Australian Baha'i Sites

Nosrat Yaldaie: The spiritual stalwart inspiring generations of women

When Pari Khadem first received note that her spiritual sister – Nosrat Ghufrani Yaldaie – had been executed, she was overwhelmed by a swell of emotion.

“We were living in Australia by then,” Pari recalls. “We would receive regular letters and messages from Iran with news about the friends there. When we heard about the executions it was terribly upsetting.

“For days after that she would meet me in my dreams.”

The Committee of Compassionate and Merciful Women in Shiraz, Iran, 1973 of which Nosrat Yaldaie (top left) was the member and secretary.
The Committee of Compassionate and Merciful Women in Shiraz, Iran, 1973 of which Nosrat Yaldaie (top left) was the member and secretary

Pari is my grandmother and served alongside Nosrat on what was known as the Lajne Emaolrahman لجنه اماالرحمان (Committee of Compassionate and Merciful Women) in Shiraz, Iran for several years.

The committee was responsible for the spiritual and material advancement of women in Shiraz and surrounding regions. Nosrat was the committee secretary and was known for her devotion to the cause, her humility, and her commitment to action not words. She was also my mother’s children’s class teacher and her dedication to the education of future generations was not lost on the community.

My aunty Mojgan Khadem remembers Nosrat as a spiritual soldier among this team of formidable women, whose aim was to “change the culture of a nation in regards to its view of women”.

“They would visit the country, and travel from home to home and teach these women who had no education, no literacy, and little idea about personal hygiene or cleanliness,” Mojgan recalls.

“Mrs Yaldaie was a humble soldier.  Her character was so unassuming, so humble. She was the most perfect example of selflessness that one could meet in a human form and I think that made her very unique and very different to other people.

“Humility is a quality that one doesn’t come across in a strong manner. When you see it in a person, that’s when you understand it. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and if I think of who portrays it in my eyes – it would be Mrs Yaldaie.”

On 18 June 1983 — 40 years ago last year — Nosrat Yaldaie was hanged at the hands of the Iranian government after months of torture and imprisonment. She was among 10 Baha’i women taken to a square in Shiraz, and mass executed without the knowledge of their families.

“Humility is a quality that one doesn’t come across in a strong manner. When you see it in a person, that’s when you understand it. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and if I think of who portrays it in my eyes – it would be Mrs Yaldaie.”

Mojgan Khadem

Their crime was their belief in a faith that promoted gender equality — absent and criminalized in Iran — as well as justice and truthfulness. They were hanged one by one, each forced to watch the next woman’s death in a harrowing attempt to coerce them into renouncing their faith. None did.

The women were aged between 17 and 57. Nosrat was 46. Her son, Bahram, was executed two days earlier.

“The torture they put her through in prison was horrendous,” Pari says. “But one of her strongest qualities was how staunch she was in her faith.”

For the past year, the Baha’i world has been undertaking a campaign titled #OurStoryIsOne in honour of these 10 women, highlighting their resilience and sacrifice for equality. The campaign also hopes to cast a spotlight on the spirit and forbearance manifested by the women of Iran today as they sacrifice their lives for a more prosperous Iran, demonstrating that despite the government’s efforts to sow discord, our story is indeed a shared one and it is our suffering and unwavering strength that unites us.

My family left Iran in 1979 at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, finding their home in Australia where they have been afforded the freedom to practice their faith.

We strive to centre our lives around the promotion of unity, working side by side with all to build communities founded on the mandate that humanity is one and religion is one. That we can do so without fear of persecution is not to be taken for granted, and stories such as Nosrat’s spur us on in our efforts to forge more vibrant neighbourhoods.

I have always admired my grandmother’s devotion, her firm resolve when it comes to advancing the spiritual and material affairs of her community, and the fact that her faith is the pivot round which her life revolves.

She says she is constantly inspired by her spiritual sister and all those who have lost their lives in the name of unity.

“When we came to Melbourne, I would always be inspired by my time serving alongside Nosrat and by all these women,” Pari says. “And I still dream of her.”

Thanks for reading.

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Dellaram Vreeland

Dellaram Vreeland

Living in Ballarat, on Wadawurrung Country, Dellaram has been working as a journalist for more than 14 years. She has a particular interest in unearthing the stories within regional Australia, and showcasing those who are driving change in their communities.

Published in February, 2024, in Individual Initiatives > Reflections

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/individual-initiatives/nosrat-yaldaie-the-spiritual-stalwart-inspiring-generations-of-women/

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