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Bitter Memories

Bitter Memories

Music has had a great significance in human culture, whether used in religious ceremonies, for educational purposes or for entertainment. But for young Foad, an Iranian Baha’i who was forced to flee the country after the intense persecution his family was subjected to, it’s a medium to voice anger at the violation of human rights, and raise awareness on the importance of taking action. We would like to share his interview with Esra'a Al Shafei for The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights.

Foad ManshadiFoad ManshadiEsra'a Al Shafei: For a start, can you give us a short introduction about yourself?

Foad Manshadi: I was born in one of the little towns of the Mazandaran province, which is located in Northern Iran in June 1987 (month of Khordad, year 1366 according to the Iranian calendar), but I was brought up in Tehran. Due to the numerous problems Baha’is face in furthering their education in Iran, I took refuge in Turkey when I was 16, and at the moment I am a student of electrical engineering in the USA. From the early years of my childhood, I have adored Iranian traditional music, and I play Persian musical instruments. However, at the moment I find that the Rap genre is best suited for me to express my inner feelings. My efforts are mostly focused on addressing the problems of religious and ethnic minorities – especially the Baha’is – through my songs.

Esra'a Al Shafei: What inspired you to start singing?

Foad Manshadi: These days, it is not easy to get things off your chest, or confide in someone about what goes on in your mind. Most of the people, when you talk to them about the breach of human rights in the world, they either don’t care or get bored. My personal idea is that through music, one could have a closer relationship with people and be more influential.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Why did you choose rap and hip-hop over other music genres? What differentiates it?

Foad Manshadi: There are many reasons for that, the most important being my own inner feelings, which are more about the problems I faced as a member of religious minority and the sadness of living away from my homeland in a lonely world. I wanted to speak out about all these issues in my songs. Using Hip-Hop, you have an opportunity to transfer most of what you want to say in the least time possible. The most important feature of Hip-Hop music is its being the language and the medium of opposition; it could be said that this music helped the African-Americans in Europe and the USA to liberate themselves from the chains of discrimination, and this is something that I find very inspirational.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Do you feel at risk creating this music, which some may consider to be controversial?

Foad Manshadi: I know I am not going to be personally threatened because of my music, as my songs are only meant to increase people’s level of awareness and I am currently living in the USA. I sometimes do feel worried about the future, though, and I wonder if my family or my friends back in Iran would face some problems. However, I am hopeful about the future and I am sure that very soon things are going to change in Iran, because the situation is explicitly catastrophic, in a way that people are loudly opposing it and speaking out.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Have any Iranian citizens listened to your music, and if so, what has their reaction been?

Foad Manshadi: Yes, with the help of friends and through the websites I managed to send my music video to some Iranians who appreciated the songs, because it indeed reflects the untold stories of those who live in Iran at the moment. One week before I moved out of Iran, I wrote a free verse poem called Mazhab” which means “religion”, and I later on used the song in my rap music and a music video was produced using the same lyrics.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Who do you wish to address through your music? Bahai’is? The international community? The citizens and government of Iran?

Foad Manshadi: So far, my audience has been mainly Baha’is, but my aim is to increase the awareness of the respectful Iranians who are not Baha’is themselves, because there are many people who really don’t know what happens to the religious minorities in Iran. If I try to address people in a global scale, I will need to write my lyrics in English and I still don’t find my English skills to be supportive of my objectives. Nevertheless, I have some plans that might as well be of interest to the people who are not familiar with the Persian language.

Esra'a Al Shafei: No doubt, your experiences in Iran have shaped you and influenced your music, but of all your experiences, which had the greatest effect on you?

Foad Manshadi: I think being away from my motherland, being away from close relatives and family from the age of 16, has had the greatest effect on me. The bitter memories of my childhood, like the confiscation of all my family’s possessions and properties, the persecution I experienced in school, and the baseless accusations made against Baha’is in Iran, they all influenced my way of singing and my songs. From now on, the encouragement of friends and acquaintances, and the audience would definitely help me to revitalize my music.

Esra'a Al Shafei: What do you hope to achieve through your music? What message do you hope to send?

Foad Manshadi: The public opinions are much forgetful, even those of the Baha’is who live outside Iran. It seems even they are not much bothered by the conditions of the Baha’is in Iran, so my music would first address them and make them remember what they have probably forgotten. Next I would like to reflect my own ideas.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Many around the world are concerned for the grave abuses perpetrated against Baha’is in Iran. What can we do to alleviate the situation and bring an end to the persecution?

Foad Manshadi: At the moment, the best thing to do is to make people aware of the rights of their fellow countrymen, who should be recognized as free human beings despite their diverse religions, ethnic backgrounds, and ideas. Silence is the worse thing. Any one could contribute to the cause, at least, I repeat: At Least be of help by signing the petitions, hoping they would lead somewhere. Please, do any thing that you are capable of doing to support the cause.

Esra'a Al Shafei: Is there any advice you would like to give to Baha’is in Iran?

Foad Manshadi: First, I would like to tell the Baha’is who live outside Iran, “Please quit passivity and be of help”. Then I would like to tell the respectful Baha’is of Iran to take charge of the education of their children, as currently, higher education is almost impossible for them. There are such intelligent youths in the remote locations in Iran who are denied their right of progress, because they don’t have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills where they live. Yes, it is good to have Baha’i conferences all over the world, it is good to create ” Mashregh-ol-azkaaars”, but it is also good to spare some of the funds to support and finance the youth in Iran who score the highest in the scientific entrance exam of Iranian Universities, but fail to join the universities and instead start working due to financial and other difficulties. There are many other cases that need to be supported as well, everybody knows that, but people pretend they don’t know about it. The future prospects of many young children, including mine when I was a child, are diminished. Perhaps it is time to think about the next generation and their needs; at least we can then raise them as happy and prosperous children.

To listen to Foad’s songs, and keep updated on his future productions, visit his YouTube channel.  Foad also performed on the last verse of the song about Mona by Nabil & Karim. (see video below) - A song inspired by a young girl named Mona who was killed for her beliefs as a Baha'i. You can read her story at:

The above interview was kindly translated from Farsi by Elinor, a Noahide from Iran. Noahides too face discrimination in Iran, and are misunderstood by society at large.  Interview with Foad: Using music to increase awareness on the plight of Baha’is in Iran - Posted By Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights on January 9, 2009.

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