Rug a woven gateway to Baha’i man’s past

Injustice in Iran brough Sohail Mahbobi to Victoria

Sohail Mahbobi shows off the Persian rug that took him 20 years to complete. Mahbobi learned the art of rug making in his native Iran and began creating this particular rug shortly after to moving to Victoria in 1991.

Sohail Mahbobi shows off the Persian rug that took him 20 years to complete. Mahbobi learned the art of rug making in his native Iran and began creating this particular rug shortly after to moving to Victoria in 1991.

Barred from attending post-secondary, a much younger Sohail Mahbobi needed a hobby. And when a friend offered to teach Persian rug-making, Mahbobi found one that would stay with him for three decades.

Iran, 1981: Members of the Baha’i faith are disallowed from high school and post-secondary studies. Adult Baha’is were laid off from their jobs.

So when the friend returned from the city to the rural area where Mahbobi lived and offered to teach a group of young people to weave rugs, Mahbobi began studying.

“He learned in a shop, then taught young people who weren’t doing much at the time,” Mahbobi, 48, said from his Burnside-area house.

In about two years, he had completed his first rug using cream, light blue and navy yarn.

“At that time, life was getting tougher by the day for Baha’is and my parents didn’t want me to stay (in Iran),” he said.

In 1984, Mahbobi immigrated to Canada. He’s lived in Victoria since 1989.

Now, half a world a way from home and 20 years later, his second rug is complete.

Using yarn made of sheep’s and camel’s wool, imported from Iran where his parents still live and coloured with natural dies found in leaves and roots, Mahbobi worked off a loom set up in his dining room. The product is the same size as the first rug, at one metre by 1.5 metres, but the new rug is a vibrant red with blue and yellow accents.

“There were years that I didn’t touch it,” he admits. But now that it’s complete, “it’s really something that pleases the eye. It’s really something to look at.”

For Mahbobi, the rug – which now lies next to the one he made in Iran – is a reminder of the times when Baha’is’ rights were stripped away, he said, and that the situation continues in his native Iran.

“In a nutshell, that’s what got me going with making this rug and it’s really beautiful. Now that it’s finished, it makes me think back to how things are back in Iran when I got started.

“Hopefully something changes. It’s been a really long time, like 30 years” since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which ramped up the persecution of Baha’is in Iran.

Hundreds of dollars and  20 years went into the rug, which will hang in the Mahbobi family dining room. Eventually, he said, he’ll give the rugs to each of his two daughters.

The latest rug “is a picture that knows a lot about our lives. After 20 years, it’s something our family is very attached to.”

Did you know?

• There are about 120 Baha’is in Victoria, plus 15 in Esquimalt.

• There is a Baha’i community for each of the Capital Region’s 13 municipalities.

• The Baha’i calendar has 19 months of 19 days each. The extra four or five days of the year are called Ayyami-Ha (end of February) begin a 19 day fast before the Baha’i New • Year (Naw Ruz in Farsi) on March 21.

 

Just Posted

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read