This account was written by Ruhi’s daughter, Venus Carew.
Celebration of a life of loving kindness to all
My mother Ruhi Darakhshani was born in Hamadan, one of the ancient cities in the north west of Iran/Persia, one of seven children and with a very large extended family. Her parents were of the Jewish faith, though her father, two of her father’s brothers and a sister became Bahá’ís early on in their lives. Her mother was sympathetic to the Faith and, after her husband passed away, allowed her children to study and attend Bahá’í meetings. Ruhi was eight when her father passed away, leaving her mother to bring up seven young children.
As a young girl she was very interested in observing people around her and listening to all kinds of conversation. Storytelling is an important art in Iran and young Ruhi was brought up with stories about the history of the ancient Persian civilisation as well as fables and folk stories.
As a thoughtful young girl Ruhi was also very aware of some of the social and economic issues affecting people, especially the education of women and social welfare and justice for those deprived of basic human rights such as housing, education and access to health care. This made her very interested in the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith which promotes the equality of men and women, the harmony of religion and science, education for all and especially for girls, the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, and a fair and just welfare system for everyone.
She became a Bahá’í as a youth in Tehran, and served the Faith actively as a member of the youth committee and then women’s committee, walking long distances to visit the friends in their homes and inviting them to feasts and Bahá’í gatherings.
She began to write about these issues and as a young journalist in Tehran, she published many articles on these themes. Many of her articles and semi-fictional essays were based on her desire to raise awareness about the appalling situation of the poor, giving women and in particular mothers the right to education and involvement in society, and in general to promote the betterment of society and humanitarian issues.
However, Iran of the 1950s was sceptical of the efforts of a young female writer with aspirations to enhance and improve the social life around her using spiritual principles, and someone from a minority faith background which also promoted thinking and unfettered search after truth. So it was not possible for Ruhi to earn a living as a writer or a journalist.
After graduating from high school, she moved to the oil city of Abadan to work as a senior administrator at the National Oil Company. During the next few years she was married to my father, Ebrahim Alaeinia, and settled in the region of Abadan. She became a mother to three children, all brought up and educated as Bahá’ís and involved in the local children’s and youth activities. Meanwhile Ruhi continued to write, work full time, and engage in many voluntary activities. She also wrote stories and articles for local newspapers and women’s magazines.
While in Abadan Ruhi became closely involved with the work of local community groups, serving on Women’s Aid organisations – the Red Lion and the Sun (the Persian Red Cross), the prison welfare group and parent and teacher associations. These were in addition to her many activities for the local Bahá’í community in Abadan, such as visiting the friends who could not get to meetings, arranging unity feasts, and spiritual education classes for children and youth.
In 1970 she published her first book of articles and short stories, entitled Sahereh. It was during this special time that she was invited to use her literary skills for the local radio and TV companies, becoming the first female producer of the children’s programme on the local radio and one of the first female announcers for the Abadan Television company.
In 1974, while Iran was at the height of its social progress and one of the most progressive and oil rich countries in the middle east, she decided to widen the arena of her humanitarian work by retiring from the oil company and relocating to the United Kingdom as a pioneer in order to create greater understanding and friendship between people of the East and West. My father kept his business in Iran and used to visit us regularly and provide some financial support. This became difficult and less frequent from 1978 onwards, especially after his home and business in the oil city of Abadan was bombed during the Iraq/Iran war.
After consulting with the National Pioneering Committee, Ruhi settled in Brecon and helped to form a Bahá’í group. In her new surroundings she continued to write and was an active member of organisations such as WRVS, UNA and refugee support projects. Among the Bahá’ís in the Brecon Welsh community were dear Hilda Black and her son Nigel (with another of her sons, David, close by in Hereford). Other Bahá’í friends who supported us at that time in Wales were Viv and Rita Bartlett from Newport, and the Firoozmand family. Several from Swansea and Cardiff used to visit and support us during those amazing times when a number of friends declared as Bahá’ís.
After five years living in Wales, in 1979 Ruhi pioneered to the north east of England, living in Stocksfield and Ovingham, where she helped to form the first Spiritual Assembly of Tyndale. At the time of that move, the only other Bahá’í residing there was Mary Jameson. Later, Garry Villiers-Stuart, Martin Newman, and John and Angie Jameson pioneered there, and there were also teaching teams who made frequent visits. Paul Mahony became a Bahá’í, Burnlaw was bought, Rosie Luard married Garry, and a beautiful community grew with support from the friends in Newcastle and Cumbria. With a strong and thriving Bahá’í community in Tynedale, Ruhi moved in 1995 to Newcastle to live closer to her son and to be nearer to local health facilities. For the last 20 years, she continued to work and serve the Faith by having an open house and teaching the Faith to everyone she met. She lived and served local, cultural and Bahá’í communities around Newcastle and had a great many friends from various walks of life, many of whom became life-long friends and supporters of the Faith she espoused so passionately.
She became an interpreter and so came into contact with the ever-expanding Persian community which came about as a result of the dispersal of refugees from Iran. Again she became a friend, counsellor, mother and befriender of many people to whom she provided genuine love and compassion, sharing words and prayers wherever possible, inviting them to Bahá’í Holy Day celebrations and similar gatherings.
The last Bahá’í event she attended in Newcastle was for that of the twin Holy Days in November 2015 where she invited and accompanied several of her friends to the local celebration. On 25th November Ruhi travelled to New Zealand to spend time with her son Arash, his wife Leigh and their two young children, Mila and Farah, who had left Newcastle in 2009 for New Zealand to be close to Leigh’s parents. After six weeks of joy and happiness and just one day after returning from the summer school there, on 9th January 2016 she suffered a massive stroke. At the time, Ken and I were in Hong Kong visiting our sons Naysun and Justin and daughters-in-law Charlotte and Shoko. As soon as we heard the news about my mother, Ken and I together with Naysun and Charlotte travelled to New Zealand to be with her in hospital, and also to support my brother. We all swiftly gathered around her, and after 9 days, with family and grandchildren saying prayers around her bed, she winged her flight to the Abha Kingdom. It was the end of a life of love and service to her family, to the community, and more than all to her beloved Faith.
Her example and desire to raise awareness of the need for friendship and understanding between people of all backgrounds, and her many endeavours to bring about unity and friendship among all people irrespective of their race, culture or religion, was a life-long response to the teachings of a Faith she loved and lived to serve: “Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path…” and a belief that “The earth is one country and mankind its citizens”, and “Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time.”
Dumfries, Scotland, February 2016