I've often pondered the implications of viewing a whole population as a question rather than as people. It reminds me of W.E.B DuBois' poignant discussion of a similar dynamic in his literary classic, The Souls of Black Folk:
"Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it...To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word. And yet, being a problem is a strange experience — peculiar even for one who has never been anything else..."
I wonder if Baha'is in Iran encounter some similar dynamic with their neighbors. In this case, the unasked question is not "How does it feel to be a problem?" but "How does it feel to be a question?" Whether asked explicitly or not, as DuBois suggests, being a "question" must be a strange experience even if you've "never been anything else". Mahtab's story in the Washington Post offers some indication of just how strange it might be.
Those who choose to see Iran's largest religious minority as a "question" would do well to ponder a question posed by the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah during his own forty years of imprisonment, torture and exile. During an interview with British Orientalist Edward Granville Browne, Baha'u'llah stated: "Thou hast come to see a prisoner and an exile...We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment...That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this?"