Reflecting Courage and Compassion – a Wordle

A new video has been produced by Single Arrow Productions, called “Mona’s Story” which is part of the Angels of Iran series. It sheds a more personal light on Mona’s story. Please enjoy this digital story…

Wordle: Amalia Giebitz

 This is the story that created the above Wordle:

Mona Mahmudnizhad

Mona Mahmudnizhad, Martyred 18 June 1983

“Mona Mahmudnizhad was a seventeen-year-old girl who was executed on 18 June 1983 in Iran, along with nine other women.  She had been in prison with these other women for one year, and though she was the youngest in prison, she was the one who ‘most frequently reassured the other women and helped them to be steadfast during their periods of imprisonment and interrogation’ (Perry).  During the third stage of her trial, the religious magistrate accused her parents of deceiving her with their religion, the Baha’i Faith. She responded that, though she learned of the Faith from her parents, in this Faith one adheres to religion after investigating it independently.  He demanded to know why she had abandoned Islam, and she calmly and peacefully explained to him that the foundation of all religions is one, and that Baha’is uphold the truth of Islam. ‘But,’ she said, ‘if by Islam you mean the prevailing animosity , murder and bloodshed in the country, a sample of which I have seen in prison, that is the reason I have chosen to be a Baha’i ‘ (Perry).

When she was arrested with her father after a search of their home, her mother protested, and begged to know why they would take a child to prison.  According to one account, one of the Guards replied, ‘Do not call her a child. You should call her a little Baha’i teacher. Look at this poem. It is not the work of a child. It could set the world on fire. Someday she will be a great Baha’i teacher’  (Perry).

On the night of their martyrdom, each woman was again given the choice to abandon her Faith and save her life. Mona asked to be the last so that she could pray for the others’ steadfastness as they faced their deaths, and so the last thing they heard in this world would be prayer. When her turn came, she was asked again to deny her Faith, ‘No,’ was her reply. She kissed the rope hanging before her and placed it around her own neck.   As her soul took its flight, silence echoed through the night.  Her crime had been teaching children the Baha’i Faith.”

The story of Mona Mahumudnizhad’s arrest, imprisonment and execution because of her refusal to deny her faith was first shared with me when I was fourteen.  She was only two years older than me when she was arrested in Shiraz, Iran.  More importantly, we shared the same faith, the Bahá’í Faith, and it was because she refused to deny that Faith that she died.  It became an important story to me again last month because I learned that the seven Bahá’í leaders in Iran, who have been imprisoned for two years without access to an attorney (one of whom is Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi), were sentenced to ten years this month.

Photos courtesy of adressformona.org

I am sharing this story because, though Americans are constantly made aware of Iran for its political and military aspirations, they are rarely aware of the official Iranian objective to obliterate the Bahá’í Faith from the planet.  The emotions I wanted to evoke were admiration for Mona’s courage and sympathy for the plight of the Baha’is in Iran.  The creative process began with trying to decide what story to tell.  I heard a song about Mona, and decided that was it.  In the writing of it, I had to do some research to remember details, and to decide which to include and what structure to use.  Then in importing it to Wordle, I had to think about what visual impact I wanted to make.  I wanted it to be a somber mood but also to illicit some of Mona’s personality.  By chance, the structure that appeared when choosing the font I settled on looked like upside-down lips.  It reminded me of the kiss she gave the rope that she placed around her neck before she was hung.

Finding the right story was the most challenging aspect of this assignment.  It was also the highlight of the experience.  Before I knew what story I would tell, I agonized.  But in the telling of it I was exhilarated and compelled to do the story justice.  I learned two important things from this exercise.  First, let inspiration be my guide.  Don’t force a story that doesn’t want to be told.  Secondly, let the technology do some of the inspiration.  Sometimes a random choice can be the best one.  But also, don’t rely on the technology to tell the story.  The words of the story make all the difference in Wordle, so choose them carefully.

Baha’i International Community. “Trial of Iran’s Seven Baha’i Leaders.” Bahá’í World News Service. Bahá’í International Community, 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 27 Sept. 2010.
Also used in research of Wordle story:
Perry, Mark. “The Story of Mona Mahmudnizhad.” “A Dress for Mona” Home Page. Web.  22 Sept. 2010.
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