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Bishop’s house ‘to be turned into a museum’

Bishop’s house ‘to be turned into a museum’

A photo of the front of the house during the bishop’s time there, courtesy of the Dehqani-Tafti family.

The former house of Iran’s first ethnic Persian Anglican bishop is to be turned into a museum, according to the state-funded Mehr News Agency

As Article18 reported last year, the house was confiscated by order of an Islamic Revolutionary Court judge in November 1979 and stood empty for decades until it was taken over by a state organisation in the past couple of years, and restored.

Mehr says the museum will be “for public use and culture lovers” and will display “the art and history of the country”.

It adds that the renovations cost the Mostazan Foundation, an organisation directly ruled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, 4 billion tomans (around $175,000).

The Mostazafan Foundation purportedly exists to support the poor – “mostazafan” literally translates as “oppressed” – but it is one of the richest organisations in the country, and its dealings are far from transparent.

Bishop Guli (the youngest) with her siblings in the garden of what was their family home.

Reacting to the news, the former bishop’s daughter, Guli Francis-Dehqani, who is now herself a bishop in the Church of England, told Article18: “If it is to be a museum, I hope it will in some way reflect its history, which was that it used to belong to the Persian Christian Church.”

Last year, following the news that the Mostazafan Foundation had taken over the site, Bishop Guli reflected on her memories of growing up in the Bishop’s House:

“I had a very happy childhood in the Bishop’s House, which was my home and where I spent my formative years,” she said. “I have countless memories of so many people who passed through the doors – colleagues of my father, friends and many, many guests. 

“My parents were very hospitable. When we left and the house was confiscated, it still included all our belongings – other than those we had taken in one suitcase each. 

“In the last few months it was the scene of unhappy events such as a raid and the attack on my father’s life. [Guli’s brother and the former bishop’s only son, Bahram, was later killed.]

“The house, which belonged to the church, was unlawfully confiscated and the injustice of that still stings. 

“However, after 41 years of being vacant, I hope it will now at least be put to good use and that it will truly be used as a place from which those who are dispossessed and poor may be helped.”