I speak today as a victim of violence done in the name of religion, which is the very topic of your report.
Growing up in Iran, like all of you, I liked to have playmates as a kid. My wish was to have one good friend but I was always lonely. Why, you might ask? Because I was a Bahai.
Some Muslim families believe that Bahais are Najes which is a religious term that denotes non-Muslims as dirty. It asks believers not to be friends with them, lest they would become dirty themselves.
My teenage years passed through one enforced displacement after another. Because we were Bahais, religious extremists used to set Bahai houses on fire. We had to hide our faith to survive.
I always had a question: Why should I be left alone in my own country? When I got older, further experiences in life taught me that it was a bigger force that created violence in people: A system that both encouraged violence and gave impunity to its perpetrators.
Lack of the right to education, recurrent threats and pressures on me to quit my job as a Bahai teacher was not all that I had to suffer. My health was the biggest price that I had to pay due to the religious extremists. A truck hit me on purpose and I lost one of my legs forever. The phone rang and a familiar horrifying voice was on the other line: “we wanted to kill you – but now you will die a thousand times every day,” it said.
I wish I had the right to live in my country as a Bahai -- and for Bahai kids to have as many playmates as they want.