Mara: A Baha’i woman in Iraq

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Stories of Impact

Mara has no rights in her own country.  According to the constitution in Iraq, she does not exist.

As a young girl living under Saddam Hussein, followers of the Baha’i faith were forced into hiding.  Laws were passed outlawing the group.  Many fled the country, converted, or were imprisoned. 

Mara can still remember how her sisters were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the government.  To survive, she learned to hide her faith. 

But deep inside, it was her faith that kept her alive.  She knew that the laws were wrong, but she did not know how she would ever change them. 

Every week, she taught a small group of neighborhood children verses from her faith.  She was planting seeds that she hoped would lead them to treat others like her with dignity and respect. 

Mara was one of the first teachers to attend Hardwired’s training in Iraq. 

ISIS had just launched a brutal attack against all faith communities – Yezidi, Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, Shabak and Turkmen, and anyone else in their way.  No one was safe.  Their hate took previous attacks on people of faith to a new level.

And there was an urgent need for leaders across society to help the country respond and counter their messages of hate – teachers, journalists, lawyers, and civic leaders.

It was the first time leaders from the different faiths gathered to discuss the challenges they all experienced, and Mara was there to share her story.

Mara was shocked to hear that she had rights – freedom to worship, to express her beliefs, to live with dignity.  As she heard how other communities had suffered under ISIS and shared many of the same fears, she realized she was not alone. 

And for the first time since Saddam outlawed her faith in 1979, Mara began to share her story and her faith.  To her surprise, the other leaders welcomed her.

The training inspired Mara to share her faith.  She felt proud to be Baha’i. 

And she was not alone.  Hardwired and the other leaders continued to work with her to help her share the new ideas she had learned with others, especially children.

When she returned home, she developed lessons to teach the children in her community about their rights.  And she inspired others to defend the freedom of others.

Mara always knew she was made for more than her country wanted to allow her – and when she learned about her rights, her life was forever transformed.

When the Iraqi Parliament passed a law to force individuals to convert to Islam, the other leaders who attended the training worked together across religious lines to challenge it.  And they won.

Today, Mara is training dozens of teachers across Iraq to overcome hate and intolerance and plant the seeds of peace and respect for others in their community.

There remains much work to overcome the hatred ISIS spread for people of different faiths.  And yet, everyday, Mara is able to help one more child experience the dignity they deserve.

When you support Hardwired, you are placing a Defender of Freedom like Mara into communities filled with hate who can begin to shift the culture and challenge the laws.