I arrived in South Wales from my hometown, Shiraz, Iran, in September 1967. I am from a large Bahá’í family of nine brothers and sisters whose history goes back to the time of the Báb. We have such fond memories of a very happy family childhood filled with so many Bahá’í activities. We lived in a Bahá’í neighbourhood in which about seventy or more Bahá’ís attended the feast which was just for our locality and surrounding area. One of my ancestors mentioned in Bahá’í history is Jinab-Ashraf who recognised the station of the Báb and later Bahá’u’lláh and was martyred under tragic circumstances.
From my early childhood I remember Bahá’í events taking place in our house. My father, Enyatullah Rowshan, was a member for over 40 years of the Child Education Committee in Shiraz. Among his pupils were many prominent Bahá’ís who now are part of Bahá’í history. In my babyhood our house was once attacked by a mob; a stone hit me and gave me a head injury for which I had to go to hospital. In school too I experienced constant persecution by the teachers insulting the Bahá’í Faith and trying to undermine us in whatever way possible.
I remember frequent visits to the House of the Báb. They were the best memories of my childhood. The custodian, Mr Abul Qasim Afnan, was so kind and my sisters and I were often asked to chant. He always shared stories related to the Báb which have stayed in my memory. We were raised with chanting as part of our upbringing. My father played the violin and encouraged music in his children and in the Bahá’í children of Shiraz. An early childhood memory is waking to the sound of my parents chanting and I remember in particular the early mornings of the Fast, saying prayers together. I attended children’s classes every week and Dad would visit all the children’s classes in the town on behalf of the committee.
At the age of fifteen, when I came of age as a Bahá’í, I remember being asked if I wanted to declare my belief in Bahá’u’lláh. In those days the secretary of the Assembly would go through the required knowledge of the Faith and then you were officially recognised as a Bahá’í youth. During the time of our youth we were very active and had seminars and different activities even though we could not teach the Faith. I served on the youth committee for a number of years. There was a very big Bahá’í centre in Shiraz at which large groups of youth regularly gathered besides all the adult activities which took place there. There was a remarkable choir lead by Mehran Rowhani, now a noted composer and conductor, and his dear father.
During the fast the youth would meet at lunch time and hold deepenings and seminars and sometimes in the evenings we broke the fast together as families. These events were organised by the youth and would include fundraising for local and national funds and musical performances. Minou and Cyrus, Masoud and I regularly took part in the musical activities.
After graduating from high school my aim always was to travel. My brother Cyrus and my sister Minou were already in the United Kingdom. Cyrus was living in Pontypridd (Wales) at the time and I joined him there. I immediately joined in the many activities of the Pontypridd and Cardiff Bahá’ís and travelled with Cyrus and his wife Sally to lots of the Bahá’í activities taking place in South Wales. There were quite a few declarations in Pontypridd. I particularly remember trips to Swansea to meet with Alfred and Margaret Morse and Jeremy and Denise Fox with their two beautiful children, Nicola and Jago. At that time there was a lot of support between the South Wales communities led by a teaching committee that organised many weekend schools, bringing everyone together. Adib Taherzadeh came along a couple of times and many other prominent speakers.
After a while I enrolled on a nursing course at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and I lived in the nurses’ home which meant I was living in Cardiff. I often met with Rita Bridge (later Bartlett) and her sisters Kathleen and Mary; also her wonderful parents who were not Bahá’ís but angelic and who were extremely kind to me. Very soon I became a member of the Cardiff Local Spiritual Assembly. Other Assembly members were Doreen Bartlett, Joyce and Carl Card and Denis Brett. Carl occasionally gave me a lift to the LSA meetings. He was secretary and needed to be there on time. If we were running a bit late he would drive through the changing lights with a cry of Ya Bahá’u’l-Abhá and we always arrived safely! It was a beautiful environment to be in. Doreen Bartlett used to come to the YWCA where Naomi Long was the warden and would join Isobel Walters and me to deepen on Bahá’u’lláh’s Gleanings. They were days of blissful joy and I was so much enjoying getting to know the Bahá’í Writings in English. Doreen’s son Vivian was in the merchant navy and travelled the world but when he was home on leave he joined in the Cardiff activities. Rita Bridge, who later married Viv, was also a youth in Cardiff and when Viv gave up his career in the merchant navy and settled back in Cardiff, he, Rita, Isobel Walters and I formed the youth group and were very active. Rita and I would visit a dear soul, Mary Fuller, a beautiful elderly Bahá’í in Cardiff and pray together.
