and Pakistan and some of Arabic countries for academic studies. This center where you are now is located in Zahedan and is considered as the biggest school for the Sunni Muslims in Iran. About 1000 students study in this school and they are from different parts of the country. We have about 1000 female students studying in Ayesheh School located next to this school. But it is not a boarding school, its students are from Zahedan. ".”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Massoud Ebadi, Librarian, Head of central library in Dar u-Oloum in Zahedan: “This is the central library of Zahedan Darul-Oloum .We have about 40000 books here. Most of them are reference books. They are historical, religious, Quranic, interpretations and …. This is a comprehensive library from all the sciences. We tried to have books from different fields. This library is the biggest library for Sunni Muslims in Iran and we had tried to collect as many books as we can for researchers. People come here from different cities, from Tehran universities and Mashhad University.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Molawi Abdolhamid, the leader of Friday prayers of Macci mosque, head of Dar ul-oloum school in Zahedan: “Sunni people have been managers in executive parts of government but there are still some problems. And Sunni people are to solve them by negotiating with related officials.”

Narration: No event can show different religious people together like religious ceremonies, especially in Muslim communities. Although this ceremony takes long but you can see new rituals of Sunni people in this region. I like to know people of this region better. It was why I made an appointment with some of the Sunni officials of the province. Ceremony held each year from one morning to night, tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims come to Macci mosque for the ceremony called "Khatm Bokhara". But the interesting point of this ceremony which has been held for more than 25 years now is that both Sunni and Shia clergymen participate in it. Hojjatol Islam Valmuslim in Tabatabaei, Friday prayers leader in Zabol After Quran reciting, speeches and religious ceremonies Turban tying ceremony is held for the graduates of religious school. Although this ceremony takes long but you can see new rituals of Sunni people in this region. I like to know people of this region better. It was why I made an appointment with some of the Sunni officials of the province.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hamed-Ali Mobaraki, Deputy Governor of Sistan and Baluchistan: “The population of Sistan& Baluchistan Province is more than 2 million and 600 thousands. We have more than 60 counties in this province and more than half of them are Sunnis. 6 out of 19 governors of the Province are of Sunni Muslims. Most of the officials in the cities are Sunnis.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian], MP: Sistan and Baluchistan has 8 representatives in parliament. 5 of them are Sunnis and 3 are Shias.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], MP: “It is a unique province. It is very different and strategic. It enjoys diversity in every aspect.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hedayatollah Mirmorad-zehi, MP of Saravan, Sib Souran, Zaboli and Mehrestan: “I commented that borders should be opened legally. We should have transit roads, customs and commercial free zone. Free zone. We have the responsibility for people's living as much as their security.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Nasser Kashani, MP of Zahedan: It is better to consider the potential of loyal people while talking about security .That would be good, if we employ such people. I should mention that Iranian Revolutionary Guards have done a good job in attracting Sunni people, we are really thankful for that.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Molawi Abdolhamid, the leader of Friday prayers of Macci mosque, head of Dar ul-oloum school in Zahedan: “We should fight schism and disagreement between Muslims, We should do whatever we can, we have the responsibility.”

Narration: From Zahedan I go to the farthest spot from Tehran. Chabahar …. The only port on the coast of the Indian Ocean, farming, fishing and gardening, are the main professions of the people living here. The government hasinvested massively to turn it into a transit and tourist zone. I meet a Sunni judge to ask him about the judicial laws regarding the Sunni people’s affairs.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Judge Islam-Nia, investigator of Islamic public court in Chabahar: “According to the law of protecting family, the clients should know their rights, and sign their pleas according to the rules of their own jurisprudence. Till now our colleagues have asked from seminary scholars about the rules and made the decision according to the Sunni and Shia rules. In my trip to Medina and Mecca, someone asked me if it wasn't hard to live in Iran as a Sunni? I answered that I had no problem as I had kind and loving compatriots. Then I recited this for him: Never follow what you don't trust, because your eyes, heart and ears are all responsible.”

