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.

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

Oak Bay mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Jury to make recommendations based on death of Elliot Eurchuk, 16

New secondary school planned for north Langford

Province announces $18.6 million in funding for site

Confusing parking lot blamed for cars tipping into flowerbeds at Peninsula Canadian Tire

Tow and repairs cost thousands, engineer says drivers’ responsibility, Canadian Tire stay quiet

Saanich says it will take months to fix a sink hole that appeared during ‘Snowmaggedon’

Roads closed in the area after the sink hole first opened in early February

Change room thief nabbed by West Shore RCMP Bike Unit

Quick-thinking caller leads police to suspect after witnessing theft

WATCH: Barbers battle it out in Victoria

‘Barber Battle’ saw stylists and barbers from across North America go head-to-head

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Update: Two shot, two arrested at Toronto Raptors victory rally

The team and several dignitaries, including Justin Trudeau, remained on stage

Most Read