Rita pioneered to Orkney at this time. Meanwhile my brother Cyrus formed a musical group with himself on violin, Viv on guitar and myself, Isobel and Margaret Metcalf singing. We often performed at events around Wales and in Bath and frequently in Birmingham at the invitation of Pat and Patricia Green. Pat was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly at the time and Patricia was the daughter of stalwart pioneer, Prudence George. Betty and Ken Goode, then living in Stafford, often attended these functions. At one event in Birmingham, a musical fireside, I mysteriously hurt my back and I could not move. At that time it was crucial that the group performed as so many people had been invited. Cyrus and Margaret and Isobel surrounded me with prayers, love and cushions in the car as the show had to go on. Throughout the journey I was in excruciating pain. The room was packed with people they had invited. Helped by the group’s healing prayers on the journey I was able to perform and afterwards with rest I recovered. At the time there was very little other live music involved in Bahá’í activities.
During my nursing training I met a young girl of German origin, Francis Raue, and used to invite her to meetings. She became interested in the Faith and regularly attended firesides. Meanwhile, Viv had a friend called Roy Brown who became a Bahá’í shortly after Francis did and they later got married in Newport, having the first Bahá’í wedding there. Later on they moved to South Africa and recently they contacted Viv from South Africa with condolences on hearing of the passing of dear Rita. Another fellow student from Canada called Ann Perry started attending firesides in Cardiff and later declared. She was a witness at our wedding.
In 1969 after encouragement from Betty Reed, secretary of the NSA, I pioneered to Newport. It was a goal of the Cardiff assembly and Viv also pioneered there. In September 1969 the community mounted a large exhibition in Newport. Rita, Viv and I were manning the exhibition with help from Cyrus and Mahnaz Firouzmand and Kevin came to help, having hitchhiked from Bangor to support our youth group.
Rita suddenly announced very excitedly that it was the 19th of the 9th 1969! Ironically Rita passed away on 11/12/13. She always loved these mystic numeric occurrences.
Cyrus and Mahnaz were already living in Newport and had established Bahá’í activities there. Their home was an open house and as youth we gathered there and took our contacts along. Their little girl, Minou, was five years old at the time and they had a baby son, Firooz. Mahnaz’s brother Fuad also lived in Newport. Viv Bartlett led many inspiring discussions and very many different people came to the firesides which resulted in a number of declarations. In 1970 the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Newport was formed. Rita and I made a trip to Bangor at this time to support the activities arranged there by Kevin and Fuad and their friends. We stayed in a bed and breakfast place and met for prayers in Fuad and Kevin’s flat. As we were consulting, their landlady knocked on the door protesting that Fuad and Kevin had girls staying there. Rita showed her the B & B receipt which calmed the landlady down.
In August 1970 I married Kevin Beint at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff and moved to Bangor. There were many wonderful people at our wedding, including some contacts and new Bahá’ís (including two nursing friends who became Bahá’ís). For our honeymoon we went to Harlech Summer School in North Wales with a car full of Bahá’ís. There were so many wonderful friends there like Adib Taherzadeh, Charles and Yvonne Macdonald and their son Iain, George and Elsie Bowers, John and Lou Turner, Pat and Patricia Green and Abbas Afnan with his son Masoud (then a junior youth), Jim and Dori Talbot and their toddler Mark, and Roohieh and Farhang Afnan. These were such special times that will never be forgotten. After the summer school honeymoon I moved to Bangor in North Wales.
Mina Beint (Rowshan)
March 2013 (revised January 2014)
Recently moved from Brixworth, Northamptonshire to Leicester (January 2014) after spending a year in Gibraltar (with plans to spend more time there in future).