Narration: Today when I arrive in Hormozgan province, I feel like I’m in Alexandria. The weather and the people are like those of my own city. We arrive at Bandar Abbas on Thursday night and just then we find out that ten Sunni Friday prayers are to be held in Bandar Abbas. On Friday, we choose one of those ten Friday prayers to go to.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Seyyed Abdol Ba’es Ghetali, leader of Friday prayer of Grand mosque in Bandar Abbas: “You came here this noon to see our prayers, our people, it is one-tenth of the population that say prayers in Bandar Abbas. It is very normal. In Bandar Abbas there are 7 places where Sunni Muslims say Friday prayers and this is the central Friday prayers place. We have freedom, our mosques are free. We can say everything we want in our speech. There is no problem. I can say that we speak more strongly and better than any other Arabic countries prayer leaders. We have about 5000 Sunni students and more than 200 of them are graduated every year.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

Narration: There is also a Seminary for female students in Bandar Abbas. We pay it a visit.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Marjan Shamsizadeh, Head of women seminary in Bandar Abbas: The primitive part of the Seminary for women was built in 1997 and the advanced part was built in 2005. Most of the students are from Fars, Bushehr and Hormozgan provinces,most of them are from Fras and a number of students are from Sistan and Baluchistan.”

Narration: I say goodbye to the familiar lands of the South Seas of Iran.Our destination is the country’s North West border areas.We travel 2000 kilometers to get to Kermanshah from a road that passes through the center of Iran, Isfahan and Hamadan … we then enter the region where the Kurds live … some of them Sunni Muslims. Kermanshah has fewer Sunni residents compared to Kurdistan, but it is one of our destinations for meetingthe Sunnis of Iran. A lovely tour in Kermanshah’s beautiful bazaar makes time fly. The Egypt of Egyptian people not Morsi not Sisi. From ancient times, Kermanshah is known as the land of champions. In Iranian culture, a champion is someone who apart from being physically very strong, is chivalrous, generous and modest. You can still see the traits of a championin the faces of the people here. We get to a beautiful mosque on our way through the bazaar. A combination of various architectural methods resulted in this magnificent building. It looks as if the lights, colors, arches and patterns were talking to you and charming you. The epigraphs written in calligraphy by the ten top calligraphers of the Islamic world and an altar that took 4 years to build. I’m engrossed with the mosque's architecture, when Mamoosta Mohammadi, the Imam of the mosque steps in.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mamusta Mohammadi, leader of Friday prayers of Shafe’I Mosque in Kermanshah: It has been about 16 years that I’ve been the leader of Friday prayers of this mosque. Fortunately in our city and our province there is no sign of disagreements between Muslims, we sit together, we talk and we take part in each other's ceremonies and sometime each other's prayers. There are two grand mosques in this city next to one another, sometimes our voices are mixed up but we tolerate each other. More than 7000 people take part in the Friday prayers ofthis mosque. Our scholars try to perform the Prophet's rules. They try to help people love the prophet of Islam more and more and educate them about unity and monotheism.”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00

Narration: The Sunni areas in Kermanshah are called the Oramanat, consisting 4 cities: Javanroud, Salas Babajani, Paveh and Ravansar. We choose Paveh from the Oramanat, a Sunni city on the border. You can even tell from street names.I will never forget this road, I had never seen such twisty roads in my whole life. A border road which took us to Kurdistan province, now we are heading to Sanandaj, the Capital of Kurdistan province in Iran. It is a big, thriving city. Sanandaj is a developed city, to me,a city’s cultural heritage shows how developed it is. I go to the anthropology museum. There is a piece of abstract art symbolic of Kurdish traditions here. Then I go to a caricature exhibition.And after that to a play rehearsal, a complete collection of art in Sanandaj. To complete the collection of arts here, we just need a concert and we luck out … One of the best Iranian Kurd singers has a concert here.The hall is packed. At the end of the concert, a Kurd sculptor, gives Shahram Nazeri one of his works as a gift. Its contours show just how skillful the hands that shaped it were. Master Zia el-Dini.We go to Zia el-Dini's workshop and I’m left awe-struck.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Zia el-Dini, sculptor and painter: “I learned painting and sculpturing from childhood and have done it experimentally for a while. In 1977 I entered Fine Arts University. And I was granted with the First grade of Art equal to PHD by art judges after my art works had been evaluated recently. I have done many works, for ateliers and exhibition as well as parks, squares and open spaces. There are some of my works that I like more because I’ve made them in big scales one of them is in Azadi square of Sanandaj. It was very hard to build such statue.”

