Thanks to a Radio-Canada television series called “Deuxième chance” [Second Chance], two Bahá’í women from Saguenay, originally from Iran, had an emotional reunion with old friends they had not seen for thirty years or so. Through hard-to-believe accounts and reunions, the programme tells stories of immigration, assistance and mutual help, involving ordinary people.
In the March 24 episode, Mahboubeh Talaï and her daughter Khatéré told Radio-Canada how much they wanted to find a family of French coopérants [international workers] who had given them invaluable help when they were in Morocco, after leaving Iran in the 1970s. They wanted to have the chance to thank them for the help they had given them in a difficult period of their life.
In the late 1970s, the Talaï family sensed that a period of great turmoil was approaching in Iran. The Bahá’ís have been persecuted since the beginning of the religion in the 19th century, and the growing political instability made them think that there would be more trouble for the Bahá’ís. The Talaïs decided to leave for Morocco, and they did before the beginning of the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Mahboubeh moved to Marrakech with her two daughters, Khatéré and Dorsay. Her husband, Borhan, came to help them settle and then returned to Iran to take care of some business. His plan was to return to his family shortly after, but this became impossible when the authorities confiscated his passport because he was a Bahá’í. Because the situation had become dangerous for Bahá’ís, he had to wait three years before he was able to leave Iran.
During all those years, Mahboubeh and her two daughters were alone in Morocco. They were able to count on the help of the François family, French coopérants who lived in the same building and with whom they became friends. Khatéré remembers how kind the François’ were and how they helped her family adapt to Morocco. Among other things, they helped them sign up for school, fill out administrative documents and taught them rudiments of French, a new language for them.
Shortly after Borhan Talaï rejoined his family in Marrakech, the situation of the Bahá’ís in Morocco also became unstable. In the early 1980s in the context of social and political troubles, several Casablanca Bahá’ís were imprisoned. Borhan Talaï started travelling back and forth between Marrakech and Casablanca to provide assistance to the Bahá’ís whose family members had been incarcerated. The high level of stress of that period eventually cost him his life, and he died of a heart attack in Casablanca. This is when Mahboubeh decided to leave Morocco and to emigrate to Canada. She settled in Chicoutimi, where there was a small Bahá’í community.
When they were leaving Morocco, the François family made a final gesture of solidarity that deeply touched the Talaï family. They accepted to move very old Bahá’í books belonging to the Talaï family for generations out of Morocco and to deliver them to Mahboubeh’s mother who lived in England. Mahboubeh was afraid that the books would be confiscated when she left Morocco, knowing that many books had been seized from Bahá’í homes during the commotion that led to the arrest of several Bahá’ís. She was, however, sure that a family of French coopérants could safely take the books out of the country. This is how the two families left each other. They then completely lost contact.
Since they arrived in Chicoutimi in 1984, the Talaïs often told their story, a story in which the François family plays a prominent part. The team from the Deuxième chance programme helped Mahboubeh and Khatéré to locate the François family, who now lives in Angers, France. The two women made the trip to visit the François family. An episode of the series tells the story of this moving reunion and covers the journey of this courageous mother and her two daughters from Iran to Canada, with a stop in Morocco. The episode can now be seen online.