TIME CODE: 45:00_53:00

Narration: The handmade sculpture by Zia el-Diniis still showing off in the middle of Azadi square in Sanandaj, as it has been designed for this place from the beginning. The picture of this square has been shown so many times on TV in Iran. The Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, in his visit to Sanandaj addressed a huge crowd of people in the same square.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Ayatollah Khamenei speech, Sanandaj, Azadi square, 2009: “if you see someone who wants to disturb our national unity for religion matters, like being Sunni or Shiite. Someone who talks about disagreements between Sunni and Shiite is our enemy’s mercenary, know it or not. We also know some Shiite people, whose problem is not just ignorance, they have a mission to insult Sunni's religious sanctities to cause disagreements. Both of these manners are prohibited in Islam and illegal.”

Narration: Now I realize why none of the extremistShia TV channels is allowed to work in Iran and their offices have been closed, and their agents arrested.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Allah Yari, Head of extremist Shiite Channel in US: “You are the enemy of our holy Prophet otherwise what is this Fatwa which says it is Haram to insult the Sunnis sanctities? They have Luxurious schools in Zahedan and other parts of Iran. Their mosques are better than Shiite mosques. Your scholars speak in opposition to Aboubakr and Omar and you imprison them, If you are not our Prophet's religion enemy, what did this channel do to you that you closed our office and our bank account and imprisoned our loved ones?”

Narration: The most outstanding thing in my eyes in Sanandaj is its people's culture and art The Sanadaj mosque where the Friday prayers are held, is a historical mosque designed by Iranian art. The interesting thing about Sanandaj is that, Shia Friday prayers are not held in this city. And I saw some Shiite worshipers who had come to Sunni's mosque and they were saying prayers behind a Sunni Leader. And finally the last destination at the end of 11000 kilometer journey in Iran, Mahabad. A city in West Azerbaijan province with Sunni Kurd Muslims, In Mahabad I meet with someone different, the youngest member of the city council in Iran. He lives in a poor neighborhood of the city.I go through poor neighborhoods of Mahabad to meet him. His story is like a fairytale but it is real. He was a peddler when he was chosen as a representative inMahabad city council.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Ebrahimi, The youngest member of the City Council in Iran: “I have a BS in applied chemistry from Payam-e Noor University. Our 12 member group had been formed of different people. I was a worker and peddler in squares and streets of our city, I also used to sell corns, that’s why so many people know me and voted for me.”

Narration: Head of Sunni's fraction inIran's parliament was another man from this province.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Abed Fatehi, Head of Sunni fraction of parliament: “As the head of Sunni fraction of Parliament and a representative of Kurd Sunni people of Urmia I can say that we do our best to eliminate disagreements. There may be a person who is discriminative and doesn’t agree with Sunni people because of their religion. Such person is in minority and in opposition to the officials and majority of people. He is just one person from the Shia community, not all of them, one Iranian not all of them. We have lots of Shiite areas in Iran that don’t have enough living facilities. Living in Sunni areas is not the reason why some people are poor .It is not fair to say so. The government tries its best to do whatever it can.”

Narration: I do not know if it was our destiny or it was God’s will that our journey came to its end by a visit to the family of a hero. A pilot who has been martyred on first day of Iran- Iraq war (Iran and Saddam's war), and his body was brought home after 31 years. His wife told us the story of his life very simply. I was lost in the images she was making and I did not know when my tears ran down from my cheek.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Wife of martyr, Captain Khaled Heydari: “On 31th of Shahivar Iran-Iraq was begun. I called him at 4:00 and he told that he was going for a flight, and he might not come back. He went away and did not came back. But we did not know that he was killed till the end of war, we thought he was missing until then. When the TV announced that the body 7 Captains had been brought to Iran, I told myself one of them must be him, the father of my daughter. They took us to Shalamche, we had a strange feeling there, my daughter kissed the soil of our country and Said: “I did that instead of my father”. I was very happy because we were no more in doubt and pain. When I was allowed to see the martyrs’ bodies, I realized that despite all the others my husband was headless. I am in pain for that. My daughter told an official : “ Have my father left his head for Imam Hossein?””

Narration: I ended my journey at martyred Captain's tomb located at the entrance of Mahabad City. I do not know if I have narrated the life of Sunni people in Iran correctly or not, but I can hear an inner voice … A voice that is getting louder and louder … The best services to the enemies of Muslims are done by the Takfiri groups.


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